Will there be a double-dutch immunity challenge?


Doug Ireland says Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone ought to lay off Tom Cruise and give CBS honcho Les Moonves his walking papers instead. In a post so withering it manages to blame Rupert Murdoch for the vices of a network he doesn't even own, Ireland condemns the new season of Survivor, which will divide the tribes along racial lines, with Black, White, Latin, and Asian teams:

Le mot juste about the Survivor race caper came from Lisa Navarrete, the Latino civil rights leader who is a vice president of the National Council of La Raza, and who told the Philadelphia Inquirer: "I can't decide if the producers are completely naive and clueless or completely soulless." Indeed.

Navarette added, "They could think it's no big deal, but the premise of Survivor is not a friendly contest. It gets very competitive and it's tempting in that setting to nurture stereotypes." That's an understatement—Survivor is a cut-throat, take-no-prisoners ethical sewer of a show. And this "race war" theme is a base appeal to the dark side of the American consciousness—setting up racial and ethnic conflict as a way to boost the show's sagging ratings (Survivor dropped out of the Top 10 shows on the tube in the last Nielsens).

The late poet Charles Bukowski once observed that, "Bad taste has made more millionaires than good taste" (and if Bukowski didn't become a millionaire, it wasn't for lack of following his own maxim). Moonves' lapse in taste in approving this Survivor appeal to gutter instincts and racial conflict is entirely mercantile in its motivation. Yeah, let the gooks and the spics and the macacas and the white-bread boys do each other dirt in prime time—hate sells.

Details about Survivor: Cook Islands, along with some promotional hand-wringing by Jeff Probst (shouldn't he be joined by Tommy Davidson, George Lopez, and Lisa Ling as co-hosts), here.

This is an experiment that could go way wrong, but I don't share Ireland's negative reactions. I like level-playing-field* explorations of racial tensions, which past Survivor seasons have occasionally featured anyway, in a sub-rosa manner. This team business just brings it to the forefront, and I wish there were more stuff like it. That is, if we have to live in a country with racial assholery, we might as well get some interesting television out of it. Speaking of which, did anybody see Black. White., Ice Cube's blend of Black Like Me and White Chicks (or maybe it was just the TV version of Watermelon Man)? I wanted to watch it but never got around to it.

Maybe I'm feeling better disposed toward Redstone since it looks like they're dropping the Starfleet Academy concept for Trek XI. Now if they can just bring a team of Talosians to compete on Survivor, we'll be living in the world our ancestors wanted for us.

* With the caveat that a truly level playing field on racial issues will probably remain impossible at least throughout our grandchildren's lifetimes, you can still provide a pretty good forum for everybody to speak freely.

Self-promotional update: I forgot to include a link to my article on the anti-defamation industry, which brought (joyful?) tears to the eyes of Bill Donohue, Abraham Foxman, and Lisa Navarrete just a few years ago.

NEXT: The IRS Wants 1/3 of Your Baseball Card Collection

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  1. Tim,

    How about Star Trek geeks versus Star Wars geeks versus LOTR geeks? I am surprised G4 or SciFi haven’t picked up on that concept.

  2. I watched all of Black/White. It was interesting, brought out a lot of ‘topics for discussion’. The trouble with the show was that the personalities of the participants overwhelmed the experience, which, may be the whole point. The whole time I kept saying, “the asshole makes a good point”. One thing I did take away from it, the kids seem to be OK in spite of their fucked up parents. But I wonder if they’ll grow out of it.

  3. The next season should feature tribes consisting of liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and Islamofascists.

  4. Dan T.-

    The libertarian tribe would have the best weaponry, but they’d use it against each other to settle some sort of factional dispute.

  5. Those are my mighty fancy links you got there, color-boy. I’m sure they look nice with your My Little Pony collection. 😉

  6. Dan T,

    That would be made for TV entertainment. I have never watched Survivor in my life, but I would watch that. When I think about it, this whole concept shows how TV execs have never gotten past 1968. A show matching blacks whites and mexicans against each other would have been explosive in the 1960s. A real cultural event. Now, no one cares that much. Thank God, racial issues are just not as violent as they once were. The show to do now would be the one you talk about, only get rid of the liberals and conservatives and just go straight up, Jews, Christans and Muslims in three teams and make sure you put some real fanatics on each team.

