Survivor Cook Islands: Episode 1

This is late, I know, but I’ve been hella busy this past week. I didn’t want to do a crappy job and just post manic ramblings, so I waited and here you go, my thoughts on CBS’s Survivor Cook Islands, Episode 1.

I learned about this show later than the rest of the civilized world. I was driving in the car listenting to my ever-so-dorky, yet always on, news radio when I heard call-ins from irate viewers in the DC Metro area having hissy fits about the tribes being divided by race. As usual, my initial reaction was contrary to the masses as I wondered what the hell was the big deal.

Shortly thereafter I came across Heartinsanfrancisco‘s post on the subject. Go read her post and the related comments in their entirety. I’ll post a section here for background for my thoughts on this episode.

Lex said…

I know I’m chiming in late, but I’ve been 4 days with no internet access…

When I first heard about the show (I love Survivor, btw) I was not as disgusted as many people are. I think this kind of grouping makes people (Americans in particular) uncomfortable, and I think that’s what it’s intended to do. I don’t think it’s a glorification of divisivenss or anything of the sort. I do think a by-product of the show is that it will call our attention to our prejudices and sterotypes (much like the movie Crash).

Nobody gets up in arms when TV does the battle of the sexes. Why are we so up in arms about this?

I’m one who likes to engage the culture in heated discussions about realities we want to ignore and pretend aren’t there. I think this show will do this and I plan to watch and engage in the discussion.

Thanks for this post, Hearts.

9:22 PM
heartinsanfrancisco said…

I love discussion, and your view is provocative, Lex. Admittedly, I have a knee-jerk reaction against anything that seems to encourage prejudice of any kind. IF the show is able to call attention to such attitudes without exascerbating them, it could be a force for good.

Perhaps I’m cynical, but I doubt the producers are intent on mending society’s worst evil, although if they are, calling attention to it would be the logical first step. And you make a good point that pretending it doesn’t exist is not a solution.

Am I going to have to watch it now out of curiosity, just when I was counting on you and Kwesi to report in so I wouldn’t have to?

You’re new here, so welcome! Thanks for the visit.

10:09 PM
Lex said…

I have a aversion to people, producers or anyone else who wants to fix it, whatever it may be.

The culture certainly will not be fixed by this show, but it won’t be fixed by burying our heads in the sand and trying to forget history and not-so-history. I don’t know what the intention of the show is. I just know that it is an opportunity for great discussion.

Discussion breeds self-examination. It’s only when we examine our own faults, and not another’s, that real change occurs. The culture changes as individuals challenge themselves to confront the evils of their own hearts and do something about it.

I’m glad to be here!

11:16 PM
heartinsanfrancisco said…

Wow! Your remark about examining our own faults as the means to change society is excellent. Focusing on those of others, as most of us do constantly, does indeed distract us from addressing our own.

If the show’s intent is to instigate confrontation with others and with ourselves, they must be succeeding because here we all are discussing it, and the season hasn’t even begun yet.

I AM going to have to watch it, arent I? Just when I was busy making other plans…

So, with that said, I’m not upset about the show. I don’t care that most people are. I think it’s another opportunity for us to take our heads out of the sand and examine, get this and get this clearly, our own shit where race is concerned. I think it’s an absolute waste of time and energy to sit on our collective tails and point the finger at another’s prejudice, racism, ignorance, assumptions and the like. I can’t do a thing about anybody who hates me because I’m black, or female, or 33. I can do something about the assumptions I make about the 56 year old, white, obese smoker (woman) with 13 cats that may walk into my office, and it is from that perspective that I’m going to approach my commentary on Survivor Cook Islands from here on out.

I realized while watching Episode 1 that if I’m going to participate at all in this discussion, it must be from the posture of examining what the show exposes in me. I know this is risky, and I cringe as I anticipate what I am about to type, but it’s honest. I watched the show with pen in hand and wrote down every racist, sterotypical, malicious, hateful, ignorant comment that came to my mind. I’ve posted them here, just below, hopefully not to be castrated by my readers, but to be transparent and to be willing to”confront the evils of [my own heart] and [hopefully] do something about it.”

First, some terminology. The tribes: Puka (Asain), Aitu (Latino), Raro (White), Hiki (Black).

At the very beginning, the castaways are allowed to collect items from the ship to take with them to the island. Yul from Puka grabs a chicken. Johnathan from Raro steals the chicken from him and denies it when later confronted about it.

Lexi: Yep, of course the white man stole the chicken! Always taking something and claiming it as his own, then lying about it (re-writing history). Surprise, surprise.

