Which elements of Man Vs. Wild call its authenticity into question?
Man Vs. Wild is a widely popular show that started airing in 2006 and is still streamed today. It was initially steamed on the Discovery Channel, but there was also a version that ran on Netflix as well. When the show re-premiered in 2019, it broke records in the infotainment category with over 15 million tune-ins. The show follows host Bear Grylls as he goes to increasingly harsh and remote locations in an attempt to show that he can survive there. Over the years that the show has aired, many details have come out that have caused people to question the legitimacy of the show. Some of these details have even prompted apologies from the show’s producers and Grylls himself. Let’s analyze just how real the show is.
What Was Real
It turns out it might be easier to list the things that are real about the show than those that are not because there aren’t too many. Bear Grylls’ name might sound too good to be true, like it is just a stage name. However, Bear Grylls’ actual name is Edward Michael Grylls, proving it is not just a name he chose for his career. His nickname was also not a big-screen invention. He received the name “Bear” from his sister when he was only a week old. The name stuck, and Bear Grylls has been Bear Grylls since he was a kid. Throughout the years of making shows, the guests that Grylls had on his show were real. These guests include high-profile politicians like Barack Obama and actors like Michelle Rodriguez.
The Mostly True Things
While the locations and situations that Bear Grylls lands himself in are real, many of the scenes are scripted. The show films live night segments, so some of the moments you will see on camera are spontaneous. However, the show writers will often incorporate scripted elements to make Grylls’ adventures more entertaining. Another mostly true thing is that Grylls is camping out in the show’s locations. He doesn’t retire to a camping lodge after each night, and each episode is filmed over the course of several days.
Exaggerated Elements For the Show
Bear Grylls claims to be a survival expert that instantly knows what to do in every situation on the show. Grylls does have a good resume of surviving a climb on Mount Everest and crossing the Atlantic in a boat, but his expertise does not extend to every location he visits on the show. He has never been a wilderness instructor like his TV show competition Les Stroud. Ray Mears, another TV survival expert, has taught bushcraft skills for decades. Compared to other TV survivalists, Grylls lacks the same acumen for survival that they do.
Fake Parts of the Show
Man Vs. Wild has a few elements that are invented for the purpose of entertainment. There are many scenes in the show that have been faked for the entertainment of the audience. In one episode, Grylls appeared to leap overflowing lava, but it was actually hot coals and a smoke machine. In another episode, he appeared to catch a wild mustang, but it was actually rented from a nearby animal lodge.
The techniques that Grylls will use during the show can be questionable sometimes. Les Stroud, star of the competing Survivorman show, has pointed out how some of Grylls’ techniques don’t make sense. For example, once, Grylls tried squeezing water out of elephant dung to satiate his thirst. It simply wasn’t possible to do so without presoaking the elephant dung. Some of the techniques are also dangerous and portrayed poorly. Grylls has rushed through dangerous terrain that would be inadvisable if you were actually trying to survive.
Perhaps the show’s most “fake” part is that Grylls relies on a show crew to help him film and provide the necessary tools. The show portrays Grylls surviving by himself with just his own wits and brawn, but there are times when the crew helps him build things like rafts and shelter. Both Grylls and Discovery have admitted that they have used isolated elements that were not natural to the environment before. Even if the crew were not actively helping Grylls, the fact that they are just off-screen gives Grylls the mental support he would not have if he were alone in the wild.
The Final Verdict on Man Vs. Wild is that the show is mainly for entertainment. Too many elements of the show are exaggerated or faked to view it as a realistic survival show. People should not take the techniques, advice, and situations to heart in the show. If you are stuck in a terrible survivor situation, you would be better off not listening to what Grylls tells you on his show. With that said, the show is still massively entertaining and can be enjoyed as long as you keep this caveat in mind.