For the first time in the show’s history, stars on Australia’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! are calling it quits.
It was big news last week when tennis player Bernard Tomic uttered the eight magic words – “I’m a celebrity, get me out of here” – barely three episodes in.
It was, after all, a first for Australian TV, and one that involved tennis’ most notorious “bad boy”.
Then, on Thursday night, we watched boxing champion Anthony “The Man” Mundine do the very same thing.
That’s not one, but two contestants, pulling the plug less than a fortnight since the premiere aired on January 28.
Just like that, Channel Ten – who no doubt paid big bucks to lure the pair to the show – lost their two biggest drawcards.
Considering in all four seasons this has never happened before, it’s only natural that Australian viewers are reacting angrily. This wasn’t what the fans signed up for. And how could Mundine and Tomic have given up on the $100,000 they were supposed to be competing to win for charity?
But speaking to Mamamia, Australian sports psychologist Jeffrey Bond warned against calling them “quitters”.
“It is all too easy for the ‘armchair experts’ and the television watchers to believe they know the answers when they really have no idea what is going on in the mind and lives of the person they are unfairly labelling,” Bond said.
LISTEN: We take a look at the biggest problems with this season of I’m A Celeb, on our pop culture podcast. Post continues after audio.
Still, the situation begs the question: What’s so different about this year that’s resulting in celebrities dropping out?
It comes back to the decision to cast two of the biggest egos in Australian sport. It was always a risk. Previous seasons have seen AFL players and swimmers including Brendan Fevola, Dane Swan and Lisa Curry on the show, all of whom played by the rules. But Mundine and Tomic are men who have always thumbed their noses at the status quo.
On the one side, we have 25-year-old Tomic, who after a troubled year not qualifying for the Australian Open, announced, “I just count money, that’s all I do. I count my millions.” More recently he has been labelling Tennis Australia “corrupt” and lashing out at Lleyton Hewitt for snubbing him from the Davis Cup team.
On the other, there is 42-year-old Mundine. A man who declared himself the “the uncrowned best athlete of all time” in 2015, and who is renowned for spouting homophobic and sexist tripe. He’s been open about his support for capital punishment for LGBTQI people, and has said that women shouldn’t wear skirts above the knee.
Certainly, Mundine and Tomic have different personalities, different motivations. But they do have two important things in common. Firstly, the unmistakable egos. Secondly, they both come from very solo sports.
The effects of competing alone should not be underestimated. In 2016, a study of 361 athletes by Germany’s Technical University of Munich found that individual athletes were more likely to develop depression – with symptoms including guilt, sadness and suicidal feelings – than team players.
The same study found solo athletes were also more likely to feel ashamed by failure and harshly blame themselves, The Guardian reports.