Later, Cao Boi of Puka, a Vietnamese refugee is talking about how he feels like an outcast even among his fellow tribe members, as they were all born in America. He remembers the “old country” and he believes that distinguishes him negatively from his group. As they show his name, they also include his profession–nail salon manager.

Lexi: The Vietnamese guy’s a nail salon manager. Classic!

When the Hiki tribe makes it to camp, they share their thoughts about being divided by race and break into a chant of, “Represent! Represent! Represent!”

Lexi: Oh my God! Listen to how ignorant they sound. Why Lord? Why?

Later, in the immunity challenge, Puka and Aitu come in first and second with Hiki bringing up the rear.

Lexi: Work ethic won the immunity challenge, plain and simple.

When Hiki had to make a decision about who to send to exile from the other team, the two men separated themselves from the 3 women, made the decision and the women agreed.

When Hiki had to make a decision to send a member home, Sekou made comments about the women thinking they can do this without the men.

Lexi: This is not a social experiment. It’s social commentary. The black community is so divided by gender. The common themes are all here: struggle for power/control, emasculation, critcizing the black woman for her strength. This is going to make me vomit.

So, there you have it. These are my initial reactions, but before I cut you loose to verbally flog me, let me first add my own reflections on my embarassing gut reactions.

I noticed that I am the hardest on my own people. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I struggle with trying to understand what self-hatred is and is not. I had a long conversation about this with a friend who is infinitely more afro-centric than I may ever be. He helped me to realize that things that upset me about members of my own culture may not stem from self-hatred so much as from anger and disappointment, as a parent would feel for a child who should know better, and who can do better than they may be doing at the time of said disappointment. I will be trying to sort this out as the show continues.

I have no doubt that I’ll be criticized by my community for doing this in front of others. But, hey, it’s my blog and my struggle. I’ll do it the way I want.

Most of my other reactions stemmed from stereotypes. I’m glad to see that I’ve bought into them as much as anyone else, so now I can work on learning other things about these cultures to replace the stupid stereotypes.

My reaction to Johnathan stealing the chicken surprised me. This is the kind of comment I would sit back and criticize others for making. Seems like I’ve got a lot of work to do to uncover where this one came from and why I’ve been so blind to it in myself.

OK, your turn.


13 thoughts on “Survivor Cook Islands: Episode 1

  1. I try to avoid these stupid reality shows, but since my family likes them, I’m subjected to them anyway, so here are my few comments. I will follow your example and focus on my own flawed reactions.

    When I noticed that Cao Boi was a nail salon manager, my first reaction was, “Is he gay?” I don’t frequent nail salons, so I forget that nearly all of them, at least in this area are run by Koreans.

    My reaction to Hiki losing the immunity challenge was, “See? Everyone will think we’re inferior again.” Sad.

    The two women who polarized themselves against the third woman were a familiar scene too. I often feel like that “third girl out” in the company of other women, especially black women.

  2. @ Katrice

    Thanks for the courage it took to join me in exposing our ignorance to the world. LOL.

    Most of the nail salons I’ve been to are run by Vietnamese, not Koreans. But, the beauty supply stores that sell “black” hair products, Koreans. But, that’s an observation, not a stereotype, right?

    I understand your sentiment about Hiki losing. I need a couple more challenges under my belt before that strikes up anything in me, but a huge part of me was not surprised that they lost. I wonder what that means.

    With the 2 on 1 split among the Hiki women, I can’t help think about the whole light-skinned, dark-skinned issue (brown paper bag test). That did occur to me during the show. I should have written that one down too.

    I think I’ve talked about feeling like the “third girl out” among black women too. I’ve always felt like I’m not “down” enough to be down. I’ll definitely be exploring what makes me feel like part of the black community as this progresses.

  3. I like the episode. You’re right about how everyone excepts the “battle of the sexes” and yet people are all over this ‘social experiment’.

    By the way, I wasn’t that disturbed by that guy stealing the chicken. It’s survivor and eventually everyone will cheat, lie, and steal. Besides, remember Rupert stole the opposing tribes belongings in a previous season. Nobody said it was because he was white then. He did it because that’s the game.

    I was deeply offended by the Hiki men making the decision about who will be on Exile Island without the ladies input. Upset me more then the Cao Boi guy’s constant talking and strange healing powers. The poor guy’s head. It looked like it hurt.

    I really think that with this season people are going to see that people are just people, no matter which color skin they have or where they happen to be born.

