Toward the end of film school, I worked on a few projects for a local church. One of the projects was a take off on the new tv reality show Survivor. Since I’d never seen the show I made certain I watched the next episode. It was my first foray into reality television. Five minutes into the show I was hooked. The project never came together, but I became a huge Survivor fan. Over seventeen years I’ve seen most of Survivor’s thirty-three seasons.
Last year I was setting up my video equipment when an attorney walked into the room and handed me her card. She looked so familiar I smiled and said, “I know you. We’ve worked together before.”
She returned the smile with a wry look and sat down. As we proceeded through the deposition, I kept trying to place where and when we’d worked together. I felt like I really knew her, but couldn’t remember. It was very disconcerting. I usually recognize names of attorneys I’ve worked with before but the name on her card wasn’t familiar.
A couple hours later we broke for lunch. The court reporter looked at the attorney and said, “I feel like I should know you, but can’t place where we met before.”
“I was on Survivor,” she replied with a grin. “Happens all the time.”
Khaos Kass! Of course I knew her.
Kassandra McQuillen, an attorney from Tehachapi, had been on two seasons of Survivor. She’d thrived on creating chaos during both seasons and was quite contentious on screen. Surprisingly, the woman deliberating in front of me all morning had been anything but controversial. She was personable, calm, and articulate.
All during lunch Kass regaled us with stories of her Survivor adventures, and shared how common it was for people recognize her. She remarked on the wild and often inappropriate things people say.
There’s a weird phenomena that happens to reality stars. Viewers vicariously participate in the intimate actions and thoughts of the stars to the point they think they know them. So when a viewer meets the reality star in person there’s a sense of false intimacy that transcends normal interpersonal boundaries.
I hadn’t cared for Khaos Kass on the show, but I really enjoyed working with Kassandra the attorney. The person I saw on the show and formed opinions about was a product of creative filming and editing. The attorney in front of me was a delightful, adventurous woman I’d enjoy getting to know.
This is a cautionary tale considering our current political milieu.
We should be careful of the opinions we foster based only on what’s seen on TV. Reality might actually be surprisingly different.
Please tread lightly with each other.
(I’m speaking to both sides here.)