So it looks like the next episode of Survivor is following a new model. The cast will initially be divided into four tribes based on the contestants’ races. There was a rumor that Donald Trump was going to do this on the Apprentice, but for whatever reason that never came to fruition. No there really isn’t anything revolutionary about assigning people to “tribes” based on race, and I want to go on record as saying this is a bad idea The producers of Survivor are claiming that this was a way to diversify the cast. I suppose the cast probably will be more diverse. It may be the first reality show ever to have more than 3 Asian and Latino contestants. In fact, if they used the old model the Black cast members would be a tribe of two, the Asian and Latino contestants would be a tribe of 1 each, and there would be no American Indian tribe at all. Well, even in this model there is no American Indian tribe–the tribes will be Asian, Black, White, and Latino. But did they really need to create race based tribe to diversify the cast? I don’t think so. Why not just cast more people of color in the first place?
I don’t want to get to deep into the problem of how they are going to assign people into racial categories, but I’m very curious who they are going to assign to the Asian and Latino categories. I supposed they don’t even realize the dramatic ethnic variation within those categories. I also wonder how they will assign mixed race contestants (of course, maybe they just eliminated all mixed race people from the casting).
I do see a few upsides to having a cast that has more than a token representation of of Blacks, Asians, and Latinos. I think when various racial and ethnic groups are represented in more than token numbers people can get a better sense of the diversity and variety of views within racial groups. The TV pundits were proposing the idea that this is exploiting racial tension. Assuming the tribes are separated in the beginning, this may have the opposite effect. The biggest tensions and rivalries will be within race, at least until the tribes merge.
I know this is largely a publicity stunt for the show, and my main problem is that the publicity surrounding the show may inadvertantly promote the idea that people are more strongly divided by race than they really are. There is a fine line to walk. On the one hand, we don’t need shows that deny the power of racism, but on the other hand, we don’t need shows that make us seem more different than we really are. I’ll be watching the show to see how this plays out.
(Side note: Somebody needs to go over and shakeup The Real World casting folks because they have really backed down on their racial diversity ever since the “Back to New York” where they actually had four people of color in the cast.).