Friday, September 22, 2006

In Defense of Survivor

I know, I know, this time they've gone too far... they split them into 4 teams based on race & ethnicity. I can sort of see why people are up in arms about this, but the way I see it... they're being up-front and HONEST about it. They're taking a significant risk (which is pretty impressive for one of the Big Three). And for the most part, the players don't seem at all upset about it! Probably because they know that these teams will be short lived, and they'll soon be mixed up and recombined into new teams.

But it is SO interesting! As a regular watcher who has only ever missed 2-3 episodes in the entire history of this series, we're only 2 episodes into this new season and I'm completely fascinated all over again like I was in the beginning. For, me, it's always been about the social experiment. I've always been drawn to the whole "What If..." of survival situations; who excels, who fails, how would I act in such a situation, etc.

But now, one of the most frustrating aspects of the game - the playing of the race card - has, at least temporarily, been removed. You can't blame your tribemates for racial prejudice against you if you're all of the same race! And only 2 episodes in, we see that even without that excuse, people are already becoming frustrated and making judgment calls against teammates they don't like. The game goes on.

I will admit one danger of this - stereotyping races based on their success in challenges. The Asian team won that challenge because they're smart... the Hispanic team won that challenge because they're hard workers... I find myself thinking these things. But at the same time, I find myself cheering for the black women who, when their remaining guy fails to start a fire, struggle on and succeed in doing so. I'm usually rooting for the women. :)

The tribalism/team cohesiveness that has evaporated over the course of this series as people get rid of strong teammates so they won't have to fight them later is, albeit sporadically, back in evidence. Sure, the Hispanic team just deliberately threw a challenge so they could rid themselves of a lazy, uncooperative teammate, but in most respects the teams are feeling the desire to represent themselves and their people in the best possible light. The younger members of the Asian team are feeling some frustration with their older hippie member because he persists in making racist jokes... about Asians! And they keep trying to persuade him to stop.

But even with ethnic bonding, each person is playing the game for themself. They will still get rid of someone they perceive as a threat to their own success.

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