Thursday, September 14, 2006

Live-Blogging Survivor: Cook Islands, ep. 1

So, unfortunately, despite my best intentions, I got stuck in traffic and walked into the apartment at 7:09, just in time to catch the tail end of the Asians discussing the "Puka" tribe that they've been tossed in. Hopefully I haven't missed too much and anyone who is actually here trying to watch the show with me (if there are, in fact, any of you), I hope I didn't lose you. 7:09 Cao Boi (the 'ol Asian hippie archetype) is discussing why he feels apprehensive about being in an "all-Asian" tribe because he's "never fit in with Asians... because he doesn't fit into the stereotype". Cao Boi proceeds to describe typical Asians in terms of the model minority myth: studious, unassuming, eager-to-please. Here is the problem with the model minority myth in many aspects: it not only divides Asians by constantly establishing a "standard of Asianness" which uses external qualifiers to decide a person's own racial authenticity. Also, Cao Boi assumes that the myth is fact. 7:16 After the Black tribe ("Hiki", but let's get it straight, these names are more arbitrary than usual. They are, and will be to all fans, the "Black" tribe just as "Puka" will be the Asian tribe) discusses using this stunt to "represent" and... show that Black people can swim... we move on to the "Raro" tribe (the White tribe) where we immediately hear a typical White guy stance on race relations: "it's going to be a cool social experiment" (nice to know that Mark Burnett circulated the talking points to the ones who look like him), a White guy who still can't tell the difference between race and ethnicity (and doesn't care to find out, preferring to just use it interchangeably to refer to "Other") and a White guy saying that race doesn't matter to him, and it wouldn't matter "what kind of people" he was teamed up with. We also find out that the White people in the portion of the episode I missed stole a chicken from the Latinos (I think), as well as having one of their own. So, as in history, the White-folk start out with resources privilege by stealing from the brownfolk. And then they lose the chicken. 7:21 We return from commercial break to see the Black-folks dancing after they find the water source. After the danced when they found their flag. And then the Black women have "Black woman drama" and the Black guy is shown "being lazy" because he takes a nap on a bamboo sheet while the women busy themselves with trying to start a fire. Yeah, this show is really going to be challenging stereotypes. 7:24 More stereotypes -- the "sorority chick" immediately throws herself at one of the Neanderthal-ish frat boys "because it's cold out". 7:25 Further challenging stereotypes, Cao Boi, the Asian hippie, proceeds to go all Mr. Miyagi on one of the Asian boys who was suffering from a headache by diagnosing him with "bad wind" and "marking him" on his forehead. Cao Boi cites traditional Vietnamese mysticism. The younger generation of Asians dismiss the mysticism, but then the headache-sufferer (Yuka? God, I need to learn these names) claims that the headache remedy worked. Because all Asians in touch with "the Orient" have magic hands, and Asian American youths are all Americanized with massive disdain for their heritage. Thus far, it almost seems like Burnett and company are actually writing this show, with the sheer number of racial stereotypes and cliches we've seen, in only the last twenty minutes. 7:30 "Aitu" is the Latino tribe, which is apparently red, so apparently the chicken was stolen by the Whitefolk from the Asian Americans. Look how the Whitefolk screw the Asianfolk in the first fifteen minutes. That's racist! Alright, the challenge is presented -- it's basically a big puzzle race, which is probably too complicated for me to describe. They are competing for three flints, one for each of the non-losing tribes, and the winning tribe will also get a "fire-starter kit" (wait, isn't that just a box full of wood? ooooooh....) As the teams do the competition, I'm going to take a minute to say that these team colours don't make any sense: if they were going to make this the racist season, they might as well have just made the team colours Black, Brown, Yellow, and White. With the Asians being the "green" team makes me wonder if we should be calling them the Hapa tribe? Glancing up, the "stereotype-exploding", "representing" Black tribe gets off to a miserable start, incapable of putting together their boat (which needed to be assembled like a puzzle). Anyone who bought into the racist belief that Blackfolk aren't smart enough to solve a puzzle, this isn't helping matters. And, of course, further compounding the stereotypes, the Asians successfully solve all four puzzles in record time and win the thing. Yay flint and their box full of straw. The Latinos come in immediately after the Asians, and the White team come in third, leaving a teary-eyed Black team re-thinking their earlier comments about swimming. 7:39 This episode is like a bad parody of a horror movie: again, a Black person is the first person to get snuffed out. The "twist"? Before going to elimination, the Blackfolk get to decide who from the other teams gets to go to Exile Island. Immediately, the two men of the Black tribe decide that the chicken thief is going to Exile Island. Probst decides to get all social scientist on us and actually observe that the Black men made the choice of who got exiled, while the women stepped back and let the "mens" make the decision. But of course, Probst doesn't actually say anything about it -- what good is a social experiment if the experimenter is too stupid to make observations of potential cultural sexism? Was Probst perhaps worried of looking like a racist? 7:44 The Chicken Thief disdainly says in his voiceover that he stole "the Asian guy's" chicken and "the Black guy" screwed him. And we get that White entitlement thing, too, because the Chicken Thief actually talks about how he feels wronged for being "punished" for stealing from the minorities. You even get a hint of the "damn minorities, all uniting against the poor 'oppressed' Whitefolk" from him as he bemoans his fate spending a night or two from his tribe. 7:47 Immediately, the Black team returns to the island and divides along gender lines with the three Black women talking about voting out the larger of the two Black men (the "lazy one" who had fell out during the fire-starting incident. Apparently, his name is Seku, but I didn't catch the spelling). The two men reach out to Stephanie, the more ostracized of the women in hopes that she will ally with them, and in so doing, Seku makes a number of sexist remarks including suggesting that the women couldn't build a shelter without the men and that he would be the one to start a fire, and when he does, the women better "keep it going". 7:51 After Probt's usual teasing apart of team/interpersonal drama, Probst drops the question: "How are things different with tribes divided by ethnicity"? Incidentally, every time Probst talks about ethnicity and this season's stunt, he sounds more and more like the ugly, ignorant White guy who is offensively curious about racial minorities (in that way that's like when a White person wants to touch a Black person's hair to "see how it feels"). Not surprisingly, the Blackfolk laugh at him. Why? Because as uncool as Probst has seemed in past years, he sounds even dorkier trying to talk about race "without being politically incorrect". 7:53 As they vote, I just have to say that it would be stupid for the women to vote out Seku, but they'll do it. Early on, it's most important to have a physically strong tribe, because so many of the early challenges are unfortunately based on brute strength. But Stephanie won't see this -- and she might feel like she has good reason to vote out Seku because of his sexism. And, not surprisingly, Seku is gone. And the Blackfolks are unfortunately at a strength disadvantage because Burnett can never get past casting hyper-masculinized men with massive bulging muscles, as if Burnett is over-compensating for something in himself. As this episode winds down, my first impressions of this show is that it's a typical, tawdry Survivor season, completely mindless and distracting, this time with a healthy seasoning of racism and ignorance. It'll be fun seeing how long I can live-blog these episodes before my brain implodes. Hope my masochism is entertaining to you! Next episode: Cao Boi makes anti-Asian jokes, making him the most self-hating yet stereotypical Asian man on television, while a large Latino man is lazy.


