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Women and Idols: An analysis of gender's role in the TV show Survivor reflected through the Immunity Idol mechanic. Abstract Aim: To identify trends in social change through the Immunity Idol mechanic on the competition show Survivor (USA). Methodology: Using a total population dataset of all occurrences of the immunity idol, SPSS 26 was used to test hypotheses with Chi-Square/Crosstabulations, ANOVA, and Regression tests. Results: The dataset showed expected abnormalities in the descriptive statistics, as men were finding more idols than women. There were statistically significant changes in idols found by women after influential seasons, as well as an increase in women finding idols over time. Conclusion: The data shows that there is an upward trend for women finding idols, due to the social change brought about through player and audience discussion. The last 5 seasons indicate that production changes to the Immunity idol make them more accessible for both women and men to find idols, and that barriers that caused the gender disparity are being remedied into a new era of Survivor. Literature Review When the reality competition show Survivor first premiered in 2000, it was a social experiment in which strangers are forced to "carve out a new existence" and vote out those who could not adapt. 22 years later, players still speak of Survivor as a microcosm of greater society, and how identity outside the game impacts experiences within it. Gender roles and disparities have been evident in Survivor since the first season. In the 11 th season, Hidden Immunity Idols (idols) were introduced as a twist mechanic. Those who possess and correctly play an idol will negate any votes against them and be safe from elimination. Women on reality television have come under greater scrutiny than their male counterparts when exhibiting behaviour on the fringes of 'unladylike'. This scrutiny is particularly notable in Bachelor format dating shows, in which the majority of contestants are female and competing against each other. Women known for being 'aggressive' were the targets of increased audience backlash, as their behaviour contradicted existing expectations of feminine behaviour (Lopez, 2009). A study on Survivor voting tendencies revealed that male players received more votes than females pre-merge, indicating that men usually have higher perceived threat level than their female counterparts (Wall, 2011). In game show literature, too, female contestants have been shown to be more risk-averse and more aware of previous bad decisions (Kelley and Lemke, 2013). Male contestants have also taken more opportunities for aggressive strategy (Hogarth, Karalaia, and Trujillo, 2012), indicating that the backlash would not be as great. On the other hand, 'aggressive' gameplay from women on reality television may not be broadcast at all. One study interviewed female contestants on a reality talent show and wrote "only through speaking with reality show contestants about their participation can we gain a deeper appreciation for and understanding of the work that women do on reality competition shows" (Patterson, 2015). While an outlier in the history of Survivor Immunity Idols, our
dataset includes Parvati Shallow finding an idol in Survivor Micronesia - which would have been the second ever idol found by a woman, if it was shown on TV. Zollner (2008) proposes that for Survivor's audience, the 'hero' archetype typically manifests in a player who is young, white, and male. As Survivor is a product for television, players in the game can be reduced to narrative archetypes ultimately paving the way for the success of this protagonist. This includes the women, typically the older women, taking up a more performative domestic role around camp. This is a unique sentiment in the literature, yet it reflects salient themes throughout the show itself. In the occasions where women step into authority positions, we can also see discouragement in its presentation. An analysis on Survivor Vanuatu, the show's second attempt at a 'gender-wars' themed season, described the overarching narrative as one of 'futile female solidarity and authority' after the crumbling female alliance allowed for a male underdog to take the crown (Lindstrom, 2007). Despite the gap in scholarly literature, the gender disparity for Immunity Idols is widely discussed by contestants, producers, and fans of Survivor. It was an ongoing storyline for the 37 th season, told by Angelina Keeley. In later interviews she posits that there are negative connotations towards 'aggressive women' potentially aggravating the gender divide: "Hunting for idols is viewed as very aggressive gameplay... women tend to be socially penalized for displaying aggressiveness, while men are often rewarded and celebrated for it." (Angelina Keeley in Ross, 2018) Other female contestants noted feeling obliged to stay and tend camp, signifying an unspoken subscription to traditional domestic gender roles (Channon, 2019). Of this, journalist Jeff Pitman notes: "If the idols are always off in the jungle where women rarely feel allowed to venture, they're almost always going to be found by men." (Pitman, 2019) Location appears to play a substantial role in determining which players find idols, especially in seasons where idols are hidden on Exile Island. Exile is a particularly punishing part of the game that contestants are sent to by the hand of their own castmates. Unless a woman is sent by default, men are almost always chosen for this. A notable example exists in Season 29, when Natalie Anderson is the only woman to find an idol that season after volunteering herself for Exile twice (Channon, 2015). The location of idols is also a very simple aspect for the production team to change. Among those who watch and enjoy Survivor, the trends in Immunity Idol statistics do not go unnoticed. It is a mechanic that reflects the wider game of Survivor just as Survivor reflects American society. Therefore, though unintentional, where women are at a disadvantage outside of the social experiment, they are also at a disadvantage within it. This analysis seeks to fill the gap in the literature for a topic that is already much discussed in popular culture. Aims and Hypotheses This paper aims to analyse the appearances of the 'Hidden Immunity Idol' on Survivor in relation to social factors throughout the show's 42 season run. The immunity idol data, and its gender disparity, is hypothesised to reflect the social climate of the game in its evolution. Research Question 1 Did the social impact of 'catalyst' seasons 20, 31, and 37 have an impact on the Immunity Idol gender disparity?
Heroes vs. Villains saw a strategic double idol play by Parvati Shallow. Cambodia saw the record number of votes negated by an idol: 9, played by Kelley Wentworth. David vs Goliath featured a prominent storyline about an immunity idol gender disparity, told by Angelina Keeley and Alison Raybould. H0: 'Catalyst' seasons 20, 31, and 37 have no significant impact on the gender disparity in idol finding. H1: 'Catalyst' seasons 20, 31, and 37 have a significant impact on the gender disparity in idol finding. Research Question 2 Is the Immunity idol gender disparity changing over time with each new season of Survivor? H0: The progression of survivor seasons doesn't significantly predict the number of idols found by women. H1: The progression of survivor seasons significantly predicts the number of idols found by women. H2: Women are finding more idols in later seasons. Methods Dataset and Sample: The chosen dataset features every instance of a Hidden Immunity Idol shown in Survivor, from season 11 (2005) to season 42 (2022). Each case is organised by the players involved. There are 165 cases, though certain players appear more than once. The dataset contains the total population of the group being studied; every player who has interacted with the Immunity Idol mechanic on Survivor. With this, there are problems in normality testing, as the issues shown in the normality tests are expected and will be analysed. For instance, the dataset does not feature an equal number of men and women: as expected, men outnumber women. Men are not cast more than women in Survivor, and each season has a 50-50 split, with two exceptions (14, 29). The distribution of idol occurrences per season will also be abnormal, as the expectation is that there are more idols in the later seasons. This dataset was collated by Jeff Pitman and was chosen for its reliability and recency. Significant changes were made, however, especially in answering Research Question 2. where a new dataset was created based on the frequencies of women finding idols each season. Measures: Variable Categorical/Continuous Independent/Dependent Notes Gender Categorical Dependant (RQ 1) Only men and women have found idols, so the variable of
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