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  1. #1
    Shoveling the ocean MissThing's Avatar
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    Media articles - Survivor Cook Islands


    Probst expounds on ethnic 'Survivor'

    By Lisa de Moraes
    Washington Post


    WASHINGTON -- Until "Survivor" host Jeff Probst sat in on casting sessions for the CBS reality series' new edition, in which competitors were picked and put into "tribes" based on their ethnic background, he had not realized that "Asian" includes Japanese, Koreans and Chinese and that they do not necessarily like each other as a matter of ethnic solidarity.

    Whites, on the other hand, are "mutts" and "don't have any ethnicity to hang on to," he told reporters on a phone conference call last week.

    "When you start talking to a person from Asia, you realize -- Wow! They have all different backgrounds!" gushed Probst, who described himself repeatedly as a 44-year-old white guy from Wichita.

    "Survivor: Cook Islands" premieres Thursday night on WCPO-TV (Channel 12).

    Thrilled with the outrage generated by Probst's appearance two weeks ago on CBS's "Early Show" to announce "Survivor: Race Wars," the network served him up again, this time for his traditional one-week-to-debut conference call with TV reporters.

    Grievously, Probst couldn't answer their really big questions, such as "Why has this show, which has been so white for so long, suddenly had an attack of acute social consciousness?" and "Why have all the sponsors and several advertisers on the show pulled out this edition?" except to say, "I don't run a network."

    So we'll just be left speculating that what with the show losing about a quarter of its largely white audience in two seasons, someone higher up the food chain than Probst decided that maybe they should try a little ethnic diversity and see if they couldn't snag a few more of those Hispanic, Asian and African-American viewers.

    Probst did tell reporters that about 85 percent of the show's prospective contestants are white, which he called a "self-fulfilling prophecy" because most of the viewers are white.

    Last season, "Survivor: Panama - Exile Island" ranked No. 8 among white viewers, but 58th among African-American viewers. Among Hispanic viewers "Survivor: Guatemala" was last season's most popular edition but ranked 64th. Stats on Asian-American viewing were not available.

    Meanwhile, Fox's reality hit "American Idol," with its ethnically diverse competitors, ranked No. 1 among whites, African-Americans and Hispanics.

    Having gone ethnic, "Survivor" will never again be lily white, Probst promised.

    "For me, as a white guy from Wichita who hosts the show I love ... the minute everything was a go, I felt in my heart we'll never go backwards. We can't....

    "It wouldn't surprise me if a few years from now people looked back and said, 'Remember when "Survivor" did that and all the hoopla and now it's more commonplace?' That wouldn't surprise me at all. It would make me real happy."

    He sees the stunt casting as nothing but good.

    "This is such a positive idea because you're going to see more ethnicities represented, certainly on our show from this point forward. ... You know, a young Hispanic kid now gets turned on to 'Survivor' because there's somebody he can relate to and it opens up a world to him. Maybe he decides to travel as a result of seeing the show or maybe he sees something ... in this Hispanic (contestant) that he can connect with and he decides to go do what that guy does.

    "The possibilities of what could happen from this, to me, are endless, really."
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  2. #2
    Endlessly ShrinkingViolet's Avatar
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    NAACP Not Seeing Red over "Survivor"

    By Gina SerpeWed Sep 13, 6:59 PM ET

    Turns out, reinstituting segregation on a national television show isn't something the NAACP is quite ready to get behind.

    Though the civil rights group has certainly waited long enough to point it out.

    The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has finally spoken out on Survivor: Cook Island's much ballyhooed gimmick to split tribes ethnically when the reality show's 13th season kicks off Thursday night.

    "Concerning the new season of Survivor, whether we like the concept or not--and for the record, we do not--it is premature to judge the show purely on conjecture," the organization said in a statement.

    "We will judge the show on what we see, and we will monitor the public response."

    While the advocacy group can hardly be faulted for issuing its wait-and-see statement, the last-minute timing of the release, particularly for an otherwise outspoken institution, is rather curious.

    Several conspiracy-ready critics believe the low-key rapprochement came because of an existing relationship between the NAACP and CBS--the group's president, Bruce Gordon, is a longtime member of the network's board.

    Gordon denied his corporate ties influenced the NAACP's reaction. Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, he said the public outrage over the racial division was disproportionate to the show's standing in pop culture and a "distraction" to "larger and more important" and more relevant issues.

