what a shockingly horrible idea

i just read on zack lind’s blog that the new season of survivor will have four teams, divided by race. it seems confirmed in this article. one team each for white, african-american, hispanic and asian. wow. i’m almost at a loss of words. i can hardly imagine why this would be a good idea. the only way this could be good is if a panel of psychologists specializing in racial bias cut in every 15 minutes to gently probe (probst?) all the racial stereotypes, inferences, and tensions. the producers of the show are calling it an interesting social experiment. uh, yeah, right. hey, anyone wanna put in segregated drinking fountains again and call it a social experiment?

i didn’t get to watch survivor last season, because it was on when i was leading my middle school guys small group, and i didn’t have DVR yet. but i think i’m ‘done’ now.

15 thoughts on “what a shockingly horrible idea”

  1. wow…that is a bad idea

    but grate for the ratings…unless they get boycotted

    I guess it would be good social experiement if was like the movie Crash. But if it’s just a “my race is better than yours” competition, it’s a horrible idea.

  2. I wish I could have heard Probst’s explanation when he announced it on their “Early Show” yesterday. I can see this as the beginning of the end for that show.

  3. I think you all might be overreacting… though I think it is a different premis it is what happens on the show anyway. Not neccesarily by race, but there always seems to be a clique that gets started (i.e. “older” or “the women,”). Keep in mind that the show changes every 3rd or so episode as well–within a couple weeks those 4 race tribes will be down to 2 (most likely completely random) and they will then be forced to be held accountable for the way they treated each other in the beginning tribes.
    Though it looks “shocking” to begin with, I think this could turn out be a cool little metaphor for our churches. Think about it, we have “First Korean Baptist Church” we have the “Ukraine Fellowship” and many other brands of “race church” around all of us (most are “white” churches). In the end we will be a blended tribe that ultimately is held accountable for loving each other well.

    P.S. man, I hope this season goes well and that I don’t look like a fool for thinking that something so risky could be cool! Ha.

  4. I don’t think it’s a bad idea at all:
    1. It’s just television.
    2. The tribes tend to become cliques anyway, so sometimes there already IS a self-segregation.
    3. They may be separate, but in this case they ARE equal. None of the 4 groups is the ruling caste or class.
    4. It’s just television.
    5. There actually will be fewer white faces than there normally are on a season of Survivor.
    6. The aforementioned shrinkage of the tribes as the season progressess.
    7. It’s just television.
    Personally, I’d love to see a season of Survivor in an urban setting, or in the mountains, or in the desert.
    Similarly, I always wished they’d do a season of The Real World in Des Moines, Iowa, or Lawrence, Kansas, or somewhere in smaller-town America.

  5. rob c — i so disagree with you. to your three-fold comment, “it’s just television”, television plays such a HUGE role in shaping our culture, our thinking, our norms! any and every study of TV’s impact will support this. so i don’t agree that it’s neutral, or merely entertainment.
    yes, the teams get merged at some point, and, yes, there are often groupings prior to that (men vs. women, older vs. younger). and while those could be argued as to their helpfulness or lack thereof, those are divisions that people in our culture ENJOY playing around with. for instance, pitting men against women COULD BE a way for the women to outshine the men and upset what would be a historic norm. but pitting whites against blacks, for example, has no playfulness, and no apparent benefit (other than ratings-hightening buzz). if the black team kicks butt, it plays into certain stereotypes that aren’t helpful. if the black team doesn’t kick butt, it plays into other stereotypes that aren’t helpful. anyway you slice it, it’s a lose-lose situation for racism and racial stereotypes (well, i suppose that’s not quite accurate — it’s a win-win for racism and racial stereotypes, but a lose-lose for any helpful progress, which our country still so badly needs).

  6. Marko, I fully appreciate where you’re comin’ from on this. But I think it will be interesting to see how it unfolds and emerges because it’s not just black-white issues. We have an Asian team and a Latino-Latina team, too. It will be interesting to see how they compete with each other and with the other teams. I think Mark Burnett’s notions of social experimentation is rather silly, but it will reveal a slice of how different groups interact. I don’t think a show like Survivor is going to be the lead catalyst in creating social change or racial harmony. That’s why I said it’s just television. Does TV shape our culture? Of course. Working with teenagers reminds me of the skewed worldview presented by MTV and other entertainment media. I know that media in all forms shape us. I just don’t think a 4-race division on Survivor is a step backward or some kind of negative force that will harm race relations in the U.S.

