This Fall, Survivor: Cook Islands, the CBS reality show that puts man vs. man vs. nature, has added another twist to its usually tricky plot. Not only is this season’s show in the mysterious Cook Islands, but the tribes have been divided in an extremely rare and in the most unprecedented fashion in reality television history.
This year the tribes will be divided on the basis of race! Yes. That’s right. Race! There will be four tribes consisting of five people each. The four different races are Latinos, Whites, Blacks and Asians. The tribes will compete in challenges against one another trying to win rewards and promises of immunity to help them better survive on the island and outlast one another. The tribes will be whittled down as people are voted out for their poor performances. Once there are only ten contestants left, the show will dissolve the tribes and leave those ten to compete against each other individually until there are only two people left, of which one will be voted the winner.
Obviously, in this sensitive and politically correct driven society, there has been a ton of controversy surrounding a reality show that pits races against one another for competition and entertainment’s sake. The New York City Council’s Black, Latino, and Asian caucuses have already complained about the show, pronouncing “Cook Islands is a stupid and racially divisive program” (www.bellevill.com/mid/belleville/entertainment/153677). The caucuses are also taken public action with CBS. Others have complained that Survivor is simply using race as a ploy to answer the critics who have said that Survivor is not diverse enough.
Well of course they are! People claimed the show was not open to other races, and now they are. It’s no coincidence. Now, did they take society’s criticism and shove it in their faces? Yes. But people got what they asked for, and yet you have these overarching groups complaining that separating the tribes by race is divisive. And it is. But that is what the entire show is about, and anybody who cares about the show and watches it knows that. So why is there all this complaining? The show has divided tribes on the basis of gender and age before, and nobody complained about that. So why, when they take another characteristic of human life and use it to divide the tribes is the practice of division wrong? The simple answer: It’s not!
In fact, I smiled when I heard that Survivor would be doing this. It is a wonderfully fair idea to make the show more diverse, and it is a brilliant business decision to bring in a huge viewing audience. Everybody is going to tune in to watch their respective race compete against the others. And the beauty of it all is that avid watchers are going to take pride in the success and failures of their respective race’s performance on the show. Viewers are going to look at their race’s ability to survive and endure over other races as a sign of being more steadfast and enduring. Will this show actually prove that one race is more enduring than another? Of course not. At least, not in by any scientific means. But it will prove that certain people on the show are more enduring than others, and whether viewers see that as a consequence of race, is up to them.
Survivor: Cook Islands, is currently airing on CBS. If you take issue with the race concept, I suggest you tune in and see if the show is demeaning. I’m sure that you will find that it is completely well-spirited and is not the issue of any civil rights activists. It is just a fun show with a unique twist that we all can be compelled by if we just take it for what it is: Several races in antagonism with the others. Seems a whole lot like real life, doesn’t it?