'Survivor': Stereotypical fun!

94220__survivor_lI’ve gotta say: I’m wicked jazzed about Mark Burnett’s announcement that the upcoming Survivor: Cook Islands will initially divide its 20 players along racial lines — white, black, Asian, and Hispanic. As for those of you who think it’s a cheap stunt that will damage the addictive franchise by unnecessarily stirring up ethnic tensions for nothing more than a short-term ratings spike, consider what CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler told EW’s own Dalton Ross this week: ”Survivor is a show that explores social politics. So, what can you explore that leads to those kinds of really interesting discussions?”

Gee, I just hope this means that by fall 2008, we’ll have ourselves a Survivor season that’ll segregate teams of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and atheists. Then, producers can spice up those tired old challenges by, say, substituting religious icons for the personalized tiles that opposing teams typically try to smash with projectiles. Wouldn’t that be, like, totally rad? Heck, to "take it to the next level" (as they say in the biz) — and of course, drive buzz and ad dollars — why not a very special Survivor: Rikers Island? Sure, scenes of homemade shanks being driven into players’ backs might rile the FCC, but as long as the show ”explores social politics” that lead to ”really interesting discussions” about simmering racial tensions in the prison population, I don’t see any reason not to proceed.

Can’t wait. How ’bout you, PopWatchers?

addCredit(“Survivor Cook Island: Monty Brinton/CBS”)


Comments (51 total) Add your comment
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  • T

    This is clearly a ratings stunt that will encourage racist and ignorant behavior. Count me out!!

  • Vance

    Am I naive? As an Asian with friends of all races, I really don’t see the big deal about this. I’m kinda excited by it! Of course, I’m probably being totally positive and believe that they really did weed out the racist people and picked people more accustomed to different races into their lives.

  • Christopher

    I gotta side with the Producers of the show on this. I don’t think it’s such a hideous idea.
    I have a lot of books at home, but only one Star Trek fiction book: The Kobayashi Maru. It’s a book that takes place between the 1st movie and Wrath of Khan. Sulu, Spock, Kirk, Chekhov, and McCoy are on a transport and get hit by a mine. While they are trying to work towards there own survival in a no-win situation, they talk about the Kobayashi Maru.
    I don’t imagine ANY of you don’t know what that is, but just in case: it’s a test the give Starfleet cadets. A ship called the Kobayashi Maru has wandered into the Neutral Zone, which is space so close to the Federation, Romulan and Klingon borders that being inside it is considered military aggression. The starfleet captain has to pilot a simulated ship with other cadets as his crew and determine what kind of decision to make. Kirk cheated his (mentioned in Wrath of Khan and recounted in the book), making the Klingons practically tremble at his name.
    Chekhov’s turn in the simulator is sad and forgettable, but it’s the next test that really defines his character. He’s a big worshipper of Kirk, already a captain, and his professor knows this. He puts Chekhov’s team in an exercise where they are told someone in the class is an assassin. Everyone is armed with Stun pistols. The object is to survive.
    The crafty, ambitious Chekhov and his friends wind up taking out most others, but when things get bad, they betray each other to survive and pass the test. Chekhov survives to the end, cornered by others hunting him. He makes a grenade of his stun weapon, getting hit himself but taking out his rivals in the process.
    When everyone recovers, the class is told they all failed, and asked what went wrong. Everyone agrees, Chekhov. The instructor tut-tuts and says that a some time ago a young cadet figured out that he had to think positively. The assassin was one player. The entire class could pass if he just set his mind to eliminating the assassin.
    He found a place that could fit all the cadets and one by one, would call to those wandering the halls. I they had to do to join his group was surrender their weapon and wait out the exercise. With two weapon bearers at the door, that meant that even if the assassin showed, it was one against two; even if the assassin turned out to be one of the doormen, it was one against one. MUCH better odds. And the entire class came; there WAS no assassin.
    (I think) the instructor explained that this was a metaphor for the UFP. They had learned to put aside their competitive natures and works together for a common good. He asked Chekhov who the cadet was, and Chekhov groaned when he realized that was how Kirk would handle things.
    I’m bringing up The Kobayashi Maru to make a broad point: Survivor isn’t a game where a TEAM can win. It’s a game where ONE PLAYER wins, often by lying and scheming.
    As I see it, the very worst that can happen is that racial tensions might boil over and someone might say something ugly. Lots of people might say something ugly. I would bet you money that the cameramen assigned to the camps are of the same race as the camps they film, and that they are told to let slip racial epitaths now and then, to make it feel commonplace with the contestants. And in that case, any personal growth the players in this story achieve by saying something out of line and doing the Mel Gibson Mea Culpa will be pointless– they were set up.
    The best that could happen is that they form ties along these lines of color, then are reshuffled midseason and have to neutralize any pig-headed thoughts they’ve had in order to win. What I like about it is that it might spark people who aren’t very intelligent to look at race intelligently. I would hope that’s where they’re going.
    But in either case, it’s sad that you can’t have a Survivor cast where the entire group ‘goes Federation’– agrees to split the pool between them and just enjoy the vacation.