  7. Sounds like Les Moonves needs to hire Andrew Young.

    Could have had black teams attempt to shop at different stores owned by Arabs, Koreans, and Jews. Whoever gets out without being shot with a 40 of malt liquor and lotto tickets gets to retire to Florida.

  8. This is the first time I have ever, even a little bit wanted to watch that silly show. Am I a bad person?

  9. A show matching blacks whites and mexicans against each other would have been explosive in the 1960s.

    This seems like as good a place as any to make fun of local radio.

    At the local movie theatre, there’s an ad for a super-serious Important Radio News Program the entire concept of which is “A white guy and a black guy”

  10. Active 2nd Am. Foundation. members vs urban vegan liberals in….the Congo?
    I only bet on sure things……

  11. When everybody knows the only concept worth a damn is a black-white guy and a white-black guy.

  12. Thoreau,

    How true! The cool part would be where the different factions were indistinguishable to anyone but themselves. It’d be the ultimate battle between Objectivists, Left-Lib, Right-Lib, Pro-IraqWar-Lib, AntiWalmart-Lib, and Joe.

  13. This is an experiment that could go way wrong

    I’m sure that’s what CBS is hoping. Anyway, while I’m sure this will make interesting television for some, I find it horribly insulting & demeaning. That said… Go Whitey!

  14. kohlrabi-

    You forgot the Paleolibs and anarcho-capitalists, not to mention the Georgists (Kevin Carson types).

    And probably a bunch of other factions that escape my memory for now.

    Bottom line: The libertarian team would implode in a hail of improvised gun fire.

  15. Tim, you’ve got serious Trek fever. Must be the impending anniversary, heightened by the writing of your article on the topic. I can get behind that 🙂

    I’m feeling it, too. As someone born a week after the first episode was aired (I was humming the Star Trek “Fightin’ Song”–Kroykah!–while exiting the birth canal), I’m getting that Trekish feeling again.

    In this vein, how about red shirts versus blue shirts? Wait, there’s a problem with that, isn’t there? Hold on, it’ll come to me. . . .

  16. Moonvees: The new season of Survivor will feature teams divided racially.

    Professional Handwringers: That’s terrible! Harrumph! I will begin expressing my outrage now! Survivor bad! Boycott Survivor! Survivor, Survivor, Survivor!

    Moonvees (in best Monty Burns voice): Excellent.

  17. My cash is on the Asians.

  18. I’m dying to see what odds Vegas gives for the Asians winning.

    Doesn’t matter, though- isn’t it obvious that the mid-season twist will be forcible integration? It would be funny if they could work in buses . . .

  19. And probably a bunch of other factions that escape my memory for now.

    To be more precise, each libertarian faction would consist of exactly one person.

    Letting my geek flag fly, I have to say I’m glad the Starfleet Academy thing seems to be dead, but Matt Damon as Kirk? Uh, ok. Personally, I’d like to see them reimagine the original series ala the new Battlestar Galactica, rather than putting Matt Damon in a tan velour shirt and pointy sideburns, but I guess I’m not high-concept enough for Paramount. Beyonce as Uhura, anyone?

  20. How about historical match-ups? Like Vikings versus the Mongols? I may be genetically biased in this conclusion, but I think the Vikings would kick ass.

  21. The next season of Survivor is starting to sound depressingly like an average day at my workplace.

  22. How come it’s Black, White, Latin, and Asian instead of Black, White, Brown, and Yellow?

  23. ProL,

    There are already a whole bunch of RTS computer games that are like that if you really are interested.

  24. Well, duh, yeah, the tribes always get whittled down, and then are combined into two, then one tribe, or just into one. So last season they started with younger women, younger men, older women, older men. This year it’s black, white, latin and asian. Same concept.

    I think it’s only a big deal to those whose profession is to make it a big deal. The quoted La Raza comes to mind.

    The show is anything but an “ethical sewer.” It’s actually pretty much fun. Ireland should get a life.

  25. I think it’s only a big deal to those whose profession is to make it a big deal. The quoted La Raza comes to mind.

    Er, and to those of us who would prefer to move beyond inane pigeonholing, and beyond seeing oneself as just a member of some “tribe”.

  26. I dunno, something about the concept rubs me the wrong way. Like what does race or ethinicity have to do with anything. But as long as the show continues to zoom in on the hot chicks in their bikinis…..

