Mark Burnett says Survivor Cook Islands is “not racial at all”

Talking yesterday to reporters about Gold Rush, Mark Burnett was asked by an AP reporter about the controversy surrounding Survivor Cook Islands, even though, as Variety notes, “[a] press advisory specifically had warned that he wouldn’t discuss ‘Survivor,’ but when a reporter asked Burnett about the controversy, he waved aside the AOL publicist’s objections and said he’d answer anyway.”

First, he said, “People are saying things who’ve never seen ‘Survivor’ … and don’t understand how it works.” He said that the nature of the game, and the fact that the show has so helpfully segregated tribes by race, has prevented the show from being a battle of the races.

“By putting people in tribes, they clearly have to get rid of people of their own ethnicity. So it’s not racial at all,” he said.

Burnett is certainly right that plenty of asshats are complaining about a show they don’t watch. But he’s also neglecting a major element of his own game: the merge. And as any student of Survivor knows, when tribes merge, they nearly always tend to retain their original tribal loyalties and alliances. Thus, it could very likely be a battle of the races post-merge, unless they’re not merging the tribes this season, or unless everyone forms new, inter-race alliances and joins hands around the campfire to sing Kumbaya.

‘Survivor’ honcho has spoken [Variety]
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Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 37, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.