  • dsven

    At first, I thought it sounded like a bit of a train wreck, but I’ll trust Mark Burnett knows what he’s doing…it will be good to see some more diversity on the lily-white Survivor.

  • MG

    Okay…I’m a HUGE Survivor fan. And this is not any different than any of the other ploys the producers have tried. Was it Sexist to seperate the males from the females; was it Ageism when they seperated the young from the old? I don’t think so. It’s just a way to start the game and create cliques or bonds that will be shaken up later on in the season. I trust Burnett and Probst enough to not find and pick any blatently racist folks which will stir up trouble. Racism is part of our culture, to deny it is ignorant, but to explore it may be educational on socio-political level via reality/television. Racist notions may even be tried ‘by fire’ through this social experiement and we may be positivly examining these people in our college classrooms in a few years. I think we should give the idea an honest chance.

  • Ron

    Stopped watching a looooooooong time ago.Snoozefest.Boring!

  • Nick

    I give this a giant shrug. I just don’t understand why people are so on their high horse about this. While you sit there being all outraged that someone would think about making tribes along racial lines, you seem to forget that for the most part our “melting pot” is highly racially divided. The thing I find tremendously funny is how annoyed people have been at how white the cast has been in the past. Now, they finally give equal representation…and people are still complaining. I think this will be a pretty facinating season. So, in the words of a fine drag queen philospher, “Get off the cross, we need the wood.”
    Also, Ron..thank you so much for your insightful comment. If you don’t watch the show, then why post at all?

  • Christina

    When I first heard about this I thought it would be the end of the franchise. It just seemed tacky and way too controversial. But after some thought, I don’t think its as bad of an idea as I thought it would be. Mark Brunett does know what he’s doing so I’m putting some trust in him .They are saying that the racist were weeded out in casting so we should have a group of contestants who are pretty much there for the money.
    I also think that the tribes are probably going to be mixed at episode 4, combining them into two tribes of 8.At that point it will become who is going to help me the most to get to the end, regardless of race.

  • Chyna

    I think there’s going to be more non-whites on this season of the show than on all the other seasons combined…

  • Django

    Last season, when they originally divided up by younger men / older men/ younger women / older women, that balance only lasted for ONE EPISODE. They’ll probably do the same again, then randomly merge (or schoolyard-pick) into 2 mixed tribes.
    It’s just a sh*t-stirring attention-grabber which should devolve into the same-ol’Survivor very quickly (I’m saying this as a fan, even) Color me there. (Our Survivor watching group does our own “pool” which makes it evn more interesting)

  • Bernard

    Thoroughly excited about it, as are a number of people I know. It’s a pity how even the mere mention of race and/or ethnicity upsets some people, but it’s a fact of life. With the vast majority of reality shows playing it safe, Survivor has possibly made one of its most daring choices in years. Not only will it be fascinating to watch the players, but even more fascinating to see if viewers can judge these by the content of their characters rather than the color of their skin.

  • cj

    i’m sure they found the best,young or in shape people equally for every race.

  • Ed

    This seasons reality shows are kinda good. I’ve never watched Survivor but this one appeals to me. Neither have I watched Dancing With the Stars, but I’ll be watching just for Joey and Slater – yummy!
    I think it’s because of my DVR, it’s part of who I am now.

  • Ed

    P.S, who’s the guy in the red and black sleaved shirt…hot hot hot!

  • kriselda jarnsaxa

    Here’s my thing: no one objected to them doing a “battle of the sexes” – how is this substansively any different?
    I could possibly see room for objection if it were, say whites vs non-whites, because that would have more serious racial implications (the idea that it would take three races to battle one), but since it’s whites vs blacks vs asians vs latinos, all of the races are being treated the same. I really don’t see what the big deal is except that it’s a hot-button that doesn’t get pushed too often.

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