Monday, August 28, 2006

‘Ethnic’ tribes may spark controversy

“Survivor,” at first glance, is in the midst of producing an enormous PR no-no. The new season, slated to air at the beginning of September, will, because of the amount of ethnic pride among the show’s applicants, divide the teams by ethnicity. The teams will be the White Tribe, the African-American Tribe, the Asian-American Tribe, and the Hispanic Tribe.
The question I’m sure you’re asking is, “What the hell are they thinking?” And while at first I wasn’t sure, I think I’m beginning to catch on.

The United States likes to pretend ethnic relations are A-OK, and while things have improved and are improving, the new season of “Survivor” could serve as a wake-up call and a sociological experiment to those unwilling and unable to discuss ethnic relations. It seems, nowadays, that the basic “safe” conversation is what was on television last night, and if what was on is making people discuss and confront controversial topics; I’m all for it. However, if “Survivor” goes as far to encourage stereotypes, then we have a serious ethical problem.

Because the only job “Survivor” has to fulfill for CBS is to make money, this could be viewed as a tasteless ploy to use controversy as a springboard into the living rooms of viewers. While attracting viewers will probably not be an issue, gaining advertisers could be.

Who is going to advertise and be financially associated with a program that may fail the very people advertisers mean to serve? It could be a painful few months for CBS — or an eye-opening experience for viewers.

John LaRue

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