Survivor Racial Experiment

I’m a huge fan of the show “Survivor” and I’ve watched the show religiously. I was getting pumped up for the new season starting this September but then I read this story on Basically, the story confirms that the cast members will racially divided into four tribes. The twenty cast members will be separated into four tribes that consist of caucasians, African-Americans, Asians, and Hispanics. There will be five members of each tribe all of the same race and they’ll be competing against the other tribes (races).

Jeff Probst, the host of the show, called this “twist” a “social experiment” but it seems pretty obvious to me that this is just a very lame and irresponsible way to stir up publicity and ratings. I’m pretty disappointed.

Anyone else have any thoughts on this? Am I crazy to think this is a terrible thing for CBS to broadcast? If you are a fan of this show, will you still watch this season?


16 thoughts on “Survivor Racial Experiment

  1. I’m with you, Zach. I’d love to hear a supportable reason, outside of higher ratings, that would confirm this as a prudent move in the minds of CBS execs (although it’s probably naive of me to assume that reasons outside of the bottom-line may exist at all).

    Yet, will this specific show deepen racial divides or increase the impact of harmful stereotypes in our culture? I’m not really sure, but I lean towards the view that this will be another blip on the TV screen that creates a buzz this season and is forgotten the next. Will any good come of it? Highly doubtful, yet I’d like to hope that the producers recognize the tight-rope that their walking and will try to throw a positive spin on the episodes (but there I go being optimistic again).

    Just my ramblings that are worth $0.02

    And to answer your last question: I won’t watch. Not for moral reasons, but I’m just more of an Amazing Race kinda guy:-)

    P.S. If anybody out there is looking to get their reality-TV fix from another source, I highly recommend Morgan Spurlock’s 30 Days on FX (or Netflix).

  2. It didn’t really occur to me not to watch when I read about it. I think the tribes will be mixed or merged by the second episode anyway…this is just the latest twist to hook in viewers for the next season. I would be surprised if it’s even on the radar by the episodes airing in October.

    And Adam…I agree…Amazing Race is better.

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  4. I feel like I must be extremely racially insensitive, because I’m with John on this one (they say you begin to look like someone when you hang out with them long enough) – it didn’t even raise my eyebrows. I obviously haven’t thought through this, as this is the first that I have heard of this, but is this any different than reality shows choosing personalities simply because they know they will have conflict or placing people together based upon age and gender (as Survivor did last season)? Please don’t crucify me, but I don’t see the big difference.

  5. In some ways I can understand where John and Dean are coming from. The tribes always end up being switched or mixed together at some point.

    The problem still remains that most alliances are formed at the beginning of the show, and now that race is a factor, it will be much more appealing for the tribe members to simply team up with the ones who are members of their own race. I think this sets up the rest of the show up for a very racially devisive atmosphere.

    I think that this choice by the shows producers puts these cast members in a very awkward possition. yes, we’d all like to think that the cast will handle this “twist” with sensitivity and maturity, but this IS Survivor after all and both of those attributes are usually in short supply.

    I think I’ve decided to watch the show on an episode by episode basis. I have a feeling that I’m not gonna make it past the first episode.

  6. I’m definitely surprised that CBS let this idea fly. It seems like a big can of works about to be opened. But, I’m pretty sure I will still watch — I’m ready to pick my favorite race (ahem, big grin)… I wouldn’t pick my race by racial preference mind you — I hope to God that I don’t have any of those — but by which group acts (and plays) the best.

    A terrible idea? Yes. Good TV? Maybe. Why not?

  7. This is a great idea!!! I can’t wait! I love the show! But I wonder how it will go over at my house me being white and my wife being black. Might cause some problems. And which team will my kids root for! Man, this Survivor has the chance to be the best ever! Finally, after the white people obviously outplay, outwit, and outdo the others, my wife finally will see the light about which of us is better and then thank her lucky stars she married me so her kids can have a piece of the better pie.

    Jeez… I can’t freakin’ believe this. I really can’t. We’ll start out watching I guess.

    I think we’ll pull for the Hispanics. Lot of folks think our kids look Puerto Rican anyway…

  8. Amazing Race is a better “reality” show than Survivor, very true. But have you seen the new promos for this season? One team is two gay men. Another team is two African-American Muslim men. Yet another team is two blonde beauty pageant queens. Shouldn’t we be concerned about what will happen if the Muslim team wins or loses? Or the gay guys? Or the blonde girls? Doesn’t that show already DO what Survivor’s being criticized for? It takes two people — very often the same ethnicity — and pits them against people on other teams — who often are of some different ethnicity. I mean, if we’re gonna have an issue with Survivor, shouldn’t we have issues with Amazing Race, too? Just a thought…

  9. As much as what I have to say may be seen as overreacting – it’s hard to watch segregation presented as a mainstream idea. It’s one thing for people to CHOOSE to hang with individuals of the same or similar race, but to select teams based on race alone is turning the civil rights clock back and yet presenting it in a light hearted way by labeling it “entertainment”. Sadly enough there are still people who see some races as superior and that is just why this is treading on rough ground. As for the Amazing Race, the contestants are pairs of people who have chosen one another, hence the similarities in the partnership.

  10. So self-segregation is OK? I still just can’t swallow the argument that a “reality” TV show somehow turns back the civil rights clock. Feels to me like hyperbolic hyperbole.

  11. Rob,
    I know you think my remarks are exaggerated. I expected that response. I wouldn’t say self-segregation is the greatest either. I think that with diversity comes a bigger view of the world, society and ourselves. However, it is common knowledge that many friendships are forged out of similarities, shared interests, common connections. I agree with your argument that this process of pairing is getting more and more segregated. The fact that the media has placed a spin on it by making it a gimmick (i.e. The gay guys, the girls in pink, the mommies, the Latin folks, the black people) has simply been another way to market a TV show. And yes, you could say, “So what’s the big deal with racially segregated groups?”

    Let’s look at the bigger picture:

    Racism is the theory or idea that there is a link between inherited physical traits and certain traits of personality, intellect, or culture combined with the notion that some races are inherently superior to others. Let’s be real -by placing these people in groups based on ethnicity there will be comparisons made and ideas fostered about superiority of groups based on race.
    Media, while presented under the light-hearted banner of entertainment, does in fact have an influence on how we perceive the world around us. Media impacts us by directly or indirectly shaping various governmental, social, and cultural norms; influence on the democratic process; influence on beliefs, lifestyles, and understanding of relationships and culture as well as viewer’s perceptions of reality.

    So while this seems like one small insignificant show, it is one step in the progression of the creation of views and perspectives in the world. Too much time spent on the separateness of our people leads to tension, misunderstandings and racism. And in a country where institutional racism already has long roots – submerged in the history, structure, and function of the institution, one more voice crying out separatism is one step back in our acceptance of one another.

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