Thursday, August 24, 2006

Everyone's (still) a little bit racist?

So after thinking about it for a while, I decided to devote today's column to "Survivor" segregation. Here's an excerpt:
At first glance, the idea's appalling, but there might be some genuine merit in it. If nothing else, after years of casting only one or two minority tokens each season, Burnett finally has a cast that resembles the population of America.

Previous contestants of color -- Gervase the loafer, Clarence the bean-stealer, Sean and his cries of slavery -- had to carry the banner for an entire race. When the show casts its latest blonde princess, no one cries sexism because there are a half-dozen or more other white women of various personalities and work ethics.

"It's just unfortunate that there aren't more minorities on the show," Gervase Peterson told me four years ago, while acknowledging that the show's applicants are overwhelmingly white. (Burnett and company made an extra effort to find minority contestants this time.) "If there were, you would get a totally different mix of people. You would have people who would totally reinforce good stereotypes of black people, Asians, Puerto Ricans, and you'd get people who reinforce the negative stereotypes. When the pickings are slim, this is what you're getting."

By the very nature of boxing's demographics, the contestants on Burnett's "The Contender" have been mostly black and Latino, and they run the emotional gamut, from cocky to humble, from hotheaded to thoughtful.

And by segregating the contestants, even if only for a few episodes, the show may be able to deal with another minority contestant complaint: that being surrounded by nothing but white people either altered their own behavior or caused it to be misinterpreted.
To read the full column, click here.


Louis said...

Here's a good example of the kind of commentary this format will elicit:

Limbaugh handicapped races in new Survivor series, suggested "African-American tribe" worst swimmers, Hispanics "will do things other people won't do."

Nice, huh?

Anonymous said...

One of the local morning shows has been riffing on this story since yesterday and said some of the same things Limbaugh did, only the local guys were obviously joking.

Lord Floppington said...


To be fair, this quote from your article isn't exactly the nicest thing to say about white people: "they will bring along vials of diseases; they will end up oppressing the other groups; they will deny them benefits; deny them their property, steal it from them . . ."

I've watched the show every season, so I can't speak to whether or not non-watchers or former watchers will watch the show this time. I think that all of the complaints about this or that person looking bad can still be made, with the culprit being the editing process.

Obviously, you can't do this show live. Alan might correct me, but I think the whole show is finished and they know the results before the first episode even airs. I'm sure the editors must at least be tempted to edit certain storylines into each episode, and maybe even across the entire series.

At the same time, they must keep it pretty subtle, because until the votes are read each time at Tribal Council, I can never guess who is going to go home.

Anonymous said...

Man, I dunno about this. I mean, they say it's a social experiment and a "fresh" idea, but I just see them pandering to the "Trash TV" demographic. Seriously. I mean, wouldn't it also be a fresh idea to put one of each ethnicity on a team, and see how they all relate?

My thoughts on this are here. And damn, now I feel pretentious for linking myself.