  4. @ Fresh

    Thanks for chiming in. I liked the episode too. But I’m a Survivor fan anyway, so it doesn’t really matter what they do, I’ll probably watch.

    The thing with Johnathan stealing the chicken didn’t bother me in and of itself which is why I was shocked by my knee jerk reaction. I think call attention to the division by race almost forces you to notice things, like you said, that wouldn’t have mattered without the extra attention. What concerns me is that I did think that, and that came from somewhere.

    The Hiki men got me the worst. I think it was more Sekou than the other guy. I’ll focus on him this week. I’m glad that duo was smashed.

    I think you’re right about what the ultimate outcome will be. I’m enjoying this whole fleshing out period, but I too believe the dust will settle and that once we push past the stereotypes and assumptions about people, we’ll see people as people and if that’s true, this show would have been a huge success in my book.

  5. I thought of the complexion issue among the women too, but didn’t say anything about it. Another reason I am the third girl out. One would think that I’m smack in the middle of the rainbow enough to not be polarized. Experience says otherwise.

  6. Yet again, you’ve caused me to take a second look at myself. I consider myself to be pretty unbiased, or at least I’m always preaching it to my children. But some of the comments you wrote – I have thought before. So, what does that make me? A racist? One who stereotypes? I really must examine that. I think this is why I continue to read your blogs – I am constantly challenged to learn a little more about myself. I can see by your post that you are well on your way…

  7. A couple of moments that I had reactions to. The instant seperation of the men and women in the black tribe (cause that’s what they will be called after all) The separation of the women in the black tribe. The ability to work together of the Asian and white tribes (likewise).

    Observation: The tribes don’t have a equal distribution of male and female. This may or may not give an advantage to certain tribes, or is that sexism?

    I am loving it. It really gives me great joy to see all the races playing together. Again I think this reflects real life. We need to all be aware that we are different on the outside but at the end of the game, people are people.

  8. When Jonathan stole the chicken and lied about it, I cringed because by so doing, he epitomized that white men rule the world. And in this country, they still do. A black man has to be incredibly talented, rich and/or famous (Michael Jordan, Bill Cosby, Denzel Washington, Tiger Woods, maybe Barak Obama soon) to get the kind of respect white men get as their birthright. This is so wrong. Your reactions to his slimy behavior do not shame you unless you attribute those qualities to ALL white men. There are some who do not do scummy things and lie about them, and who even do not take advantage of our skewed system that gives them preferential treatment. To be fair, I think a lot of men are not even aware that they have such advantages as they have never experienced anything else. This is also wrong, but it’s another matter entirely, and not the issue at hand.

    I noticed that the 2 black guys walked away from the 3 women in their tribe to make their decision. Even Jeff noticed and commented on it. I was surprised because one of the things I have most admired in my black girlfriends over the years has been their strength and directness, their ability and willingness to demand what they need even when it’s clearly outrageous in some cases. I was delighted that Stephanie didn’t side with Sekou on the vote, but with the other women. I like her a lot. She is intelligent and observant, and not a prima donna.

    I was glad to see Sekou go because he was divisive and thought a lot more of himself than of his teammates. (Also, he wasn’t as cute as the other guy. I know, not relevant. But it kind of IS because it’s a TV show. I like to look at attractive people.)

    I was worried when the Hiki came in last on the first challenge because racists might think they were inferior. I think the reason they didn’t work together so well initially was because of the gender division within their tribe. None of the other groups seemed to have that going on. With only one man, now, their dynamic will shift unless he has enough charisma to have all three women in his thrall. What will be interesting to me is if they become the most powerful group there once they are a matriarchy, and what that will say about gender, not race. It could be a fascinating side effect.

  9. Lex, you’re WAY too hard on yourself. And this is your private/public space to work stuff out. If we don’t like it, we can leave, but we don’t have a right to give you crap for it. After all, won’t discussion and other perspectives be more valuable than beatdowns? I think a person is more receptive to the former as well, and likely to close off due to the latter, learning only that silence is safer.

    Of course their looks are relevant! T.V. is to be watched.

    I think the anger is because it’s setting up the non-whites to fail. However each race places will be able to be explained with a stereotype. It’s like Bumfights. Or like separating able-bodied children from the handicapped. When you divide along gender lines, you have other variables, such as race. Gender is a larger grouping.

    The producers want ratings to turn into ad $. I don’t watch reality shows, but if the show runs long enough for something big to happen in November, that’s on target because it’s a Sweeps month.

