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Is Discovery Channel's Naked And Afraid Fake?

Discovery's "Naked and Afraid" is almost exactly what one would expect a show with that name to be. Can survivalists, outdoor enthusiasts, and those brave enough to spend a lot of time in the wilderness survive some seriously harsh terrains for 21 days? This might sound similar to other survival shows, but "Naked and Afraid" takes it one step further, stripping the survivors down to their birthday suits as they battle whatever nature throws at them.

Every season of "Naked and Afraid" has been proudly exposing audiences to nature's unforgiving realities since 2013, but some viewers have since questioned how real these realities actually are. After all, reality television doesn't have the most sparkly reputation when it comes to differentiating fact from fiction. Nevertheless, reality television's drama and over-the-top scenarios keep it interesting for those audiences back home.

The drama isn't left out of "Naked and Afraid" either, with some contestants having their own sad backstories and even squabbles between partners on the show taking up a fair amount of each episode. Some former participants in this unique survival situation have since opened up about their time on the show, and the way they were portrayed to the world and their openness begs the question, is "Naked and Afraid" real?

Former contestants have said some eyebrow raising things about their time on the show

Fans of "Naked and Afraid" might remember show participant Alison Teal from Season 1 of the show. In a Reddit AMA, Teal recalled that not all of her skills were shown on the show when it aired, but possibly for a good reason. "I was like, 'Wait, what about the 40 ft ladder I built, and what about the fishing net I made?' etc., etc...BUT, as a filmmaker myself, watching someone build a fishing net for 5 days is probably pretty boring."

Not showcasing every survivalist's skillset isn't surprising, considering it's a television show. However, an article published in Channel Guide Magazine dives further into the show's behind-the-scenes nature. Phaedra Brothers was a Season 3 competitor who made it through all 21 days. However, she started the show in a pretty bad state after eating some bad food and contracting food poisoning. Months later, when the show aired, her illness was depicted as drinking bad water and sold to viewers as poor decision-making on her part. When the episode aired, Brothers attempted to reach out to producers to rectify the false storyline but to no avail. In a quote published by Channel Guide, Magazine Brothers said, "They [the producers] decide the storyline. But in that particular incidence, I think they thought it would be a better, more dramatic story, but it wasn't the truth."

There are certainly some reality TV truths viewers think are fake, but this change in the storyline in "Naked and Afraid" is something that brings the show's credibility into question. If an illness can be written into the episodes as a side effect of days and nights fully immersed in nature, what else can?

The show's executive producer insists that it's completely real

While viewers and former participants continue to bring the show's true colors further into the light, or at least speculate about them, "Naked and Afraid" executive producer Denis Contis insists the show is authentic. In an article published in Wall Street Journal, Contis said, "There is no manipulation, no element of scripted reality. It's the ultimate survival show. [Contestants] were placed in this location, where and how they survived and if they traveled at all, that was up to them."

The contestants on "Naked and Afraid" aren't just randomly selected. Most of them carry skill sets that make their likelihood of lasting 21 days in the wilderness higher than the average Joe. However, this doesn't mean that behind the scenes, things aren't adjusted or pushed in the direction that would better suit a reality television show. In the end, reality television should always be taken lightly and at entertainment value. The "Naked and Afraid" real-or-fake discourse is hardly the biggest scandal to ever hit Discovery Channel, and it certainly shouldn't make anyone feel qualified to survive in some of the world's harshest locations for weeks at a time. You never know when the truth has been traded in for more exciting reality TV.