No Such Nonsense

A little of this, that and... what was I talking about again? It's TV, sports, pop culture and politics - all the stuff that really matters in life.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mark Burnett Loses his Freaking Mind

Oh my, this just can't end well.

Survivor uber-producer Mark Burnett has announced that for the new season of the show, tribes will be divided by race. That's right - there will be "the White Tribe, the African-American Tribe, the Asian-American Tribe and the Hispanic Tribe." Ho boy. Danger, as my friend Robin would say, Danger Bay!

Criticized in the past for casting only one or two 'token' visible minorities per season, Burnett decided to go a little crazy for this, the 13th season of Survivor. In the past, tribes have been divided by age and by gender, but the racial divide is a whole new horizon. The idea, says host Jeff Probst, sprang from the strong sense of 'ethnic pride' they detected during casting. Once again, Danger Bay! Should I assume, then, as a pale waspy chick that I should be cheering for the White tribe? What if, like so many Survivor tribes, they are all annoying wanks? What of my ethnic pride then? Should my Korean friend cheer for a Pan-Asian team of Japanese-, Chinese- and Filipino-Americans? And what of the ethnicities not represented at all to play in this race Olympics?

As we all know, discussions of race in America are the hottest flashpoint this side of religious extremism. Injecting this element into a TV show for the sake of ratings - for there can be no other legitimate reason - seems tacky at best, dangerous at worst. What can be learned? That sometimes people do not live up (or is that down?) to ethnic stereotypes? That sometimes people do? Is a reality TV contest really the place for a reasoned discussion of race in America? Or is Burnett just exploiting ugly tensions that already exist. Merely pointing out these tensions for the sake of entertainment adds nothing to their resolution.



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