"Survivor" Plays the Race Card
I am addicted to "Survivor". I really couldn't care less about the girls in bathing suits and I think that it is tacky that there are always one or two professional models on the show (if they want eye candy, fine, but there are plenty of attractive people in other professions), I watch because I think it is a great sociological experiment. It puts contestants under an amazing amount of mental and physical stress, which means that their true colors always show. At its core, "Survivor" is a show about the true nature of what it means to be human. Of course, there is a new plot twist every season to help ratings, create more stress on players, and explore a new portion of the human psyche. This next season (the 13th) is going to be about ethno-cultural relations (I hate the word "race", we're all human), and the tribes are divided by ethnic group.
Now, I think this is a wonderful social experiment and will create some of the most interesting inter-personal dynamics in Survivor history, but there are those who think that this is an exercise in racism/segregation. Because of such people, Survivor 13 has become the subject of a massive political debate (which is why I'm covering it).
Of course, I think that these accusations are a load of hooey, so I feel like deconstructing them.
Accusation #1: "This is just a ploy to get ratings!"
Of course it's about ratings, television is a capitalist enterprise! Every show on television has one purpose, to draw viewers to its network, and is therefore is a ploy to generate ratings. In order to get viewers, networks have to produce edgy content that people will watch, so the motivation of ratings is actually what cases networks to produce good television! The motivation for producing a program has nothing to do with the program's quality or acceptability.
Accusation #2: "'Survivor' is being racist!"
No, it's not. In an interview with "The Early Show", host Jeff Probst hit the nail on the head when he said that the show is about integration, not segregation. Trust me, the four tribes will have to be scrambled and/or merged very early on (I've watched all 12 seasons, I know how the game works), and the point of the game will be to see which players can successfully overcome cultural differences and form alliances that will help them get farther in the game. Any players who exhibit racist tendencies will be voted off in short order, humiliating them in front millions of viewers. In short, the point of this show is to ridicule racism, not promote it.
Accusation #3: "This twist encourages viewers to divide along racial lines!"
Not really. The people who latch on to their own ethnic tribe are probably going to be the ones who had issues with other cultures long before anyone ever heard of Survivor. I am personally a Caucasian, but I have no intention of rooting for the white tribe. Actually, after combing through contestant biographies on the Survivor website, my early favorite is nail salon manager Anh-Tuan "Cao Boi" Bui, a Vietnamese-American. Furthermore, I will probably root for the Asian tribe in general because an Asian has never won Survivor. People will generally root for a contestant whose personality they find appealing, and I don't think that ethnicity will be that big of a factor.
I don't know about the rest of you, but I plan on spending Thursday evenings parked in front of my TV - because Survivor is going to be great this year.
Tags: Survivor, CBS, TV, Television, Entertainment, Racism, Race Relations