    "I decided not to get caught up in a knee-jerk reaction," he told the paper. "I wanted to think about it, to explore what made sense.

    "There are countless race abuses that exist in the entertainment community every day. For the media to give airtime to the format of a TV show when it is silent on the absence of African-Americans on Sunday morning news shows is shameful." (Gordon failed to mention that those Sunday shows get a fraction of the audience of Survivor, which is a Top 10 ratings machine.)

    For its part, CBS issued a statement saying the network and show producers "appreciate the NAACP reserving judgment"--something many TV critics, New York City council members and even Rush Limbaugh were unable to do.

    Survivor mastermind Mark Burnett, who has taken credit for the season's controversial move, repeated the network's sentiment.

    "I would encourage anyone to follow this lead and watch at least a few episodes to get a clear picture of how the dynamic will play out," he said.

    The NAACP's decision to actually watch the new season before fully condemning it is a move host Jeff Probst urged reporters to take in a conference call last week.

    "Not thinking it's a good idea is a fair and valid opinion," he said of the show's decision to split the tribes into white, black, Asian and Hispanic tribes. "But there are people who have no idea what they're condemning and are using it as a platform for their own agenda.

    "All I'm saying is you have to recognize you're condemning our show before you see it and that is not fair or just. Keep that megaphone in your right hand for the finale and tell us if it's what you thought it would be or if it wasn't a little bit inspiring."

    Probst, who has perhaps unwittingly become the face of the controversy, also reiterated that the premise's intention was not to cause a national uproar.

    "It wasn't a situation where CBS said, 'Okay, we're out of ideas, guess we gotta do this,'" he said. "The time was right for the idea...[The media are] painting this picture of a room full of white guys that's just not the case."

    Still, despite all the controversy surrounding the new season, Probst backs the installment as "one of the five best we've ever had."

    "At the very least we'll promote discussion, which is what we're doing now," he said.

    Survivor: Cook Islands kicks off at 8 p.m. Thursday on CBS.
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  3. #3
    Endlessly ShrinkingViolet's Avatar
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    What Was Mark Burnett Thinking?

    Tonight's "Survivor" debut is divided by race. What was its creator's rationale?

    Our rationale for dividing Survivor tribes by ethnicity was based upon our belief that racial differences were highly unlikely to matter when the modern world was removed.

    Survivor takes place on an island where economics, ethnicity and social class count for nothing. What is important is your ability to build a fire and catch fish. On an island, the value system by which we judge others and even choose to associate or align with others is totally different from choices that may be made in the modern world. Add to this, the political nature of Survivor and the questions are “Do I like this person?” and “Can I convince this person to vote for me?”

    Survivor is probably one of the greatest leadership and management tests you can witness. It’s almost like firing someone who works as your subordinate, then the next day, asking them to lobby “your boss” to give “you” a promotion. Survivor is the equivalent of this where the very people you play a part in getting rid of, are asked to turn around and reward you for it.

    I believe that most people are inherently good and very few people are intentionally bigoted. It’s all about whether you actually get to know people and getting to know them in a totally fresh environment such as on a desert island further reduces any potential for bigotry.

    Were we correct?? Time will tell. All I can say is that the series will pull no punches and will at the very least show that it’s impossible to stereotype people once you meet them and (even vicariously) live with them as they struggle to build a world together while still looking out for themselves.

    I agree with the NAACP in that there is no escaping the reality that race is a complex and emotional issue in America-one we are still reluctant to confront and address and I am happy that they have reserved judgment until they watch the series. I would encourage anyone to follow this lead and watch at least a few episodes to get a clear picture of how the dynamic will play out.

  4. #4
    Shoveling the ocean MissThing's Avatar
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    I know we are supposed to believe this stuff from the Survivor representatives about a social experiment and all that. But, I really can't get much beyond the fact that Jeff Probst didn't realize that Japan, Korea and China have different ethnicities. This tells me, right out of the box, that this division isn't done ethnicly at all - it's done purely on the basis of physical features (skin color and eye shape).

    To be honest, I was and remain, rather shocked by the lack of education his comment reflects. It's rather stunning to me that someone can graduate from high school, much less receive any form of higher education in this country and not realize that the entire Asia/Pacific rim is not one culture, for example.

    But, as long as it was 'done responsibly' (what the heck does that mean, anyway? That it really was scripted and/or directed in some way, or that they threw these folks together and hoped for the best, and then lucked out?), I guess it's all ok. Heh.
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