  10. I’ve held off on commenting any further so that I could hear from you guys. But now I’m dying to move on to episode 2, so let me comment on what you’ve said so far…

    @ Katrice

    That stood out to a lot of women I’ve talked to this week. I’m never amazed by how many stupid reasons women come up with to hate each other. What strikes me about black women is that we don’t “hate” on each other about weight as much as I’ve noticed among other cultures, but complexion is a biggie. It’s hard to believe we’ve bought into this, but it’s equally as hard to deny.

    @ LaShawn

    Thanks. My goal is to promote self-reflection, so I’m glad I’ve said things to make you think. Thanks for being willing to be introspective.

    @ Kwesi

    Sounds like the same things caught our attention.

    I will continue to use the tribe names. I don’t care what the masses might choose. I don’t play by their rules. Here they’re Hiki, Aitu, Puka, and Raro. I have my reasons. Hope you can keep up.

    Um, and the unequal sexes is not sexism. It’s called, uh, FIVE!!! There’s no making that even.

    I’m enjoying more each week. But, I’ll talk about that in another post. Thanks for commenting.

    @ Heart

    Privilege is one of my favorite subjects to discuss, to the annoyance of many who’ve heard it ad nauseam. And you’re right, there are some people who do scummy things of all races, ages, genders, ethnicities, classes, etc. It’s work to challenge stereotypes. I’m up for the challenge. Johnathan of Raro is an ass. But so is Ozzy of Aitu. They just annoy me, but it’s equal opportunity annoyance.

    I love Stephanie. I hope she sticks around, but I doubt it.

    Thanks for the observation about Hiki. That does concern me. But, does “not good in athletic challenges” equal inferior? If you read the bios of the cast memebers, there’s definitely a dearth of athleticism, comparatively, in Hiki. I wonder if that was intentionally to go counter-stereotype. Oh that the community would be able to see that the gender divide is killing us!!! As much as it would thrill me to see a matriarchy rock the house, I think it would only feed the divide that exists (we don’t need you, black man.) I’d hate to see that be the message. Here’s where my “girl power!” and “power to the people!” head-butt!

    @ Macarena

    I’ve been told that many, many times. I’m not trying to self-flagellate here, just trying to tease out the worst or the worst and see what changes I can work on immediately. Thanks for having my back. I wasn’t really expecting to be pummelled here either. That was tongue in cheek…although, Mr. America seems to think I was serious. I’ll deal with him in a second. Thanks for your thoughts.

    Re: KMF

    Yes guys, KMF called me first and asked for permission to post her comments. I didn’t listen to them first and I didn’t want to. I want an honest discussion here, so I’m glad she said what she felt.

    @ KMF

    You know where you are. (At first I typed “at least” in the beginning of that sentence, but I deleted it because knowing where you are is significant.)

    So many people are racist and have no clue.

    I believe racism is a cocktail of varying proportions of experience and ignorance. I try not to mitigate anybody’s experiences with my desire for us to “all just get along”.

    I think racism is wrong. Period. In all its forms. But that doesn’t mean that I think that evils should be excused, easily forgotten, or not allowed to influence future choices.

    If a kid touches a hot stove and gets burned, all stoves are evil…for while. Eventually, the child learns that all stoves are not evil, but as she learns more about stoves, she knows what she must be aware of to protect herself, and what she should/can do diffently in dealing with stoves.

    I think the more time we spend getting to know people that are differnt from us, the more we realize that it’s been people who have hurt us, wronged us, etc. and not races or genders or ages.

    And, on the introspective note, I would hate for the people I’ve hurt, wronged, mistreated, etc. to pre-judge you, or any other black woman, for my behavior. That would just be wrong, right?

    @ Johnathan

    No. I do not hate white people, but I do hate ignorant asses as yourself who would read the entirety of this discussion and somehow distill that that was my point at all. YOU are an ass. Not all white men. Just you.

  11. I think Jonation was responding directly to KMF, but he’s new here and OBVIOUSLY doesn’t get it. This is a forum for all of us, regardless of race, gender or background, to honestly explore our experiences and our shortcomings, own up to them, and work them out. No one here has a heart to hate other people. But I’ve been to Jonathan’s site, and he and his buddies seem to take great pleasure in pridefully judging those who do not believe as they do.

    Let’s talk about Christians who are more hateful than the rest of the world. Let’s talk about Christians who give the rest of us a bad name by spending their time sitting in the judgment seat of everybody else instead of working out their own issues. That’s not what goes on here. And I’m glad.

    “They will know we are Christians by our love.” Not by our broadcasts of how wonderful and righteous we think we are.

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