Last night, Survivor Cook Islands finally debuted, and perhaps the biggest surprise was that it wasn’t all that different from most seasons. Of course, the cast was nowhere near as pasty white as it usually is, and the ethnically diverse group was divided into tribes based upon their race. But besides some comments made by tribe members about their own groups, there wasn’t any conflict between the groups. In other words, no race war yet.
As I wrote in an essay last night, one of the most significant things about this new season is that, “because of the cast’s overall diversity, the show actually helped guard against the typical type of reality television stereotyping that often occurs because there are so few non-white people. … [I]t is now much more difficult for ignorant viewers to link the behavior and appearance of certain cast members. If one person behaves in a certain way, there are others of the same skin color and background who may act completely differently, and make generalization impossible.”
The Washington Post’s always insightful Lisa de Moraes doesn’t really see the show has having all that much to brag about, however. She writes that “the producers made sure all the racially insensitive comments were made by members of ethnic minorities in this first episode, which allowed them to back-door plenty of provocative comments without seeming racist themselves.” But she concludes that “the contestants on ‘Survivor: Race Wars’ were dumb enough to let themselves be used by CBS to whip up the race.”