Eden: Paradise Lost

Channel 4’s Eden is a social experiment/reality series which placed 23 strangers in a remote part of the Scottish Highlands, and asked them to start a community from scratch. Originally broadcast in 2016, the show was quickly taken off air due to low viewing figures. This week, Channel 4 have been showing an episode every evening, detailing what went wrong with the experiment, under the changed title Eden: Paradise Lost. And paradise was indeed lost, which should come as no surprise to absolutely everyone who’s ever picked up a copy of Golding’s Lord of the Flies. The Flies link was highlighted by a number of news outlets, including The GuardianOn The Box, Radio Times and iNews, which featured my favourite headline: ‘Channel 4’s Eden: Paradise Lost is Lord of the Flies meets Love Island in dystopic nightmare’. This leads me to ask: is a dystopian society inspired by Lord of the Flies 100% your type on paper?

The series began a few months after the participants arrived, and it soon became clear that Eden had its very own Piggy, in the shape of Anton, who was isolated from the others, and had chosen to live apart. He was in tears during the first episode about how he would ‘never fit in’, although a later episode paired him with Raph, and they were living in relative harmony in the cabin they constructed. This shaky harmony wouldn’t last for long.

The participants were comprised of both men and women from a variety of backgrounds, and with particular skills, such as gardening, plumbing, hunting and carpentry. A gender divide occurred with five men starting their own clique and arguing that they should do the ‘men’s jobs’, while the women focused on washing up and other inconsequential tasks. I was furious at this, although it sadly reminded me of British PM Theresa May’s recent interview in which she discussed girl jobs and boy jobs in her household. The sexist comments and unacceptable behaviour by this particular group of men forced most of the women to leave the experiment, with Doctor Ali saying: ‘I saw the darkness coming’.

The clique of five men became known as the ‘Valley Boys’ and they sought to remove Anton (and in some cases, Raph) from Eden. This involved alcohol, and a very deliberate attempt to antagonise Anton, who reacted violently. He and Raph were thus ‘voted out’ because the other participants claimed to be afraid of Anton, despite many other examples of drunken violence throughout the experiment. It was heartbreaking to watch as Anton screamed that they had ‘stolen this [the experiment]’ from him. The ostracisation of Anton and Raph reminded me of the final days on Golding’s island, in which Piggy and Ralph are fighting to survive against Jack‘s group of hunters.

In the fourth episode, the ‘Valley Boys’ had turned almost completely ‘feral’, as they themselves insisted, attempted an all-meat diet, and wanted to kill all the livestock to fulfil this diet. The camp was full of the rotting corpses of deer, pigs, and sheep, and there was blood everywhere. Once again, Golding’s vision of human’s descent into savagery in a world without rules and order is proved correct. Let’s hope that, unlike Lord of the Flies, the participants survive the experiment.

The finale of the series showed Katie completely isolating herself from the other participants, mostly because of the ‘revolting’ Valley Boys. It was also revealed that contraband had been smuggled in, and the production team intervened when a mobile phone appeared, supposed to belong to one of the Valley Boys. On the final night, the participants burnt the word ‘EDEN’ into the dunes and Katie’s carefully constructed house was engulfed by fire (by accident). This destruction was a fitting symbol to end the show but this was then supplanted by news broadcasts of world events whilst they have been sheltered in Eden. The fragility of society in Eden was merely a microcosm of our whole world.

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