Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Celebrities Invade Costa Rica

There has been an invasion of epic proportions (or at least drama-filled proportions) reported in Costa Rica. A troupe of famous personalities arrived in Costa Rica two weeks ago and was transported to the dense jungle in Sarapiqui for Hollywood’s latest reality show, “I’m a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here!” The contestants include a list of “celebrities” who are competing against one another to stay in the jungle till the end without getting voted out by the American audience. The original cast includes Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag (from MTV’s The Hills), the comic duo Frangela, retired basketball player John Salley, Janice Dickinson (from The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency), Lou Diamon Phelps (actor), Patti Blagojevich (wife of the former Illinois governor), retired pro wrestler Torri Wilson, Sanjaya (American Idol finalist) and Stephen Baldwin (actor). After Spencer and Heidi (referred to collectively as “Speidi”) left the show (for the 3rd time), they were replaced by Stephen’s brother, Daniel Baldwin and Heidi’s sister, Holly Montag.

The first things I, as an avid (or not so much) viewer of the show and employee of Costa Rica Outward Bound, noticed was the likeness between the celebrities’ experiences and those of students who come on Costa Rica Outward Bound courses. Apart from the obvious camping-in-the-wilderness factor there are many other similarities that come up. There are challenges and fears that the participants must face and overcome. There’s a “lost chamber” where participants did a solo-like activity. The celebrities’ diet primarily consists of the basic beans and rice that anyone who has been to Costa Rica knows as common fair. Other resemblances between the show and OB courses include the open space time for group discussions (which resulted in tears for several of the celebrities), the interviews (in which the celebrities talk about their “highs and lows”) and their roles (there’s a set “camp leader” or “cacique” and a different individual who is responsible for cooking and cleaning everyday or, in Costa Rica Outward Bound language, “concinero” and “trapo”).

Most striking however are the parallels of interpersonal relationships and leadership. Put ten very different people together in a situation in which they have to live and work together as a team for an extended period of time and you’re bound to have conflicts. On course, said conflict may arise from a student who doesn’t want to be here or doesn’t want to do his/her share of the work. On “I’m a Celeb” the conflict is very similar, most often manifest in the personality of Janice Dickinson, who conveniently falls ill anytime there’s a group activity or work to be done.

Each of the celebrities also represents individual personalities that can be seen on course. Sanjaya is the savage warrior who finds himself in his true element in the jungle. Speidi are the ones who thrive on attention and drama. Lou is the leader who strives to keep peace and positive moral among the others. Patti is the one who has come to separate herself from the problems she’s dealing with at home. The Baldwin brothers are the ones who are here because they had nothing better to do for the summer. John, Torrie and Holly are the ones who are here to get the most out of their experience and refuse to be brought down by the others.

The redemptive factor of the show is that money will be donated in the name of the winning celebrity to the charity of his or her choice.

It will be interesting to see the other developments and resemblances that come forth in the upcoming weeks of the show. And who knows, maybe we can work out a deal with NBC for next season! “Celebrities vs. Students” anyone? Maybe “Celebrities vs. Lopezes”?

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