  27. “But as long as the show continues to zoom in on the hot chicks in their bikinis…..”

    That would be the entire point of the show Creech. Note there has never been and never will be a “Survivor Greenland”.

  28. Raging freak show bible-thumping evangelicals versus islamist freak show freedom hating koran-thumpers.

    Oh…no fun, they’re on the same team

  29. i didn’t watch “black. white” for 2 reasons (based on the previews) 1. it looked to be really small minded debate and discussion about race that i don’t have time for and 2. the make up looked really unconvincing. not any better then that 80s saturday night live sketch where eddie murphy dressed up as a white guy.

  30. How about historical match-ups? Like Vikings versus the Mongols? I may be genetically biased in this conclusion, but I think the Vikings would kick ass.”

    Only if the Mongols dismounted & gave up thier compund bows….the Vikings were coastal raiders/occupiers sans pariel. The Mongols were a different brered of cat, as specialized as Vikings were all-around.
    Surprised the astute Pro L misses that….

  31. Everyone wins. Survivor adds some interest via preseason hype and the PC race hucksters get jolted back to life for a minute. Funnily enough, their rhetoric seems kind of rusty, like they were caught off guard, or forgot how to feign outrage.

    Anyway, as some have said, on Survivor they end up merging the tribes after a while anyway, so people on the other teams will be on your team soon enough. So everybody knows by now not to get too invested in the initial tribal set-up. Except, as usual, the humorless cadavers from the PC graveyard.

  32. Let’s just go for the gusto and have Junkie Island!

    $5 Crack Whores on one side, Methed-up Gay Party Boys on another, Hillbilly Heroin Trailer Dwellers down by the river, and then just for fun Phish Fans. Hide drug caches around the island and let the hilarity ensue.

    To steal the tagline from a sensitive, classic film: Whoever wins, we lose.

  33. I don’t know, MUTT. I suppose it would depend where they were. On an island or near water, I think the Mongols are toast. On the steppes, well, that’s a different story.

    Don’t underestimate those Vikings, though. I’ll never forget how shocked I was to learn that the “Rus” in “Russia” referred to the Vikings who kicked ass in the region.

  34. For a really curthroat competition, make it all women and pit ’em against each other. Mee-yow!

  35. The thing about “reality” shows is they’re hardly reality. Everyone knows there’s a camera there at all times, and will play up to it.

    Also, in the back of your mind is “there’s always a safety net.” Real “reality” shows wouldn’t have a safety net to add authenticity-but do you really think you’ll Fear Factor players falling to their deaths?

    That being said, Survivor has always been one of the better ones. The lifestyle, although only 40ish days, takes its toll and things get interesting.

    People on either side can take refuge: Survivor really is a game; one that reveals people’s foibles through how they play.

  36. I can’tr wait for the Survivor edition that pits Jews, Christians, Hindis and Muslims. THAT will be a ratings winner.


  37. I’ll watch when they pit lesbians vs cannibals.
    Not until then. Nope, not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be prudent.

  38. I used to object to Reality shows on the grounds that they aren’t, well, real. Then I started following the current election news.

    My nomination: Catholics, Southern Baptists, any other branch of Baptists, Presbyterians.

  39. I’ll watch when they pit lesbians vs cannibals.
    Not until then. Nope, not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be prudent.

    Didn’t yo momma teach you not to stare when others are eating?

    btw, I hope ed is not short for erectile dysfunction.

  40. I hope ed is not short for erectile dysfunction.

    So does Ed.

    Hey, why don’t cannibals eat divorcees?
    Too bitter.

  41. Experiement? Far from it – not a few months ago we had a world cup soccer tournament where for a great majority of the teams they comprised a single race. Did you hear people compain when Angola played Mexico? Was it some sort of hellish offense?


  42. And, write the FCC to complain!!1 Those losers are worried about breasts on TV, not about bar fights and whatever else this desperate-for-ratings garbage will bring.(Hope they are sued!)
    Let’s send CBS execs, including Ms. Let’s Dummy Down the News Katie Courick,to the Middle East, some to fight for Hezbullah and others for the Irsaeli army for the next show. OR, let gang bangers show how much nerve they really have by sending them to Iraq. This hardly applies to soccer games, where half the French players are black former colony members, idiot.

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