Black Ecologie Vol II: how to start a fire
ticklin' the trout
As an aspiring mountain woman, I spend a lot of time watching wilderness survival shows. If it involves normal people trying to snare a chipmunk with a shoelace and a prayer, count me in!
I’ve watched them all at this point, but the show that put survival skills on the map has to be “Man vs Wild,” with Bear Grylls. A former marine, Bear is a British outdoorsman who teaches regular folks how to survive extreme conditions we’ll never encounter in real life.
I keep a few spicy Whites in my media diet, and Bear is one of them. And like many reality stars, he’s had his fair share of scandal.
But, I can’t help but think how much better his show — or any wilderness show — would be if it were hosted by a Black person. Can you imagine Snoop Dogg showing you how to hit that bird call on the beat? Or your favorite Black auntie demonstrating how to season the squirrel jerky juuust right.
For now, I’ll settle for Bear’s latest gift to us: “Running Wild with Bear Grylls.” It’s him taking different celebrities on a two-day adventure in the wild and the antics that ensue. Bear will always make the celebrity guest eat something unappetizing and / or do something really scary, like sleep on the ground.
Here’s a ranked list of the best “Running Wild” episodes featuring Black celebrities.
#6 — The one where Michael B. Jordan teaches Bear how to crack an acorn open between his ass cheeks. (This didn’t actually happen, but it was a missed opportunity.)
#5 — The Obama episode. You get the sense that the secret service wouldn’t let POTUS do anything remotely risky, so they mostly go for a long walk and talk about life. But it’s weird because somehow Obama’s covert drone program never comes up.
#4 — Terry Crews opens up about overcoming a porn addiction, being separated from his wife, and growing up in an abusive household… before ripping his shirt off and making his pecs dance.
#3 — She’s beauty and she’s grace, she’s Uzo Aduba. This episode is proof that Uzo slays a cargo pant, and we don’t deserve her.
#2 — Keegan-Michael Key admits to feeling lost in life and Bear makes him eat a dead seagull.
#1 — Mel B famously refuses to remove her two million dollar diamond ring, even though it snags on various ropes. At one point, Bear gets stung by a jellyfish, and Mel B has to pee on him to ease the pain.
Sure, Bear’s teaching these Black celebrity guests how to “survive” in a literal sense, but he’s learning much more from them. In the wilderness, they talk openly about the racism, sexism, and xenophobia they endured while living in the public eye. The grace, humor, and acumen it takes to overcome such forces are their own set of survival skills.
And, sure the people on this show are surrounded by camera crews so they’re never in any real danger, and all of these celebrities are incredibly privileged. But seeing Uzo Aduba hike the Pyrenees while opening up about her Nigerian American upbringing was powerful. It was a reminder that the wilderness doesn’t judge.
I fact-checked this piece about how Phoenix is running out water, but the city keeps growing.
Things I’m yelling about this week:
The founder of Patagonia gave away his company to flight climate change. That’s not enough. I want 50% off all Patagonia gear for BIPOC people, in perpetuity.