‘You vs. Wild’ is basically interactive ‘Dora the Explorer’


From my perspective as a 20-year-old college student, Bear Grylls’ new Netflix show is essentially a live-action, interactive version of “Dora the Explorer.” That is, if Dora were a middle-aged male survival expert.

In “You vs. Wild,” viewers (and by that I mean children, since the show is geared towards kids) are tasked with making several decisions for Bear Grylls as he goes on different missions in different locations. Audiences will choose whether Grylls bushwhacks through the forest or heads down a river to save a doctor in the jungle, whether he’ll shelter under a tree or a snow fort as he tracks down a missing Saint Bernard in the Alps and whether he’ll climb a ladder or blow off a door to escape an abandoned mine.

While I was watching the first episode, I was confused because it seemed like none of my decisions mattered to Grylls’ survival. For instance, I chose for Grylls to take a grappling hook with him on his trek through the jungle, but it was never needed. However, when I went through the show a second time and made some different choices (like bringing a slingshot instead of a grappling hook), some of my previous decisions came into play. That grappling hook could have come in handy when Grylls found himself stuck at the bottom of a gorge after I forced him to cross it on a rickety log that ended up breaking.

Though viewers cannot “kill” Grylls in “You vs. Wild,” they can force him to end his mission. When Grylls was stuck in the bottom of that gorge with no way up, he had to call for help, thereby ending the adventure.

Some of the choices viewers were given were purely for their entertainment. For example, in “Operation Jungle Rescue” Grylls gives his audience a choice between two snacks for him to eat: termites or a grub. During my first pass through the episode, I chose the grub to see what would happen and, unsurprisingly, Grylls was forced to eat it. He pulled off its head before taking a big bite that caused some of the insect’s innards to pour down his chin, making a spectacle of the event for the audience.

The show was somewhat slow-paced, even though it’s an “adventure” show. What took so long was Grylls’ over-explanation of every choice. Just like when Dora asks her audience a question and then tilts her head and blinks at them until they answer, Grylls presents his viewers with two options, explains every advantage and drawback and then utters some variation or combination of the phrases “you’re in charge here,” “you’re on this journey with me” or “you decide.” As you can tell, it gets a little repetitive.

Though I’ve compared “You vs. Wild” to “Dora the Explorer,” perhaps it is more obviously like “Choose Your Own Adventure” or interactive history books. You make a decision and have to live with the consequences of it, except you won’t die due to unsafe factory conditions as a child laborer in the 1800s—you won’t die at all.

Though college-age audiences might not enjoy the show, younger kids definitely will, and it would be a great show to watch with little cousins or younger siblings.

Rating (as a non-child viewer): 2.5/5

Stephanie Santillo is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at stephanie.santillo@uconn.edu.

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