Blogger Ragnell said...

Just make it a regular feature: Jenn Watches Offensive Television So You Don't Have To!

9/14/2006 11:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Mac said...

Typical Survivor. I thought it was pretty good.
Yeah there were alot of stereotypes. But is that the producer's fault or the ones who reenforce them?

9/14/2006 11:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Loren said...

I'm mixed about Survivor tonight. Agreed, it's a typical, tawdry Survivor season. Agreed, I wanted to slap Jeff Probst every time he used the word "ethnicity" when he should have used the word "race." And, I hate the fact that they seem to be proud of this "groundbreaking social experiment" of theirs (like it doesn't exist everyday).

But, I have to admit that I found it interesting to see how different racial groups intereacted with each other (within their own teams). And, I found it interesting that it was the Asian Americans who really noted the wide arrange of ethnicities they represented (or, really, it seemed like three -- Filipino, Korean, and Vietnamese...although, Brad was a mix, but only Fiipino was mentioned). I have to admit that that awareness that we have does tend to make unity much more challenging than it does amongst other ethnic groups so I'm curious as to how much tension that might bring as people start getting voted out. AND, finally, I did have to admit that I was rooting for the Asian Americans all the way in the challenge and completely jumped in the air screaming, "Asian Americans RULE" when the team did win.

