I am really enjoying Season 42 of Survivor. Not just the scenery, challenges, and rewards, but the way the contestants are playing. Because we were able to watch Season 41 and have an insight into what twists and turns are coming, this season feels like we have an inside view of what’s going to happen before the players do. Add the in game narratives by Jeff Probst and its been a fascinating season to watch. Also, I like that the producers of Survivor have stuck to their words, and have made changes to the casting, adding a much more diverse cast in recent seasons. Add to that the current discussions of race going on throughout the US and it makes this season the perfect show for current time.
When Survivor started, the cast was made up of average people without much knowledge of what they were getting into. The same was true for Big Brother, as well as shows like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. This made the show and the contestants relatable to the average person. I remember thinking how cool it was that anybody had a chance to be a contestant. Just fill out the form, or call a number and answer some trivia questions, and you had the same chance as everybody else. But then the shows started to get popular, and people started to see them as a vehicle to start / enhance their careers in the entertainment industry. Also, casting started to change who they selected with more of an eye to who would be good on TV and bring in higher ratings. This was interesting for a while, but started to feel much to forced and scripted. The things that made these shows popular and interesting were slowly removed for gimmick and Celerity Editions that kind of ruined the spirit of the shows.
Survivor / Big Brother were able to sustain this for a while, while shows like Millionaire and American Idol started to loose viewer who no longer saw the shows as representing themselves and most average people, but instead tailored to celebrities and want-to-be actors.
There were also some rumblings, and discussions about how African Americans were under represented on some shows. In order to try and help, the producers of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, changed there casting procedures. Originally, anybody could call a number at a given time and answer questions. If you were fast enough, and got enough right, you were put into a pool of contestants that would compete against each other during the show to see who could answer questions the fastest. The winner of this would then get to sit in the hot seat and compete for the million dollars. There were complaints that white males had an advantage because they played more trivia, or had faster reflexes because they played more video games. At one point the host Regis Philbin even pleaded for more women and minorities to call in. It took 192 contestants before the 1st African American made the hot seat
I was always torn on this. I can see tweaking things to make them fair to everybody of any race or ethnicity. But maybe some groups of people just don’t like trivia than others. Or some groups of people are not as interested in game shows as others. And this could be for a large variety of reasons (some controllable and some not). Poorer people might tend to have less access to phones or television, while rich people may just feel its not worth there time since they already are well off. Some trivia topics are always going to favor one group over another.
Fast forward to few years back when the the topic of race became a national issue. Not that is wasn’t, and still is a polarizing topic going way back, but with the killing of young black youths by white police officers brought things to the masses. This led to discussions and much more awareness which I feel is a good thing. Black people deserve to be treated as fairly as everybody else without bias. This brings us to the latest episode of Survivor and a fascinating tribal council.
The contestants were randomly split into 2 groups of 5 and after a immunity competition where one member of each team won immunity, bot groups when to Tribal Council separately. IN the 1st triable council, we saw the 1st member of the jury Chenelle, who is African American, and was voted out last week. The 1st group at tribal council proceeded to vote out Roxroy, who also is an African American. To me, in both these evictions, the players were voted out due to how they were playing the game and how they were perceived by the rest of the tribe. We did not see or hear any references to race being any kind of factor. When the 2nd group walked into tribal council, Drea looked and realized that Roxroy had been voted out, and that made the first 2 member of the jury African American. She was visibly upset and told Jeff Probst that it always seem that African American players get voted off early, and that she would play her hidden immunity idol to avoid being the 3rd African American in a row to be voted out. Maryanne, who is also African American joined here and said she would play her hidden immunity Idol as well and that there was no way she could vote for Chennell strictly based on principle and pride for here African American heritage. There was then a good discussion on how race becomes part of the decisions both consciously and subconsciously.
As a white male, growing up in a mainly white rural area, I cant say that race has ever been a hindrance to me. And while I will never be truly able to understand what if feels like to be part of a discriminated group, I think watching and listening to the discussions and decisions players make on Survivor (and similarly on last season of Big Brother, where and all African American Alliance was formed to get a black winner, with several moves and decisions made to advance this agenda, over moves based on friendships and trust), are important to study and learn.
I am happy and proud that CBS, Mark Burnett, Jeff Probst, and all the Producers and others in charge of Survivor and Big Brother have not shied away from these and other tough subjects, but have openly displayed and discuss them. Job well done
As we get towards the end of Season 42, I will be submitting another audition video. Its crazy to think that I have been watching and applying to Survivor for over 22 years. Some of this years contestants were not even born when Survivor premiered, and will never get to experience having to download and fill out the application forms (some up to 8 pages), figuring out how edit and create a 3 minute VHS video, going to a camera store to get an official passport photo, and then finally racing to the post office to mail everything to CBS / Survivor by the stated deadline. There were also some early open casting calls where up to 350 people showed up to apply
Early Survivor Open Casting Audition (NY Time Pay Site – Sorry, will try and find an open site)
If you’ve read this far, thanks for taking the time to read this post. Hope you enjoyed it
And finally if you happen to know anybody who could help in getting me (AverageAndy) closer to becoming a future contestant, let me know.
Hope all is well, and have a great day
AverageAndy – Because the world (and certain Reality Shows) need an average guy