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Should CBS Pull ‘Survivor’ or Ignore Politicians?by David Bloomberg -- 08/25/2006
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As soon as CBS announced that Survivor: Cook Islands would begin with tribes divided by race, the criticism began. And not just here in the U.S. – I’ve seen articles from Canada, Australia, and elsewhere around the world talking about how horrible it is that the show would do this.
The latest attack comes not from media outlets, but from politicians. ABC is reporting that New York City Councilman John Liu is calling for CBS to pull the show without even airing it.
At the beginning of this edition of Survivor, there will be four tribes of five people each. The tribes will be made up of African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanics, and Caucasians. Liu, who is Asian-American, says, “The idea of having a battle of the races is preposterous.” The funny thing is, I don’t really disagree with him. But who said this was a “battle of the races”?
Just because the tribes are initially divided up that way doesn’t mean the whole show will end up being a fight along ethnic lines. When tribes have been set up by gender, the show has rarely gone down as men vs. women (it was tried once memorably, when the women had a big advantage – and a man won because some of the women chose not to play that way). When the tribes were set up last season by age and gender, there wasn’t an outcry of people saying the show set up a “battle of the generations.”
And really, it’s not like we’re pitting KKK members against the Black Panthers here. These are just normal everyday people who probably have normal relationships with members of different races on an everyday basis, as most of us do.
But Liu isn’t going to bother waiting to actually see the show. He wants CBS to pull it because it could encourage racial division and negative racial stereotyping. I’m thinking just the opposite – that after the mixing of the tribes, it will show members of different races working together towards a common goal. And with multiple people from each race, it is less likely to perpetuate stereotypes than on a season when there is only, say, one person of a given race.
CBS released a statement that says, “Survivor is a program that is no stranger to controversy and has always answered its critics on the screen.” I think that’s the key point here. I really can’t stand it when people criticize things – movies, TV shows, books, whatever – without ever seeing them. But that’s exactly what’s happening here. Liu and others got it into their mind that this season of Survivor will be so horrible that the viewing public shouldn’t even be able to watch it. I think he needs to step back and try watching the show himself. If, after it’s been on, his worries are confirmed, then he will have something to point to and say, “CBS screwed up, and here’s why.”
Frankly, I don’t think that will happen. Executive Producer Mark Burnett has shown over the years that he knows what he’s doing when it comes to Survivor. And I’m certain that CBS executives, who have likely seen a number of the episodes by now, know what they’re getting themselves into.
I don’t live in New York City. I don’t know anything about Councilman Liu other than his stance on this particular issue. But Liu and those who have voiced similar opinions really need to worry about other issues. Let the show air. Watch it. See if there really are stereotypes being pushed. See if it turns into a race war. After all, if he’s afraid of prejudice, I think he needs to remember that the root word is “prejudge,” which is exactly what he’s doing here. I’m betting neither of these will occur. Instead, we’ll see a diverse group of people vying to stab people in the back, lie to them, and metaphorically cut their throats no matter what race they belong to.
David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline and can be reached at RNO@pobox.com.
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