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During the week of June 5, the new CBS television series Survivor came in number one in the ratings, beating out ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? King Regis took second place to a show about sixteen people struggling to "survive" on a desert island long enough to win $1 million.

It's like the old Candid Camera idea. On Candid Camera, viewers can watch as practical jokes are played on unsuspecting individuals, but what happens to the participants on Survivor is no joke.

The show pits sixteen people against one another in competition for the million bucks. Interactions among the participants, who are constantly monitored by TV cameras as they try to get the upper hand over one another, are intense and humiliating. It seems these people will do anything, including eating live insects and cooked rats, to get that $1 million. At the end of each show, one contestant suffers the ignominy of being voted off the island by the others. And we at home get to see it all.

The program is the latest in a growing trend that is being labeled "voyeur television." It's Candid Camera run amok.

Les Moonves, president of CBS television, said in a recent interview that people today want something different. "There's more of a voyeuristic nature to our watching habits," he told the Associated Press.

Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University in New York, regrettably agrees. "Voyeurism and television were destined to embrace," he said in the same Associated Press article.

Survivor is a hit, and CBS is planning more of the same. Can astrology explain this new trend in TV entertainment?

Outer Planets and Social Trends

To understand social trends through astrology, one needs to study the slower moving outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Each of these planets moves very slowly, and they create the flavor of the times we live in. All three of these planets have been interacting lately and may provide an explanation of what is going on these days in the area of television entertainment.

Pluto and Uranus have been working in cahoots for the last five years. Pluto, among other things, is associated with the urge to probe, investigate and, let's face it, spy on others. Uranus is the planet of television, computers and technology. In 1995, Pluto entered Sagittarius and Uranus transited into its own sign of Aquarius, beginning a five-year period of friendly contact between the two planets, linking the urge to observe others with new technological developments in TV and the Internet.

These two planets seemed to have been put into hyperdrive by the energy of their respective signs. In Sagittarius, the energy that likes to "take it to the max," Pluto's curiosity seems to have become insatiable. The public is binging on the desire to know more about the private lives of everyone, including politicians, movie stars and even the guy next door. In Aquarius, the energy of technology and the media, Uranus has produced innovations in TV and the Internet that have facilitated Pluto's snoop complex.

One of the first manifestations of the Pluto-Uranus collaboration appeared on cable television. MTV's Real World, a program that uses TV to constantly monitor a group of young people living together, became a smash hit. Simultaneously, the first voyeuristic web sites began showing up on the Internet. For a fee, users can click and watch people in their homes doing just about anything imaginable.

This trend went on relatively quietly until 1997, when Neptune, the planet associated with entertainment fads, joined Uranus in Aquarius. Voyeur web sites began mushrooming up by the score, and the Real World concept started to appear in shows on European television. Survivor is actually the American version of a program that first aired in Sweden. Now, in typical Neptunian fashion, a trend is starting to turn into a new wave in the entertainment world.

Mega-mergers, another Plutonian phenomenon, in the technology (Uranus) and entertainment (Neptune) fields are helping enforce the new trend. The largest such merger was finally completed May 5, 2000, when Viacom, owner of MTV, merged with CBS. No surprise, then, that a Real World clone should show up on CBS.

More to Come

Before the ratings were even in on Survivor, CBS had already planned to bring out another program in the same vein in July— Big Brother. This program, which takes its title from George Orwell's prophetic novel, 1984, will have ten participants who will spend weeks together in a house, totally cut off from contact with the outside world. They will have no TV, radio or newspapers, but they will be monitored by 28 cameras and 60 microphones. There will even be a camera in the bathroom (though none of the shower-cam footage will be shown on TV). The program will use a half hour of edited footage, four nights a week, but Internet users will be able to watch 24 hours a day.

Big Brother is the U.S. version of a program that aired last year on German TV. The show gave its network all-time high ratings, despite calls from government officials for a code of ethics for electronic media. The Swedish version of Survivor provoked similar ambivalent feelings in that country, especially following the suicide of one of the show's participants.

Success Likely to be Imitated

This July, transiting Jupiter, the planet that rules growth, hype and expansion, enters Gemini, a sign that will encourage the activities of Uranus and Neptune in Aquarius. We can expect a proliferation of such shows as other networks vie to compete with CBS's certain ratings successes.

In October, 2000, and again in July, 2001, Jupiter, which on a higher level is linked to ethics and morality, will oppose Pluto in Sagittarius. We may possibly see government scrutiny of these programs accompanied by calls for ethical responsibility on the part of broadcasters and producers at that time. But if the European experience is any guide, ratings will outvote morality, and the trend will continue for some time to come. Neptune moves very slowly.

In 1984, Orwell painted the picture of a society where individual privacy no longer exists. Everyone is under the watchful eye of Big Brother, constantly monitored by TV cameras. Orwell's vision was in one way uncannily accurate. But he got the most important part of it wrong. It’s not the government behind those TV cameras. Big Brother, it turns out, is us.



John M. Whalen is freelance writer, astrologer, and editor of a business publication based in Washington, D.C. He writes about film, TV, music and travel for various magazines and newspapers. He contributed a chapter on the life and films of director Sam Peckinpah to the new book, The Astrology of Film: The Interface of Movies, Myth, and Archetype.

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For more information about John Whalen, click here.

Other StarIQ articles by John Whalen:

  • Astro-Zen   3/10/2012
  • Astro-Zen   9/10/2004
  • Polarized Politics   8/20/2004
  • Saturn and the Vanquishing of Illusion   11/3/2003
  • The Grand Illusion   1/9/2003
  • Two Degrees of Scorpio   10/10/2002
  • Venus Elements   2/14/2002
  • Timothy McVeigh: The Day of Judgment   5/9/2001
  • Kevin Spacey: A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma   4/9/2001
  • Keanu Reeves' Excellent Adventure   3/8/2001
  • Steven Soderbergh: Putting the Cuffs on Oscar   3/5/2001
  • The Christmas Eclipse: Bringing Your Heart's Desire   12/25/2000
  • Robert DeNiro: Master of Form and Essence   11/18/2000
  • Sylvester Stallone: A Fallen Star, Rising Again?   10/28/2000
  • Yasser, Ehud, Can We Talk?   8/31/2000
  • Alec Guinness: Reluctant Jedi   8/19/2000
  • Human Genetics: O Brave New World!   8/16/2000
  • Samuel L. Jackson: Shaft for the New Millennium   7/1/2000
  • Jackie Chan: Fearless Aries with the Comic Touch   6/23/2000

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