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Survivor Preview: The Amazing Racists

Posted by Asmaa / August 25, 2006

survivorlogo.gifRemember the days of Jim Crow? Apartheid? Ethnic cleansing? Well, you can relive history without messy bloodshed or "unconstitutional" civil rights violations – all without having to leave the comfort of your La-Z-Boy – if you tune into the new season of Survivor.

Yes, the geniuses at CBS have come up with a great new way of attracting viewers to the 13th season of their flagging franchise: Dividing the teams by race. According to the network, the 20 castaways will be initially segregated into groups of blacks, whites, Asians and Latinos before merging later in the season. Execs say their strategy is meant to address complaints of a lack of ethnic diversity on what is considered by many to be the first "reality show."

Now, I was a fan of the show for its first eight seasons and then I got bored. I never really had problems with it being "too scripted" or "too staged," I mean, it's television and I've always looked at it as more of an elaborate game show than some kind of re-creation of reality. But this whole racial thing is really beyond the pale.

Host Jeff Probst echoes his producers' "noble" ambitions: "I think it fits in perfectly with what Survivor does, which is, it is a social experiment, and this is adding another layer to that experiment, which is taking the show to a completely different level."

In a world that is already so split along racial lines, isn't this show just reinforcing those divisions? Is the winner of the show proving that his/her race is superior? What about people of mixed heritage? What about people who don't care about their race? While doing his play-by-play on a beach obstacle course, is Probst going to say things like "The blacks are in the lead. They're natural athletes"? How can you lump Indian Americans, Chinese Americans and Egyptian Americans together as "Asians"? And, by the way, just where are the brown folk anyway?

As a service to you, MP reader, I will watch this season of Survivor, which begins Sept. 14, and give you weekly updates on how the game unfolds. I will be joined by fellow MPer Omar Majeed, who gives the racial premise, and I quote, "two thumbs up!" Stay tuned.

Discussion

34 Comments

Omar / August 25, 2006 at 01:31 pm
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Survivor is not marketed to children. Any parent who lets children watch reality shows is simply a negligent uncaring parent. As a show for adults, and adult intellect, Survivor is a commerical enterprise that has never claimed to advocate for morality, ethics or virtue.

Survivor has always been about challenging our conventional notions of fairness, equity and civility. It asks by its very nature: how can we all get along and form communities and help one another, when in the end we are all in it for ourselves? How can we have brotherhood and fuck the other guy at the same time?

That's the quitessential American capitilist connundrum.

(BTW, I am not suggesting that the makers of Survivor are interested in anything other than profit, but then again - to make even more money, people have slunk way lower: springer, marrying a midget, etc..)

So in putting in a racial angle in this season, I see no reason why we should censor this premise when the truth is: Racism is alive and out there. We think it. We all endorse it, complicitly or implicitly, so lets at least put it where we can see it.

It may be a joke that that the producers of the show call this season a sociological experiment, and that might be true. But for me the viewer it is a sociological experiment. And that is not without value.
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