In December, the Discovery Channel, as it so rarely does, will be living up to its name. It is going to discover something. It is going to discover what the inside of an anaconda looks like. Sure, it’s not a true discovery so much as a Christopher Columbus discovery: millions have been there before the Discovery Channel, like wild pigs, capybaras, turtles, and Jon Voight.
But the Discovery Channel will be the first to film it. Paul Rosolie, a 26-year-old “naturalist” and filmmaker, has agreed to be filmed being eaten alive by an anaconda during Discovery’s “MegaWeek” program “Eaten Alive.”
Rosolie says he will be safe because he will be wearing a “custom-built, snake-proof suit” – snake-proof in the sense that he’s still going to be eaten by a snake, but in that the snake won’t enjoy it – and because he will have an “emergency line” attached to his ankles, which hopefully means the show will end with one group of people pulling on Rosolie’s legs, and another pulling on the snake’s tail.
Rosolie presumably lived, as the show has been shot already and he’s still tweeting about it – though, come to think of it, it’s totally possible he’s tweeting from the inside of the snake in his snake-proof suit while doing prep work for the follow up, “Pooped Alive,” – but he could very easily have died doing this stunt, and people would likely have responded with a very well-justified, “Well what the fuck did you think was gonna happen?” and then write him off as just another candidate for the Darwin Awards.
Which, dear reader, brings me finally to the point: Remember Brittany Maynard? The girl who had a terminal brain cancer and decided she’d rather die on her own terms than slowly and painfully from her disease?
Maynard very fortunately lived in Oregon, where she could legally choose to “die with dignity,” and, this past November 1st, ended her life surrounded by her friends and family.
This was a national controversy. Maynard was playing god. The state shouldn’t be involved with life and death, people argued. Suicide is a mortal sin, others argued, and Maynard would have to burn in hell for dying on her own terms rather than her tumor’s terms. Or, you know, on God’s terms, but hey, in this scenario, God and the tumor were basically one and the same.
Maynard’s problem, of course, was that she chose a death not properly suited to trash TV. She could have easily died by feeding herself to an anaconda, or by walking a high-wire across Chicago, or by skydiving from 128,000 feet. Death is fine, after all, as long as it’s for spectacle, and as long as you’re seen as “risking” death and not “attempting” it.
So Maynard’s problem was branding. Death, we all know, is chaotic and random, and you’re supposed to play the cards you are dealt. Folding is not an option. But you are more than welcome to say, “Hit me,” when dealt two Kings.