Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Probst Keeps His Chin Up

I've avoided the Survivor: Race Wars bandwagon, mainly because I go out of my way to avoid making unfounded charges of racism.

However, it becomes impossible when you realize how stunningly
stupid Survivor's host, Jeff Probst is:

Probst could say, however, that working on this edition of "Survivor" has changed his life.

The other day, he told the reporters, he went to his dentist, who is white, and the dentist brought in another dentist, who is Asian. "And I found myself saying to the Asian doctor, 'Where in Asia is your family from?' " The dentist said he was Korean. "The only reason I had the courage to even ask that question or the knowledge to ask that question was I'd just spent 39 days with people from Korea," Probst said.

Yes, he really did.

Asians, he explained, include Chinese and Japanese and Koreans and "they don't necessarily get along," adding, "This is stuff maybe I should know."

Having gone ethnic, "Survivor" will never again be lily white, Probst promised. That Probst is so sweet. And trusting. So naive.

"For me, as a white guy from Wichita who hosts the show I love . . . the minute everything was a go, I felt in my heart we'll never go backwards. We can't. . . .

"It wouldn't surprise me if a few years from now people looked back and said, 'Remember when "Survivor" did that and all the hoopla and now it's more commonplace?' That wouldn't surprise me at all. It would make me real happy."

He sees the stunt casting as nothing but good.

"This is such a positive idea because you're going to see more ethnicities represented, certainly on our show from this point forward. . . . You know, a young Hispanic kid now gets turned on to 'Survivor' because there's somebody he can relate to and it opens up a world to him. Maybe he decides to travel as a result of seeing the show or maybe he sees something . . . in this Hispanic [contestant] that he can connect with and he decides to go do what that guy does.

"The possibilities of what could happen from this, to me, are endless, really."
Now, this isn't the first time that a Mark Burnett-produced series has been charged with having racist overtones. Indeed, "The Apprentice" has managed to produce more "mad black women" than the average Tyler Perry production. And that's not even bringing up "should-Randal-share-the-prize" stuff.

But this one takes the cake. First, the concept of breaking the "tribes" into separate races is offensive on its, uh, face.

But then, Probst has the nerve to talk about the "educational" value that the show might have -- showing dumb white guys like him that there are different types of Asians -- and they don't all get along with one another!?!? Wow! I am so damn shocked & surprised!

And, golly, some poor Hispanic kid may realize -- by watching Survivor -- that there's more to the world than just America! Geez, if only that Hispanic kid might realize that there are other cultures -- and countries out there.

Maybe the Caucasianally-challenged Mr. Probst will advocate that they do a special edition of the show called, oh, say, Survivor:Panama or Guatemala, so Hispanics can get some interesting insights on a strange, foreign land where they might wish to sometime...

Oh, the places they might go!

And, no, Burnett and his crew don't get excused from this abomination by having a host that makes white people look really, really stupid.

What's particularly despicable is that Burnett reportedly came up with this concept in retaliation for the show having been criticized for its overly-white previous cast(e)s. This is the reality show producer version of throwing a temper tantrum. But, according to Burnett, it's America that has a
problem with race.

Now, the Washington Post columnist notes that the real reason behind this may be that Survivor's ratings have fallen; Survivor has almost a non-existent black audience -- especially in comparison to the diverse American Idol.

However, a point that could -- and should -- have been made is that Survivor's claim about how difficult it was in previous editions to have diverse contestants is belied by the arguably better The Amazing Race (winner of three Emmys for Best Reality Series) which manages to have a truly diverse assortment of teams -- old, young, male, female, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, gay, married, single, siblings, frat boys and various other combinations.

Yet, they allowed the duos just to compete -- and win -- as what they were, individual teams.

Too bad Survivor didn't think of that.

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