I also have to admit that I found the chicken guy's reaction interesting as well. Yes, it was racist. But, it was in stark contrast to the "I don't care about ethnicity, just the strongest players" feel the Caucasian team seemed to be exuding earlier. There will obviously be people who will totally agree with chicken guy, but, hopefully, there will be others that see the ugliness of the statement and realize that, in this day and age of supposed enlightenment, people can easily make statements like that.

So, I don't want to completely rule it out as terrible. So, we'll see...

9/15/2006 01:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Adam said...

mac -

If you believe "reality" TV is truley real, I have a bridge to sell you. Sure, the content of the show is provided by the cast of characters that the producers choose, but how we see the events is completely controlled by the producers and the editors.

The audience sees and hears the images, actions, and words that the producers want us to see, nothing more , nothing less.

9/15/2006 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger kactus said...

"And then they lose the chicken."

I almost lost my coffee laughing over that one. Thanks for taking on this most distasteful task, Jenn. Maybe I'll take your cue and live-blog America's Next Top Model (the only reality show I've ever watched).

9/15/2006 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Sly Civilian said...

"And then they lose the chicken."

Yup. It's a good thing irony exists, because if it didn't we'd have to invent it. It's like tragic absurdism boiled down to a 30 second sound byte.

9/15/2006 01:26:00 PM  
Anonymous vegankid said...

i'm with ragnell. cuz this is fucking hilarious! Survivor won't be gaining my thursday night attention, but you certainly will, jenn.

9/15/2006 02:48:00 PM  
Anonymous said...


If we *are* going to make the various people of Survivor representatives for their entire respecive races, keep in mind that it was the people running Survivor who cast the people of color that they did. Then throw in all the editting that goes into "reality" t.v.

Does it even really say anything that fifteen people of color could be found that reinforced stereotypes? Does that somehow make those stereotypes magically true? Does it justify them being thrown at people of color at large?

9/15/2006 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger Bhodi Li said...

I don't disagree with your assessment, but Mary and I had a great time with the hispanics vs asian competition. Our Hisp-asian kids were a little bewildered however.

9/15/2006 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone!

Ragnell: LOL!

Mac: I'm willing to blame everyone involved in the production, including the cast members for being ignorant stereotypes knowing that national TV is watching.

Loren: Interesting point on the ethnicities, I definitely missed that. On the pride part though, I don't think it the producers are helping anyone by trying to stimulate real interracial strife by mimicking it on-screen. I'm concerned that many Asian American bloggers are responding similarly, feeling like they ended up rooting for the Puka tribe -- I don't think we need to try and prove we're "the best". Whether five of us are able to beat five White people at a puzzle task shouldn't factor into our pride as a community, and yet this show is setting itself up to do just that.

Adam: I agree!

Kactus: I would love to read a live-blog of ANTM! It's a fun show, and I was thinking about doing Project Runway, but alas, the season is mostly over.

Sly: LOL!

SA: I agree -- Survivor doesn't represent a random sampling of people of colour. Far from it -- it represents the kind of racial drama that the producers intentionally inserted by finding people of a certain mindset to participate in the show. It's hardly surprising that we see all these discussions and stereotypes in the first episode -- the show was engineered to do that from the beginning.

Bhodi: Glad to see you back on the blog!

9/16/2006 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger XicanoPwr said...

You are the only person I have found to notice chicken guy's reaction, which is refreshing. Did you notice the "look" he gave too? That was not a look of competition, it was, "you will get yours" kind of look.

There are too many who are downplaying what went on, which I figure would happen.

9/17/2006 09:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Mac said...

"Mac: I'm willing to blame everyone involved in the production, including the cast members for being ignorant stereotypes knowing that national TV is watching."

That's all I'm saying. Yes the producers are setting everything up on their end for ratings, which weren't good btw. But the minorities who willing play into this and the stereotypes should also be held accountable.

9/17/2006 04:29:00 PM  
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