Thoughts on life after the PhD
I tend to find reality TV really distasteful. As staged as it all seems, there’s something about watching people scream at each other (that’s the bulk of reality TV, right?) that makes me really uncomfortable. I used to watch America’s Next Top Model, but only because my roommate watched it religiously (I would, like, never have watched it on my own). But one reality show has had me addicted ever since I happened upon it–the Discovery Channel’s hugely successful Deadliest Catch.
Deadliest Catch is a show about crab fishing. Yes, crab fishing. But this is basic cable, so it’s crab fishing set to rock music, crab fishing that turns long, monotonous days and nights at sea into nail-biting episodes, and crab fishing that makes burly, tattooed men in their fifties look sexy. I really wonder what the pitch meeting was like. “See, we’ll put cameras on these boats, and we’ll follow these guys around while they pull up enormous cages full of crab, again and again, hour after hour. Oh, and occasionally one of them will get swept over the side of the boat by a rogue wave and almost die.” Sold.
Crab fishing is, we learn from the show, a very dangerous job. Perhaps the most dangerous job in the world. Men venture out into the Bering Sea on boats that always seem far too small and thin-hulled for the job they need to do. They toss enormous metal cages, called “pots,” into the ocean. And then, just when the ocean begins to buck their boat like a toy and freezing spray coats the deck with a layer of ice a foot thick, they haul the pots up one at a time, hopefully full of crab. If they don’t get swept overboard or seriously injured, crew members can make $60,000 in two weeks. Which seems like a lot of money–until you realize that this is probably the most exhausting, miserable, and utterly insane job anyone could ever have.
I’m still not sure what it is about Deadliest Catch that had me hooked (haha, get it? hooked?) from the first episode. Maybe it’s the fact that the world presented in the show is a remarkably simple one–you wake up, you nearly kill yourself braving gale force winds and icy water, you eat, and you sleep for a few hours only to do it all over again. Maybe it’s that the world of crab fishing is so utterly alien to me. You couldn’t pay me enough to do what these guys do–I feel cold and exhausted just watching them. Or maybe it’s that the Discovery Channel is playing on some tried-and-true archetypes–men against the sea, human frailties in the midst of the awesomeness of nature. Whatever the reason, I just can’t stop watching. Even the reruns. Even when I know that the poor guy who falls off the boat into nearly-freezing water, water that will kill you in less than four minutes if you’re not pulled out, is in fact going to be rescued. My heart still pounds.
Apparently I’m not the only one enamoured with Deadliest Catch–and, admittedly, with its crusty captains. Sig Hansen, the fourth-generation Norwegian captain whose boat has been featured on all four seasons, described being “attacked” while on vacation with his wife–a woman ran up to him and nearly tore half his shirt off. Fan letters come in from all over the globe (no, I haven’t written any). Chain-smoking men with beer bellies who probably don’t smell so good after weeks at sea aren’t exactly the dictionary definition of sexy, but their sheer manliness is hard to ignore. They wrestle with forty-foot waves, for heaven’s sake.
Deadliest Catch will be back in April, along with its requisite drama–will captain Phil, who suffered a heart attack during the last season, be back? Will the greenhorns prove their mettle? Will Sig and Edgar’s endlessly competing pranks finally get someone killed? I for one will be waiting with baited breath (sigh). Top Model be damned–I’d like to see those skinny little wenches haul two-ton crab pots in the middle of a blizzard.
Then again, maybe I’ve just come up with a new show idea…
writing•translation•scholarship on Japan (and a few other things)
tales of travel, research, and life
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