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By Ashley J. Towns – OPINION

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Let me preface this open letter by declaring my love for both Michele and Aubry. The debate about who is more deserving is at its end. We need to appreciate the brilliance of both these amazing Survivors.

Dear Reader,

This is not the kind of letter I thought that I would be writing for my debut on BehindSurvivor. I thought I would be analysing the edit or discussing the characters and their narratives; I’m a storyteller at heart, as contrived as that sounds. Instead, I’ve been inspired to open my heart and be raw and vulnerable through a stream of consciousness. You see, there is an issue I believe the Survivor community is facing at the moment. An identity crisis, if you will. We exist in a meta age of blindsides and voting blocs, a world in which Jeff Probst would have us believe the game is constantly evolving. However, the truth of it is that at its core Survivor is the same game now that it was at its inception. Sure, the strategic game is evolving – the game is alive, as Probst would say. But there’s an increasing disconnect between the way the which the game is presented to us and the way in which people win. Did Sarah Lacina play a better strategic game than Brad Culpepper and Troyzan Robertson in the recently concluded Survivor Game Changers? Yes. Is that why she won? Not entirely. It certainly didn’t hurt, but at the end of the day Sarah created bonds with the jury that were strong enough that they were able to forgive her for betraying them and reward her with a million dollars. That’s not a skill every player possesses, and it’s one that is often overlooked in modern Survivor.

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Congrats, girl!

More often than not, this skill is key to a woman winning the game. With Sarah’s recent victory a grand total of fourteen women have won the game of Survivor. Fifteen seasons out of thirty-four have concluded with a female victory. For some, fifteen is a solid number – it’s almost half! For others, it feels as though women have so much more they need to overcome than their male counterparts in order to get to the end and win so every female win is cause for celebration. Overall, however, it seems as though female winners are held in much lower regard than male winners, and the only reason I can think of for this is that more often than not women win based on social play instead of making big flashy moves.

Still, it’s deeply disturbing that so few women seem to get the recognition they deserve. Heck, Sandra has won the game TWO TIMES, something no other has been able to pull off, and yet both of her wins are still often pulled into question. So not only is it more difficult for a woman to win but also more difficult for her to earn respect for said win. Sandra only won both times due to a bitter jury. Parvati was playing a losing game and only lucked into a win thanks to a surprise final two. Kim only managed to control the game to such an impressive extent because she was playing with a dud cast. And these are things people say about the women who are generally considered to be good!

There is one woman in particular who seems to send fans into a deep rage-induced frenzy like no other before her. Thirteen months ago you would have thought I was referring to Natalie White, who shockingly won over Russell Hantz in a 7-2-0 vote way back in 2009. But no, sweet little southern belle Natalie White is no longer the most hated woman to win Survivor.

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Mah werd!

Sorry Ratalie, but you’ve been dethroned. Who could possibly have snatched her crown? A twenty-four year old bartender who was obsessed with Harry Potter. Ugh, what a nightmare!

So what is it that Michele did to earn so much hate?

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Haters gonna hate.

In my opinion she played a better social game than fan favourite Aubry Bracco, defeating her in a 5-2-0 vote. Remember, the social game is just a myth these days so what did Michele really even do to win? Was she even on the season? She only had fifty-seven confessionals, the third highest number of the season, yet she was deemed totally invisible!

I’ll be straight with you guys. In the lead up to the finale and the weeks following, I was a Michele detractor. However, with the benefit of hindsight and a re-watch I’ve come to realise just how much of a social goddess this girl is and I’ve come to really respect her as a winner. Michele made social bonds with the jury that were strong enough for them to reward her with a million dollars. Throughout the game she was the perpetual underdog, having to win her way to the final tribal council where she was able to sit in front of her friends and be emotionally vulnerable. She cried over how everyone underestimated her and how she proved to herself how strong she truly is.

