OK, I gotta say a word about this new Survivor. As you may or may not know, I'm a huge Survivor fan. And when I say huge, I mean huge. I never miss an episode. Actually, you'll usually find me on Thursday nights, standing on my bed, jumping and screaming like Tom Cruise on Oprah, professing my love for the show.
I will sing the beginning credits (something like: "ooooheeee ohhaaaa oheee oheee ohaaa"), yell "No Way!" when there's a surprise elimination, and "come on"s and "you gotta be kidding me" during reward and immunity challenges. But my favorite part is definitely the end of the first episode's introduction, when host Jeff Probst usually stands on some whacky vehicles (what's it gonna be this time? Chopper? ULM? Air Balloon?) and declares: "20 Americans, 40 days, only one! Survivor!).
Oh my god, I can't wait for tomorrow!
And then, there's this season twist. As you know by now, starting Thursday, 20 Americans will be divided into 4 tribes by race. The whites, the blacks, the latinos and the Asians. When this was announced, it didn't take long for groups of all kind to start complaining. Racism! Voyeurism! Outrage!
Here's my take. Is CBS racist?
Of course not, their only point is to increase their ratings, and they will no doubt succeed. No season of the show has been so much discussed since its debut and Richard Hatch's bare bottom.
Will the show be racist?
I honestly doubt it. I can't imagine contestants insulting each other's races and religions on prime time TV. No, like Ken Tucker on Entertainment Weekly, I bet we'll, at worst, see some stupid but innocent stereotyping, and at best, learn some slang (when is the best time to use the word "brother" and when should it be "dawg"?).
What impact will the show have on America?
Now that's the big question. Cause if CBS and the show itself is not racist, that doesn't mean it won't influence the racist views of some viewers. CBS, like any media, holds a responsibility towards its audience. To entertain and educate. And it's not so much about what the message will be, as it is about how it will be perceived.
* I have no doubt that the anti-black and anti-Latino racists of America will see whatever they want to see, and be comforted in their views. At worst, things won't change. At best, an amazing contestant will stand out, some fantastic quote about tolerance will be remembered, or even better: an alliance, a friendship. Then, a handful of viewers will think about it. All in all, nothing much.
* Asians? Except if you live near the Chinatowns and Koreatowns of NY, LA or San Francisco, you probably know nothing about those communities. I see here a fantastic learning tool.
* I'm more afraid about the white tribe. I'm afraid they'll have content. I'm afraid they're so not used to face racism, they won't know how to handle their difference. I'm afraid of their blunders.
Some more about Survivor being a learning tool:
Already last Season, Bruce was a model of originality and respect of traditions and customs. This is true of all tribe: how will a religious and spiritually-guided person survive on the island without loosing his rituals? I'm Jewish, and the only reason I haven't already sent an application to the show, is because I don't know how I would keep shabbat and Kasherout on the island. We've seen contestant survive hunger, bad weather, mosquitos and sleep deprivation. It's time to see them survive an attack on their spiritual and religious soul. If they have one...
But back the racism. I think the show will be a reflections of its viewers, and of America. It's in the talks, the dinner arguments, the blogs, the magazine that we will discover, together, not if the show is racist, but if we are, if our society is.
As another reality TV host would say, the best thing to come out of it might be a reality check.