Well, I’ve been waiting a while for this one. In a season dubbed Millennials vs. Gen X, it felt like only a matter of time before some truly generation-specific stereotypical behavior happened.
I waited. I waited some more. I dismissed Taylor as, to quote Andy Baker, a “moron” and not a generational avatar. I waited more.
Then Will happened.
For about the last nine months or so, I’ve been working on a project with some friends at other universities that seeks to measure some of the effects of what scholars have called “trophy culture.” Now, I’ve mentioned that phrase here this season and, obviously, castaways in Fiji have been primed by producers to talk about millennials as folks who grew up always receiving a trophy for participation.
The concept of trophy culture evolved from a 1990s trend called the self-esteem movement. Basically, beginning in the mid 1990s, according to researchers, educators assumed that by bestowing rewards on young students, their self-esteem would increase and subsequently this would lead to more success. Despite exactly zero evidence that suggests self-esteem correlates with better grades or increased performance, educators continued to believe that by doing things like giving every Little League player a trophy, kids would become more confident and just better, I guess.
Of course, that’s not how it works.
Instead, researchers have found that trophy culture results in a generation of students who believe themselves to be “above average,” regardless of whether they actually deserve that label. It also led to a generation with more anxiety issues than ever before. Fundamentally, trophy culture continues to create students who are unable to deal with negative consequences, who have become risk averse and cannot psychologically recover when things do not go their way.
And, of course, this brings us to Will. Oh, Will. Let me say I could not have done what he’s doing at 18. At this point this season, Will’s basically played a conservative, decent game, one that would normally result in a nice sixth place finish.
But, gosh, Will deserves to win, don’t you know?
Will, unfortunately, is at the perfect age to feel the negative effects of trophy culture. You see, while some folks in their mid to late 20s probably saw some of the self-esteem movement’s processes, Will’s generation grew up with every facet. Pardon this overly general stereotype, but he’s been told since birth he was special and can do anything he wants. Like win Survivor.
Even though the game isn’t coming to him, Will thinks it should. When he’s not getting the credit he believes he deserves, instead of working with what the game throws at him, Will whines and tells us he’s going to make a Big Move™ and get the respect he so clearly deserves.
And that sentiment so clearly led to Will wanting to turn on his alliance for literally no reason. Even if his move worked, what happens? The rest of David’s alliance boots Will at the moment they no longer need him. Heck, Will never even asked for nominal promises from David’s alliance. Such a bad move.
But, gosh darn it, Will deserves a trophy. And $1 million. And the title of “sole survivor.”
And now let’s talk about the players left in the game.
Say what you will about a season with a ton of deceptively bad play, but this 33rd season of Survivor continues to be quite the ride. Heck, I’ve been a little hesitant since the beginning to embrace some crappy play, but now I’m all in. Anyone, theoretically (not thinking about edit), could win the game at this point. Well, not Will. I’m predicting a Will and Bret boot off this week. Let’s see.
Pat Ferrucci started watching Survivor when episode two of Borneo first aired. He's seen every episode since. Besides recapping here, he'll be live-tweeting this season from the Mountain Time Zone. Why? Because nobody cares about the Mountain Time Zone except when they want to ski. Follow him @patferrucci for Survivor stuff and tweets about anything and everything that enters his feeble mind.