September 15, 2006, - 9:40 am
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:
* 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.)
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”).
Tags: Cao, Cao Boi, CBS, chef, Detroit gym, Dusty Baker, Ethnic Islands, headaches, Islamic, Keith Famie, massage, migraines, Mike Skupin, One, Survivor, team member, The Amazing Race, The star, Vietnam