Warning: This article contains major spoilers throughout!
In November 2022, the cultural phenomenon ‘The Traitors’ hit the BBC screens and almost immediately was received with universal acclaim by the British Public. Based on the original Dutch show ‘De Verraders’, the premise was quite simple: place twenty- two strangers in a castle in the Scottish Highlands and choose three to be traitors. Each night, one person would be ‘murdered’ by the traitors. During the day, they would partake in challenges in order to win money to contribute to a prize pot worth £120,000. The challenges consist of protecting an individual from murder by finding contestants who’d been buried alive using maps, rolling huge barrels worth upwards of £10,000 through rivers and up hills, or even being strapped to a wheel of nightmarish proportions while answering questions such as ‘who do you trust the most?’ or ‘who is most likely to google themselves?’. During the night, the contestants would discuss and decide on a vote at the round table to decide whom to banish from the castle based on who the group believed to be the traitor. Only if those known as ‘faithfuls’ remained at the end of the game would they take the prize pot; however, if any traitors remained, then they would take it all.
Two months on, The Traitors has been streamed more than 28 million times on BBC iPlayer, and many of its stars have been catapulted into reality TV fame. What is refreshing and unique are that these new icons are not your conventional slim, beautiful and stereotypical individuals we have come to expect from shows such as Love Island, The Bachelor and The Kardashians. For example, Amanda Lovett, a 54-year-old Welsh estate agent and mother of five, was hailed as a ‘gay icon’ during her stint as a traitor on the show, as she murdered her fellow contestants, comparing herself to the dragon on the Welsh flag to half-jokingly threaten her fellow traitor, Wilfred. Furthermore, receptionist and actress, Maddy Smedley, became infamous for her reveal of playing the role of a homeless woman in EastEnders and a woman without a womb in Casualty, as well as her constant vehement pursuit of Wilfred and Aaron as traitors. The scintillating drama arose as whilst she was wrongfully banished, she ultimately turned out to be correct about Wilfred and in the process gained 23.9K likes on Twitter for tweeting ‘Knew It’ upon the reveal in the final episode.
In my opinion what sets The Traitors so far apart from its other counterparts, is the wide diversity of its cast. You only have to look at its winners to see this. Hannah Byczkowski, a comedian and plus size women, and Meryl Williams, a call centre agent who was born with dwarfism, and has become the first person with dwarfism in television history to win a reality TV show. In a time where Love Island continues with its refusal to have LGBTQ+ individuals representing their show as it would make the concept too ‘complicated’, Andrea Addison, 72, John McManus, 49, and Theo Mayne, 26, were freshening in their openness about their experiences with being gay. Theo, particularly, even remarked about having ‘found people that would truly accept him’ within the contestants on the show. Furthermore, we saw 21-year-old Alyssa Chan, a business student from Ireland with Chinese heritage, dominating the competition until her banishment in Episode 6, becoming another firm fan favourite and received a wealth of support from the public after her unexpected banishing.
In a generation of reality TV that continues to focus on appearances and superficiality, projecting an image of perfection that is highly unattainable to the majority of the population, The Traitors is a gleaming example of how to make incredible reality TV while maintaning the inclusion of ordinary people centred throughout. The beauty of a show like The Traitors is that it enabled the public to fall in love with a group of twenty-two ordinary people; doctors like Amos Ogunkoya, authors like Ivan Brett and School Welfare officers like Fay Greaves. These people are not the polished supermodels of the world of Instagram that we see in the current reality TV shows, with a limited amount of POC thrown in for the sake of ‘diversity’. The Traitors committed to the diversity of its cast and gave the general public a group of individuals that they could truly connect with, without sacrificing the drama, iconic moments and entertainment we have grown to love reality TV for.
To that I say bring on Season two! And thank you to this wonderful cast for showing us reality TV at its most brilliant, raw and wonderful. I, and millions of others, cannot wait for more.