You can achieve spiritual enlightenment and also be rewarded with a $100,000 prize? I wonder what the Dali Lama, Confucius, Moses, Mohammad or Jesus Christ would think about this? The bottom line is that the premise and unfortunately the outcome were as unreal and manipulated by the producers as the Alts have all been cast from Central Casting. The producers have derived a program whereby 10 “normal” guests, deeply rooted with their own religious beliefs lived in a house occupied by 5 practitioners of alternative lifestyles (Alts) and were judged by the Alts toward the guests’ progression toward open-mindedness, acceptance not tolerance, individual breakthroughs, and transformation. Each week one houseguest was eliminated toward the eventual last remaining candidate gaining enlightenment and the reward money. While I believe this is a noble goal, albeit a bit too new age spiritual, the problem was that the most deserving candidate was eliminated without due cause by week four, Bonnie, the 50 y.o. book editor from Arlington Hts., Illinois. The next logical choice, Nicole, the retail sales manager from Malibu, CA. came in second after being conspired against by almost half of the guests. It also begs the question, why would only one person achieve this enlightened state of consciousness?
The credentials of the Alts seem legitimate in order to adequately represent their respectful alternative practices. The important thing to remember about these Alts, especially the vampire and the witch, is that the concept of their lifestyle does not necessarily mean they are actually possessed with supernatural powers but that they study and practice the culture of the lifestyle to the point where they are proficient in the knowledge and beliefs associated. David Wolfe, who prefers to be called 'Avocado,' is the author of best-selling books Eating For Beauty and The Sunfood Diet Success System. Avocado is revered by his peers to be one of the world's leading authorities on raw-food nutrition. Naturists believe the human body is inherently dignified and worthy of respect. Many naturists live their lives in a 'clothing optional' state.
A polite and thoughtful man, Art Aguirre is a professional piercing artist and body-modifier. His goal is to cover his own body with Polynesian and Marquesan art. A cancer survivor, he compellingly expressed that being a modern primitive is 'all about a love of life...a primal urge'. Ritual suspension and other traditions of the 'modern primitive' are based on Native American rites of passage which are accomplished through yoga, meditation, special breathing techniques and, according to practitioner Art, 'learning to program your mind to transcend the physical self.'
Traditionally in his culture, Don Henrie's life as a vampire should be known only to his fellow creatures of the night. At this point in his life, however, he has elected to break this bond of silence and let the world know what it really means to be one of 'The Chosen.' Vampires believe in their inherent ability to acquire energy resources, including pranic energy, or Chi, from humans. Prana, a Sanskrit word meaning 'life force,' can be acquired from direct life-giving sources such as blood and sexual energy.
Fiona Horne has practiced Witchcraft for more than 16 years. She specializes in casting spells and providing other magical support for matters of the heart. A best-selling author, journalist, television/radio personality and musician, Horne's first book, Witch: A Magickal Journey (Thorsons/HarperCollins, 2000), is now in its third printing. Horne also authored 2001's Seven Days to A Magickal New You, and 2002's Magickal Sex — A Witch's Guide to Bed Knobs and Broomsticks. Her latest book, Witchin' — A Handbook for Teen Witches, debuted in the United States in March 2003. Wiccans, or Witches, practice Wicca, an Earth-based religion that honors a deity divided into male and female manifestations known as the God and the Goddess.
Iya Ta'Shia Asanti was raised in the Christian church, but later became disenchanted with it. As an adult, Asanti embraced the tenets of Voodoo and has spent more than a decade studying and training in the field of African spirituality. She is a co-founder of the Ifa Conference on African Spiritual Tradition, a priestess of Yemoja in the Ifa tradition, a civil-rights activist, a teacher of African traditions and culture, and an award-winning poet and journalist. Vodun (a.k.a. Vodoun, Voudou, Voodoo, Sevi Lwa) is a religion commonly called Voodoo (a name likened to an African word for 'spirit'). A sacred religion, Voodoo is unlike the misrepresentations popularized in entertainment.
Interestingly enough, from what I gathered from message boards, most viewers have difficulty accepting the skill proficiency of Fiona and Iya Ta’Shia the most, despite their literary contributions and devotion to their practice, holding the male Alts in higher regard toward their spiritual evolution. Irregardless, I feel that the Alts were most likely manipulated by producers to vote out the candidates that did not uphold their vision of the $100,000 recipient. By episode four, the Alts made the shocking decision to oust Bonnie because she “was a maternal clutch on the other guests and she had reached the end of her personal growth.” In other words, Bonnie, you will not receive $100,000 because you prematurely achieved your enlightened state and we want to focus on the development of the younger, immature guests, instead rewarding one of them with the $100,000. Does that rationale not sit well with anyone else, or is it just me?
Another problem with the show was that the Alts seemed oblivious to the backstabbing and conspiracies masterminded by some of the finalists like Noel, Eric, Loana and winner Jamie against Nicole. Fiona is so unaware of her own behavior; she criticizes the male Alts for favoring Nicole and Jamie by thinking with their “testicles”, even though she is blindly charmed by Eric’s flirting. She is saddened and appalled with his departure to the point she bickers openly with Art, provoking an argument and really damaging her image as a respectable practitioner of Wicca with her public meltdown on national cable TV. She criticizes sexual tension between guests and Alts and yet parades around (thankfully) in tight revealing clothing with her nipples fully erect as if she had just stepped into the room from the meat freezer. Fiona is supposed to represent the success of achieving breakthroughs and instead reveals the disappointment of experiencing breakdowns. Yes, we are all human, even Wicca, but in order to adequately purport her craft she should have owned up to her breakdown and sought forgiveness and closure with her victims Art, Loana and Nicole.
Jamie seems like a wonderful young person and mother, which is most likely why the producers then subsequently (and obediently) the Alts selected her to receive the prize. The young demographics targeted by the producers, the 18 – 34 y.o. audience, would prefer to see a young mother with a business plan receive the money in order to begin her new life of transformation. Yes, we are to believe she is more spiritually in touch now in order to start her new gymnastics business, and the money doesn’t hurt either. But I wonder if the Alts viewed the entire footage we watched aired in the past two months if they would have voted the same way or if they would have felt taken advantage of?
Is Jamie the ideal representative of someone who achieved spiritual transformation when she conspired with Loana and Eric to foil Nicole’s shot at the money and never owned up to the fact? What about Nicole? She was labeled as cunning and deceitful, yet she was the only finalist who never conspired against another and truly met every challenge with an attempt at an open mind. Removing Bonnie from contention for the $100,000 prize early because she already achieved enlightenment half way through the series smacks of favoritism by production staff and ageism. The looks on everyone’s faces, guests and Alts alike when she departed spoke volumes of the unfairness and hypocrisy behind that decision. Couldn’t it be determined that all three of these women achieved enlightenment and therefore should be acknowledged appropriately? As far as my own experience in the quest for spiritual growth, it is not suppose to be a competition with your peers but rather a personal journey toward your own nirvana.
While the premise was interesting and entertaining, I believe the producers should themselves look internally and work on their own shortcomings in order to fine tune the guidelines of this show if they desire to continue the madness in another house.