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:: Report w/Signatures


Deprived of basic comforts, exposed to the harsh natural elements, your fate at the mercy of strangers…who would you become?

In early 2000, the first season of Survivor heralded the beginning of reality-TV. For the first time, “real” people would be the stars, placed in “real” situations and forced to cope with the circumstances. Myself, I was a bit of a skeptic. Reality-TV seemed little more than a trend and Survivor simply the latest incarnation. I refused to watch the first episode.

And then by accident I was flipping through the channels one early evening. I was suddenly confronted with an image of a man eating some particularly juicy looking grubs, an obvious urgency to his actions. I wondered what was at stake. The man swallowed and raced into the jungle. It was my first encounter with Survivor: Borneo, and from then on, I was hooked.

Why is the show so popular? I believe because of its exotic simplicity. Take a group of strangers out of their familiar environment, strand them in a remote location, and watch how their fortunes unfold. Some contestants become obsessed with the money, willing to back-stab anyone in their path. Others quietly fly “under the radar” and latch themselves on to stronger, more obvious players, then strike when the final 2 is in sight. And still others refuse to compromise their values, even at the expense of being voted off the island. The truth is laid bare.

These are just regular people – a fact not lost on the millions of viewers at home. Regular people who put together a video tape and through luck or past-life karma, somehow impressed the producers enough to be part of the chosen few. To starve in a remote, sweaty, bug-infested location for 39 days, if they can outwit, outlast, and outplay the competition. And yet…not everyone has been included in the pool of potential candidates.

“As Canadians, we never have to worry about getting voted off the island. We’re not even allowed on.” Dose, Vancouver. 09/27/05

Five years and 10 seasons later, we are still waiting for our chance to prove ourselves on the island. Countless moments have had me shaking my head in disbelief, wondering why contestants made the same mistakes as their predecessors. From the challenges, to the alliances, to the harshness of the environment, I vowed I could do better. Just as every hopeful fans “knows” they can do better from the comfort of their own home.

There is a moment at the end of every final season show where Jeff Probst congratulates all the contestants for playing the game, and he turns to the camera and announces where the next season will take place. I wait, like the rest of the Northern audience, to hear those words that ask for Canadians to send in their audition tapes. But those words never came. It was only until I watched Chris Daugherty win Survivor: Vanuatu that I decided enough was enough; the rules declaring all contestants must possess an American passport had to be changed.

“…rather than be an armchair bellyacher, MacKenzie has taken his plight to the most effective, democratic forum in the Western world: the internet.” Westender, Vancouver. 01/13/05

I created the website to announce my campaign to the world, constructing my argument based on fact as well as emotion. What are the facts? Survivor is consistently the #1 watched show in Canada. All of the subtle American sponsors sell the same products north of the border. And finally, Canadians are just as knowledgeable, driven, and competitive as our southern counterparts.

It appears a large number of Survivor fans agreed with me. Within one month I had close to 800 signatures on my petition. In six months I reached 1400. The local and national media began to take notice, publishing my campaign to a larger audience. Radio interviews, newspapers, entertainment blogs, Survivor fan sites all began talking about whether Canadians should be allowed on the show. Perhaps most surprising were the signatures from numerous American fans who were eager to meet the challenge. After all, they wrote, we’re all on the same continent aren’t we?

I soon enlisted the help of past Survivor Alumni to endorse the cause, receiving enthusiastic responses from Jerry Manthey, Keith Famie, Ethan Zohn, Jenna Morasca, Mike Skupin, Coby Archa, Lex van den Berghe, Scout Lee, and Wanda Shirk, “who at the very least seem to admire his self-promotional shamelessness ,” wrote Entertainment Weekly. Yet they all agree that a cross-border matchup is just what the show needs to attract past fans grown tired with the format, and new fans who want to see this twist on Canada/US relations.

“MacKenzie insists he’s not a fame seeker. He simply wants Canadians to be given an equal chance to compete.” The Province, Vancouver. 02/13/05

Some interviewers have asked where I fit into the equation. Am I in it for the money, or the fame? Neither, I have insisted. I decided to start this campaign because I believe every contestant on the show has a fantastic opportunity to challenge themselves and their own conceptions. As a Communication student in technology and society, even the concept of reality-TV is a mind bending source of unending discussion. Combine that with the psychological strain of being abandoned in a remote location and you have a fascinating experience that would be hard to match.

And so, on behalf of myself and the 3000 (and growing) signers of the petition, I humbly present this package to those with the power to change the rules. I know it is highly likely you have pondered this decision already, and for whatever reason, decided against it. But it is now time to dissolve the metaphorical border between us, just as the nationalities of the contestants would mean little when they depend on each other for food, support, and safety.

“…there's no better time than now to open the show's doors to Canadians.” Metro, Toronto. 09/22/05

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