    Similarly, I might use a phrase like “it’s just a movie” or “it’s just a CD.” Am I saying a movie or CD has no impact on an individual or a culture? No. But I’m not going to go out and picket “Da Vinci Code” just because it presents a view of Christ that I find way off base. It’s just a movie. I don’t protest music stores, even though they sell lots of junk that has a BIGGER negative social impact on teens than most TV shows could ever have. It’s just a CD. I just think it’s too easy to overreact to an entertainment medium.

    Media are like money. They’re inherently neutral. It’s how you use them that determines its positive or negative value. Because of the culture I live in, I don’t expect TV to always be (or even usally be) a positive shaper. I just don’t. Maybe I’m too old-school evangelical. But I don’t expect to see my values reflected through most TV shows, whether we’re talking about race relations, respect for authority, creation of true community, living lives with biblical values, etc.

    Sorry for such a long post. Let me wrap it up and toss this back at you and see your thoughts: How could a show like Survivor actually HELP heal racial issues in our nation? It’s inherently a show about competition and defeating your opponents: outwit, outplay, outlast. At the end of the day, the show says the Individual triumphs over Community. How can a show like that create healing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    And thx for having the kind of blog where we can have this type of dialogue.

  7. Marko, I see your point and it’s valid. This “social experiment” oould go completely south and bomb out and be harmful. But the other side to that coin is tht it could be one of the best “social stereotype breakers” that has ever aired on TV.

    But the bottom line is that we don’t know. We can’t pretend to predict the future of how this is going to play out. So, I side with Rob C in that it is going to be interesting to see how it plays out. And if it play out horribly bad, then we can use it in our minitries as an example of what NOT to do as Christians. If it plays out well, then then it’s an object lesson in and of itself. Esecailly as the “tribes” dwinle and combine.

    Church unfortunately is still one of the most segregated places on the planet. In my church we have the Korean Methodist church that uses our facility on Sundays. Granted it’s a different church without a building of its own… but it’s still it’s own church. Now i have no idea what kind of church you attend… and i really have no idea what an “emergant” church is… but i do know that there is health in diversity. so that’s what i pray is demonstrated on this season of survivor. It would be a shame to miss a valuable teaching tool.

    K… i guess that’s my two cents… And Also coat-tailing with Rob C…thanks for having a blog where we can do this kind of dialogue…

  8. well, I’ll comment longer later, but i’m sitting on a runway on a weather delayed flight, typing with my thumbs on my phone. so for now, let me just say, you call yourself an old-school evangelical, but you didn’t picket the divinci code? hypocrite! :-)

  9. Sounds like a good idea for a youth talk – no?

    Okay – so the Apprentice has had “schooled vs. non-schooled” and the “americans vs. the foreigners” (one step less than this, I think) and now survivor has this.

    Yes – we have most of our churches broken down by similarities – why though? many churches began as neighborhood churches. but also – just human nature to separate into like groups. How many megachurches have inner city kids attending on a regular basis? (anyone see “second chance”?)

    I do agree with Marko – that TV (and survivor in particular) has a huge influence on the lives of not only our youth, but americans in general.

    I don’t watch survivor – never really have. This would be interesting – but to do it on a show like this… reality and, specifically a competition for a million dollars… I just don’t see how it will be helpful. :(

  10. I wonder if any of you posting about the “positives” of a show like this are in any of these minoritites?

    Middle-class white americans might like this kind of a show, but what about every one else, what do you think?

  11. Quick response to Jeff, in my personal experience (limited to my youth ministry here in the Sacramento, Calif area) I find that very few of my students watch Survivor. Its impact on them is quite limited. I have more “24” and “Gilmore Girls” fans than I have Survivor fans. I’m sure the influential shows vary from city to city and youth ministry to youth ministry.

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