Exeter, Devon UK • Dec 5, 2023 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Features The Siberian Hunger Games

The Siberian Hunger Games

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Russia once again graced us with a socially controversial move last month; this time in the form of a sanctioned reality TV show that will show 30 mixed-gendered participants thrown into the Siberian wilderness. Yet, rather than just showing viewers the extreme cases of survival that Bear Grylls would be proud of, producers have announced that tactics such as rape and murder are allowed. Anything goes, claims the Games creator, but how can such a dystopian concept be deemed moral? Likewise, how is Russia getting away with the normalisation of brutality that plenty of people are rightfully comparing to the fictional narrative created and supposedly retained within The Hunger Games novels and films?

How can such a dystopian concept be deemed moral?

The show, which is being advertised under the name Game 2: Winter, could be compared to an array of extreme survival shows that many of us have watched within the comfort of our own homes: glad for the central heating and the lack of potentially dangerous beasts that could eat us in our sleep. However, none throw their contestants into an intense fight for survival quite in the way that Game 2 proposes. From 1 July 2017 until 1 April 2018, all contestants must survive independently in conditions that have the potential to reach -40˚C in the winter months. If that isn’t enough to send a shiver down your spine, the contestants are not allowed firearms but are permitted to a carry a knife for self-defence, whether from a Siberian tiger or even other contestants. This is perhaps the element that is causing the most debate surrounding these games, as the mastermind behind the show has stated that “Everything is allowed – fighting, alcohol, murder, rape, smoking, anything.” Were there no alarm bells ringing in the minds of the directors and producers considering the show’s proposal in the boardroom?

Their lives are being gambled and used as part of entertainment

Siberia, a region that has been part of Russia since the 17th Century, is subject to the laws of the Russian Federation and has responded to the issues raised surrounding the normalisation and legitimisation of criminal acts, stating that the police will retain a right to intervene at any point and arrest the individual guilty of such actions. Yet it still appears that the Games 2 creator’s statement gives contestants the go ahead to commit condemnable acts in the name of survival – or is it entertainment? The line is heavily blurred.

Likewise, as more of the dystopian conventions of The Hunger Games become reality, I feel we must ask if we are going to hear the cannons sounding whenever someone dies; are the deaths going to be hailed as just an exhilarating part of the games to be streamed live online 24 hours a day? What is most concerning is the way in which these participants will simply become pawns or ‘players’ in a millionaire’s game. Their lives are being gambled and used as part of entertainment. The concept behind all this controversy is created by millionaire Yevgeny Pyatkovksy, who is asking participants to pay 10 million roubles as an entrance fee to the games. That’s equivalent to paying £130,000 to put your life on the line, all for the hope you’ll come out alive with the added incentive of the celebrity status. The fact you must pay an entrance fee, initiates an exclusivity in the games and thus secures a certain status of people involved. Are we going to be watching a group of rich individuals all turn into savages as the fight for survival kicks in? As I doubt many of us have £130,000 lying about, not to mention the time available to spend nine months in Siberia just to tick it off your bucket list.

What can possibly be the incentive driving so many people to apply for the show? On the Game 2: Winter’s official website, applicants are asked to post a short description of themselves, as well as a video explaining why they want to take part and what would make them the ideal candidate. If their video and profile are popular they will gain votes from the public.  So far 143 applicants, mostly of Russian citizenship, have applied. From looking at the potential participants, the show is mainly attracting adolescent to middle aged men. Yet, 27-year-old Adriana Elizabeth Bandera is one of the favourite female applicants so far with 174 votes on her profile and claims that she wants to take part in order “to surpass my own expectations of myself.” So are people paying to take part to prove their personal strength, despite having no prior experience to living in such extreme conditions?

Alternatively, Dmitry Altunin, a 26-year-old from St Petersburg, is one of the few who actively mentions the extreme nature of what he is applying for, claiming it would be “hell” to participate. Through such a recognition that the task “is practically impossible to pass” he is still signing up, willing to push the boundaries of what is possible for the small chance of winning.

Is it worth jeopardising your wellbeing purely for entertainment purposes?

But one of the most astonishingly ironic aspects of the competition is the set of terms and conditions created by the millionaire for contestants, in which it asks for confirmation that they are ‘sane.’ The stable psychological state of an individual apparently secures the safety of the rest of the contestants, but 9 months in the Taiga of Siberia is bound to place not only physical stress on the applicants but also additional psychological and emotional strain. What are you getting out of this experience and is it worth jeopardising your wellbeing purely for entertainment purposes? The promised celebrity status is the most obvious driving force behind many applications, and the immense amount of discussion created before it has been aired further illustrates that there is a lot of publicity surrounding the show and status to be gained because of involvement. However, is the status you gain going to be long-lasting and leave a legacy you will be proud of? Or will the contestants simply be renowned for their incompetency, rather than the courage that is the basis behind many applicants who believe that they can successfully last nine
months in such conditions without prior extreme living experience?

However, we should look to the perks of the experience before ruling these people as completely insane. Katniss Everdeen felt some serious déjà vu when it was announced that much like Suzanne Collins’ fictional arena, the public can contribute money for ‘gifts’ or much needed items to their favourite contestants by voting for them online. The show is evidently a popularity contest for the more elite members of society, in which as a contestant you enter the reality TV show as a privileged individual who essentially is paying to become more privileged because of your application. The show has specified that the winner will additionally receive £1.3 million as a prize. Yet, somehow I feel having gained the prize money which essentially was for surviving the freezing climate, oh and the potential threat of murder from the other members, it seems that these people are willing to take an unnecessary risk all for the potential fame such a win would bring.

The promised celebrity status is the obvious driving force behind many applications

So, as we begin the new year, we all can pencil in our diaries the start of this monumental show which is bound to have everyone talking. Or, alternatively as I imagine it, have the world watching it from behind a cushion whilst seeing your ‘favourite’ contestant gets savagely attacked by an Asian black bear I just hope their disclaimers are well written.

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