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.