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The Argosy
Sackville, New Brunswick

Let Him on Survivor:
Student seeks acceptance for Canadians onto popular reality TV show

by Bridget Arsenault
Features Writer

Twenty-three year old British Columbia native Ian Mackenzie not only watches every single episode of CBS’s Survivor, but he wants desperately to be on the show. What sets him apart from the thousands of other Survivor hopefuls is that he is not actually allowed to be a participant; he’s a Canadian.

Generally speaking, being a Canadian citizen is an international passport into just about everything, but apparently not Survivor. According to Mackenzie, “I don’t think there’s any rationale for not allowing Canadians on Survivor. And normally I wouldn’t make an issue about this sort of thing, but because the show is so popular here in Canada, it’s a bit like dangling something interesting and shiny in front of our noses without telling us it’s in an invisible glass case.”

In addition, Mackenzie cites that Survivor’s audience is ten per cent Canadian, and all of the American companies that sponsor the show are products equally available in Canada. There seems to be no clear-cut rationale behind producer Mark Burnett’s no Canadian policy. For the last few years, Mackenzie has been trying to create a buzz around his quest, mainly through his website and online contesting petition, in hopes of forcing a change in the current guidelines.

Mackenzie makes a fairly convincing argument. He seems to possess many of the traits that the Survivor website aligns with potential candidates: strong-willed, outgoing, adventurous, physically and mentally adept, adaptable to new environments, interesting lifestyle, backgrounds and personalities.

Mackenzie is currently an undergraduate student studying Communication at Simon Fraser University, but generally his past pursuits have distanced him from the confines of a university classroom. He has picked up some obscure talents while backpacking through Europe and Australia working odd jobs, such as junk mail filing and banana picking. He also took at cross-Canada trek that lasted over eight-weeks and spawned an intimate relationship with the Greyhound Bus that carried his travels.

As far as personality goes, Mackenzie feels he has what it takes: “I consider myself strong-willed in that I don't let people push me around. I'm outgoing and adventurous; I'm adaptable to new environments because I can walk, swim and climb over objects.” And Mackenzie has certainly watched enough Survivor (every series-except the African addition because he was travelling Australia) to have a pretty clear idea of what makes a winning strategy.

However, according to Mackenzie it is not all about the win or about the money, but more about the experience itself: “Hey, money is great and all, but if you're really on Survivor because you have some bills to pay then you're probably missing the point. The experience of the game would be without price to me. But make no mistake, I'd play just as hard as anyone else to get to that number one spot.” However, it seems for Mackenzie, just like the rest of the participants, the excitement of a win would certainly add an extra flavour to this enchanting experience.

He has also tried to learn from the mistakes and accomplishments of various contestants. One of his personal favourites was Ethan Zohn who Mackenzie felt, “genuinely seems like a nice guy. He managed to win as well, without turning to devious, underhanded tactics.” In appreciating Zohn’s ability to win the game without resorting to deception and deceit, Mackenzie acknowledges the distorted perception that viewers can have of contestants, saying, “Survivor is far from being ‘reality’.

The show is masterful at creating characters of contestants, based on their interviews, actions, and alliances. (Look at the two ways Rupert was portrayed in Survivor Seven and Survivor All-Stars. One was a big-hearted Goliath; the other was a grumbly bear). The editors frame each episode around a few different plot developments, and cut it all to a tribal soundtrack that evokes sympathy, excitement, and mystery.”

Unfortunately at this point there has not been a whole lot of movement forward in the debate, and Mackenzie seems no closer to a slot on the show than he was a few years earlier. Luckily, to a certain extent, he is able to see past the Survivor mystique and realizes, “Survivor would be a wild ride, of course, but it would also be another incredible experience along with plenty more I hope to have in my lifetime.”

If you are interested in helping Ian along on his quest to Survivor-hood then check out www.letmeonsurvivor.com