This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.
So, a few days back I caught an episode of BBC Three’s Fat Men Can’t Hunt, in which a number of medically overweight men and women are sent into sub-Saharan Africa to live with a nomadic tribe who still live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. In theory, the volunteers are only allowed to eat what they can hunt, using the traditional techniques of the nomads. In practice, the on-site nutritionists had to relent at least twice in the episode I saw and distribute food to the volunteers so that their health wouldn’t be endangered by their utter lack of success. It’s rare that a television show actually makes me angry, especially a show as insipid as this reality TV abortion, but Fat Men Can’t Hunt succeeded.
Speaking of anger, the show’s participants aren’t exactly happy either. In the episode we watched, an Oxford graduate named Martin blew his top in spectacular style. Having failed, like most of the other participants, to catch and eat anything, Martin is hungry as hell and isn’t going to take it any more. He sets off on a ragingly incoherent rant, screaming at the top of his lungs about the life the nomads lead and accusing another one of the volunteers of being patronising towards them. Martin’s point, so far as I could decipher it from his ramblings, was that the nomads live a harsh existence, and are amongst the poorest people on Earth, and that it is patronising to regard them as being Noble Savages or somehow representing a better, purer, more wholesome way of life. Which is a fair point to make, but he does a terrible job of making it, and he completely disrupts the tribe’s otherwise quiet existence. The nomad leader threatened to pull out of the show a couple of times because of Martin’s insane behaviour; I couldn’t help but feel that he was being awfully patient with the British. If a gang of foreigners started to live in my house, expected me to take them to Tesco’s to show them where all the food is, and then started yelling at each other in a language which most of my housemates don’t understand but apparently involves how shitty my lifestyle is, I certainly wouldn’t let them stay, no matter how much the BBC bribed me.