September 15, 2006, - 9:40 am

Survivor, Ethnic Islands, Episode 1

By Debbie Schlussel
When it was announced that CBS’ “Survivor” was going to feature different ethnic groups and whites pitted against each other, I didn’t immediately criticize it.
I reserved judgment. I felt it could be an interesting show, and that it all comes down to the way it is presented. With reality TV, everyone knows that comes down to the editing room–and what is left on the “cutting room floor.”
After watching last night’s first installment, I find it–so far–to be the most entertaining “Survivor” ever. After 12 seasons, it was a bore. Who says 13 can’t be a lucky number?
Of note, while we don’t see the different groups telling racist or bigoted jokes against each other, within the groups, we hear things you or I would never get away with saying and enacting behavior that fits ethnic stereotypes. To wit:

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* One member of the Hispanic tribe says they will do very well in this game because they’re from tropical environments and can withstand the climate. Remember the outrage when baseball’s Dusty Baker–who is Black–said that Black athletes could withstand the heat better than others because of their heritage? Same difference.
* The Black team, in the end, was very stereotypical–the Sistahs vs. the Bruthas. And since there were more women than men on the team, the Sisters voted the first Brother out, and will probably take the second one out the next time they must eliminate a team member. Not the way to win the game. Who could get away with observing that this unfortunate gender dynamic is taking place on a large scale in contemporary Black America, without being called a racist?
* On the Asian team, Cao Boi (pronounced “cowboy”), a former Vietnam “boat people” refugee, tells all kinds of jokes about Asians not weighing much, being small people, and eating a lot of rice. But rest of his team doesn’t like it. Previews for next week’s episode show them ever more perturbed by it. Cao Boi is portrayed as some magical Asian medicine man, who instantly heals headaches through massage. Not a stereotype, right? (Wish I had a guy like that around to relieve my constant migraines.)
Still, I think Cao Boi, a hippie who runs a nail salon, is the most interesting character on the show. Most obtrusive among his multiple tattoos and jewelry is a large, gold Jewish Star of David necklace charm. Not stereotypical. Is he “representin’” for my peeps–the Jewish people–too? (Some Black people wear the Star of David because they believe it is good luck. But Asian people? I was not aware.)
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Stereotype?: Survivor’s Asian, Cao Boi, Wears Jewish Star

Again, I find this to be the most interesting season of “Survivor” ever. I found it to be a silly show and haven’t watched since the second season when two people from my suburban Detroit gym–Keith Famie (chef who couldn’t make rice) and Mike Skupin (the guy who burned his hands)–were on the show.
And again, this is based on just one episode. But I’m far less concerned about the entertaining, Ethnocentric “Survivor” than I am about the likely propaganda for the heavily promoted Islamic team in this season’s “The Amazing Race.”
The entire episode is available online, here (click “video” and “watch now”).

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5 Responses

Debbie, let me know when The Jews get a team. I nominate us.

shleppy on September 15, 2006 at 8:10 pm

sorry i will be watching the test pattern on channel 85, this type of television is killing me ,i wish there would be some decent sit-coms but the idea is dead like the western tv show.

PNAMARBLE on September 15, 2006 at 8:40 pm

You may have liked it, but the ratings were terrible. Nobody is watching. Having never seen the show, it doesn’t matter one way or the other to me. From Variety.com: “… Thursday’s premiere will actually go down as the lowest-rated opener for the “Survivor” franchise since its original summer 2000 debut.”

Craig C on September 16, 2006 at 11:03 am

Obviously,Jews aren’t a race(not quite-Hitler called the Jews a race)Cao Boi might be a Jew;I don’t plan to watch ‘The Great Race 101.One of my best friends is a black Jew who wears a star…and Louis Armstrong wore a star because he dug Jews(even though his Jewish manager Joe Glaser only took 50%)and a Jewish family gave him his first break,while growing up in New Orleans.

jaywilton on September 17, 2006 at 7:28 pm

Survivor, The Real World, Big Brother, or any of those “reality” shows. I can’t watch any of them. Not even five minutes. They’re intellectually less engaging even than TV wrestling or soap operas.

CornCoLeo on September 17, 2006 at 8:33 pm

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