Thursday, August 24, 2006

What's next? 'Nazi Eye for the Jewish Guy'?

The producers of the hit CBS reality series "Survivor" have announced that next season, they will divide competitors by race. That's right, four teams of whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians will compete to avoid being voted off the island ... and presumably for a bit of prime-time racial supremacy. Just what we need.

The show's producers call it a "social experiment," but network entertainment shows aren't about anything more high-minded than profit. They've brilliantly contrived a scenario to generate the greatest amount of free publicity since the Jewish Defense League elected Mel Gibson as its poster child. But let's play it out: What are we likely to learn from this "social experiment"? That a lot of people will root for the team that looks most like them? Now there's an explosive revelation.

No matter what develops, there will be people convinced that racial stereotypes played a role. Even if the teams play against stereotype, we won't be able to escape ugly Monday-morning watercooler conversations ("The honkies/gringos/round eyes will win because they own Hollywood." "Oh yeah? Well, if the blacks would actually leave camp and look for bugs to eat, they'd have a chance." "Hey, how did those Chicanos get four new members overnight?" "Them Orientals are sneaky.") God help us. One step forward, 12 steps back.

Worse, Hollywood in general -- and reality TV in particular -- are incestuous. This will likely start a downward spiral in similarly inappropriate shows. Someone has already suggested we can expect to see an "Amazing Race" pitting Christians, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists in races across unfriendly borders, or a "Fear Factor" featuring mental patients with irrational phobias. Maybe we'll see "Dead Celebrity Fit Club." And even though I'm a big fan of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" (despite the presumption that straight guys require "fixing,") I have long feared that the next natural step was for a Fab Five of neo-Nazis to "fix" a rabbi, or five mullahs to "fix" a Baptist. And fergawdsakes, "The Flavor of Love" is already must-barf TV!

Reality TV was never genuinely pretty (except to Hollywood bean-counters) but its tendencies to sink ever lower every season make me wonder where it will stop. And here I am, giving even more exposure to the exploitive boobs at "Survivor." See? Already this "social experiment" is making people feel bad.


SingingSkies said...

A-men! And by virtue of commenting, I, too, am contributing.

What absolutely perplexes me (and shouldn't) is that people from each of the cultures AGREE to be a part of it. Unfortunately, it isn't too hard to find 4-6 people out of each of the representative group's millions to seek their "15 minutes" of fame.

Then, of course, there are those who turn on their tvs to watch them, and we're off and running. I fear the reality tv craze, for the most part, taps into that desire for the sensational that you wrote of concerning newspaper readership.

I watch some reality tv, but choose what I watch carefully. Wish we could convince more people to do the same.

Jill said...

Reality tv has been going down hill for a while now. And yet the networks continue to dream up new ones. Money is the key I guess, as long as sponsors buy time. Then again we continue to watch just like we always slow down to view a wreck on the highway. Doesn't say much for us, does it?

Chancelucky said...

It makes me think about the movie "Good Night and Good Luck" of all things.

TV is structured in such a way that one must do whatever one thinks will draw viewers and the revenues that come with it.

The academics insist that race is a "construct". TV may have simply misunderstood and garbled it into race is a "contest".

I'm a little nervous what this implies for the next installment of "The Amazing Race".

they could do teams by country and have them developing weapons of mass destruction, etc. instead of just silly stunts.

jason said...

How about a combination of "Cheaters" and "Dog: Bounty Hunter"? In it, an unfaithful spouse/boyfriend is tracked down and Taser'd, or better yet, shot for the TV audience!

That Cleaning Lady said...

Once upon a time I watched a documentary inwhich the teacher held a class experiment. The students were told that "blue eyed" kids were smart, "brown eyed" kids were dumb. The docu-drama was the accounting of the kids acting smarter or dumber depending on their eye color, and discriminating against the other group. The next day she reversed herself, and the experiment continued. Different hair colors, eye colors, skin colors.
Do you suppose that is what these execs are after? Make those of us out here feel good or bad because the representative group is winning or losing? One more finger pointing session.
And I don't watch ANY reality TV, it's just my little way of saying NO!!!
Jason wants someone shot on tv, just turn on the news, hon.

Chancelucky said...

Phillip Zimbardo did it at Stanford in the 1970's.

Fake Rake said...

To be honest, I don't understand why people think that this is so much worse than seasons where they pit men vs women.

Dominic broussard said...

Damn straight. Nothing good can come of this.

jason said...

Hey, fake rake, you've just offered us a classic example of the blogo-affectation: The non-opinion opinion.

Are you offended by the man-vs-woman scenario and will be MORE offended by the racial scenario? Are you okay with the man-vs-woman scenario and so therefore okay with the race scenario? I'm having trouble understanding what exactly you mean. Is it sort of like "why should we be worried about dropping a nuke when we've been carpet-bombing for years?" or "You didn't complain when they beat her up so why should you complain when they kill her?"

Man-vs-woman wasn't a great idea either. Racial teams take a bad idea beyond "Can Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs?" into "What race is better equipped to survive .... or just better?" A lot of idiots will be watching and making too much of the racial differences in what is nothing more than a possibly rigged game show.