Did Aubry play a stronger strategic game? Yes, without a doubt. However, she alienated the Jason, Scot and Julia alliance which made up the core of the jury and pushed in favour of their good friend Michele. Aubry readily admits she hid her strategic game to such an extent that she couldn’t even use her impressive resume to her advantage. Meanwhile, Michele was telling Tai off at tribal council, betraying her closest ally Julia in order to better her position in the game and on top of that she was winning immunities. She was truly a well rounded player, and it was a grave error not to take her out at final 6 like Tai suggested.

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Seriously, the girl just kicks some serious ass!

As an Aubry fan, I get it. Aubry’s win would have been intensely satisfying, especially since her story of growth was THE story of the season. As much as I love Michele, I would have preferred an Aubry win since I was rooting for her all the way back in episode 1 when everyone else was calling me crazy for doing so. But that’s not to say that I am dissatisfied with Michele’s win. In fact, there are a lot of winners whom I adore and yet if I had the choice I would have preferred someone else win their season. Sandra is one of the all time greats and if anyone should be a two time winner, I’m glad it’s her. In saying that, I kind of wish Parvati had won Heroes vs Villains.

What I’m trying to say is that more than one person can deserve to win. To say I would rather an Aubry win has nothing to do with Michele, because I believe Michele is a highly likeable and well deserved winner. It just happens that I was more invested in Aubry’s story. I feel as though not enough people can make the distinction between who they wanted to see win and who deserved to win. You may have wanted to see Mike win Survivor Worlds Apart, but that’s not to say Carolyn didn’t deserve to win just as much as he did.

It’s especially sad that the people who seem to possess this quality the most are those who love Michele. Michele fans attack anyone who even mentions Aubry, because Michele and only Michele (and maybe Cydney) deserved to win Survivor Kaoh Rong while Aubry is declared as overrated. One of the hardest parts of watching Kaoh Rong were the Michele fans who acted with a mob mentality, and it got to the point where they detracted from the experience as they attempted to stifle any voice who wasn’t in favour of Michele.

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Michele just wants us to all get along!

Michele did what we all wish we could do. She lived the adventure of a lifetime, kicked some serious ass and come home with the million. Why should she be made to feel guilty for her fans’ behaviour? Why should she be faulted for Aubry’s fundamental flaw in the game? Yes even acknowledging the bitterness of the jury, how can that be overcome?Michele deserves to be celebrated as an inspiration to all young women that they can do anything they set their mind to. She looked in the faces of her bullies and stood up to them. Everyone underestimated her and she proved them all wrong. She doesn’t need to be carried, bro, and to think as much is a bunch of malarky.

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Michele to her haters.

It’s been well documented that Michele started the game on the bottom of the Beauty tribe and worked her way into the Beauty Girls Alliance. Why was this left out of the edit? I have no idea, because it would have been the perfect opportunity to show her social skills in play. Unfortunately, Survivor struggles to portray social players which plays a large role in why fans react negatively to people who win by playing a social game – what did they even do?

Despite the reaction of Probst towards her win, and I sadly doubt that we’ll see a return from Michele. I do think it would be brilliant to see her return and prove to her haters that she can do it again.

Hopefully this hasn’t been too much of a mess, it’s a stream of consciousness but it should be at least somewhat coherent. I want to send my love out there to Michele and all the other under appreciated, under edited players who don’t look to make the big move, but the right move. The social winner who has played before her or will play in the future. The vitriol they receive from fans is not okay, and it’s something we as a community really need to work on. Just remember that these are real people and the things we say to and about them can be quite hurtful.

I love you Aubry and I love you Michele. Two amazing female Survivors. We don’t need to drag one down in order to raise the other up. I fully believe each of them deserved to win the game for different reasons, and hopefully one day they will both receive the respect they deserve. Sometimes multiple people deserve to win, but in the end there can only be one sole survivor.

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We have not forgotten your Cydney. 🙂 Move over Amanda, Cirie and Parvati; there’s a new trio of female superstars in town.