We are fascinated by survival accounts and adventures.
As a child, I was an avid reader. From time to time, instead of sitting twiddling my thumbs on our family visits to elderly relatives who believed that children should be seen and not heard, I would pick up a copy of the ‘Readers Digest’. On one occasion, after working my way through the funny stories page, I happened upon a story of a man who went on a camping trip in Canada. I read with both fascination and disgust as I learned how he was attacked by a bear who scalped him and left part of his skull flapping open but was not prepared to lay down and die. This man moved for days through the undergrowth with severe injuries and blood loss, eventually happening on civilisation and help.
Obviously, as I was reading the story in the first person, he lived to tell the tale!
The story of this man has never left me, even half a century later. I thought about him often in my childhood, and when I am reminded of how humankind has the capacity to overcome the odds, my thoughts always return to him.
There is no doubt that we are fascinated by survival accounts and adventures. We read books,(Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors- Piers Paul Read  , 1974), watch films (127 hours, directed by Danny Boyle), T.V (Man vs Wild- Bear Grylls), and even play games (Minecraft- Marcus Persson), which represent the struggle for survival.
So what do we find thrilling about entertainment concerning surviving in the face of adversity?
In some way, it can make us feel superhuman- even though what we are reading or watching is not our struggle; our adventure, our quest for survival. Just knowing that a fellow human has risen above normal human capabilities, has survived when in normal circumstances they shouldn’t have, makes us believe that maybe we could do the same.
Part of the reason for this response is that a positive mental attitude is catching (think of the team building ‘chants’ of the nineties!). If someone can chop off their own arm to survive, eat human flesh, or even survive a zombie attack, we can triumph over our own adversities too.
Reading about survival is proof to us that we can.
Furthermore, survival is part of who we are, of our genetic makeup. The instinctual hunter-gather within us, the fight or flight response, and the way adrenaline primes the body so effectively to survive demonstrates that we all have this ability within us.
Survival media brings us together as a human race, makes us feel invincible, and speaks to our deep-seated human tendencies. Perhaps this is why survival endures as a hot genre across the full entertainment spectrum.