Ethnicity becomes reality fodder for exploitative executives at CBS

“Survivor: Race Wars?” That might not be the title of the newest “Survivor” season, but it might as well be.

The real name is “Survivor: Cook Islands,” in case you were wondering.

This year’s “Survivor,” after suffering from ratings losses and charges that it was not racially diverse enough, has done what anyone looking for attention does – spark controversy.

Even by writing this article, I know I’m calling attention to the show.

In its 13th season, “Survivor” wants as many viewers as possible, no matter how they get them. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, they say.

However, this time around, bad publicity could sink the “Survivor” ship.

Maybe viewers will decide to tune out because of the bad taste CBS has shown in giving this the go-ahead. Or so I hope.

Already there has been significant backlash from bloggers, newspaper articles, television spots and even the ever-important advertisers.

According to the trade magazine Advertising Age, six major advertisers, including General Motors, Johnson & Johnson and Coca-Cola, have pulled nearly $26 million in commercials. I would say they have the right idea.

According to an article in the New York Daily News, “Survivor” host Jeff Probst and the masterminds who cast the show decided this was a good concept.

“We actually felt that dividing them ethnically was a positive idea, because it came from our discussions in casting, and we kept coming up with the same theme, which was ethnic pride,” Probst said.

But how long will it take before ethnic pride becomes bigotry?

Since the show’s first episode has yet to air, it remains to be seen whether or not the footage will be edited to show contestants expressing racial superiority.

However, knowing reality television history, I’m expecting that whatever the contestants say will be presented in a way that will stir viewers up, whether the cast member intended it to or not.

The same can be said for most reality television shows; that they are misrepresentative and unreal in every way possible and intended to stir emotions.

However, at first glance, this comes off as a few steps too far.

Reality television shows are not known for their integrity, but even on game shows dressed as real life situations, there needs to be a line.

That line could save us from the equivalent of televised Roman Colosseum games.

One reader at, an entertainment news Web site, expressed thoughts I had to include, because I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

Lynnwood Brown wrote, “Next, they can do ‘Religious Survivor’ using teams of Jews, Muslims and Christians. For the ultimate finale, we can have ‘Nuclear Survivor;’ that should be really good.”

I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.