Sunday, September 17, 2006

You Wanna Know What You're Playing For? To Sell Doritos, Most Likely

The Survivor saga continues. The latest is that several sponsors have pulled out, not wanting their products to be affiliated with what Mark Burnett dubs as "a social experiment." This is the most hypocritical thing I can imagine. If you think for an intstant that these advertisers do not have massive, highly paid departments dedicated to segregating people by race, to figuring out what black people will buy and how much, to knowing when Asians are watching t.v. and which shows, you are kidding yourself.

In fact, maybe that's the problem. Maybe the advertisers don't know who they are marketing to on Survivor. Are they to show some African American room mates enjoying a cold beer, or the Japanese couple who can't eat just one potato chip? Seems like these things shouldn't really matter, but they do, a lot more to the advertisers than to the people behind Survivor.

I've seen the first episode and it's relatively benign. There's a bit where the African American group talks about their duty to "represent," and in fact, they seem to be the closest knit group, until they lose the immunity challenge, at which point, like all good Survivor participants, they turn on each other like wild dogs. There's the fact that the Asian group doesn't feel like a group distinguished by race at all; a great point that might enlighten a lot of people. Asia is a big continent, and the "Asian tribe" has Koreans, Phillipinos, and Vietnamese in the mix. It's the equivalent to mixing the Latino tribe with the Caucasian tribe since they are all technically "American," as in, hailing from the Americas. For that matter, I didn't notice any Egyptians or Afrikaaners in the African American tribe either. At any rate, there was certainly nothing on the order of one tribe expressing any kind of racial hatred for any other, or the show presenting a particular tribe to appear more lazy, or conniving, or hostile than any other.

I for one, am curious to see how it develops, and I applaud Mark Burnett for not being afraid of the "P.C. Police," when deciding to try something new, although I grant it is easier in the modern era, where the almighty dollar seems to trump any kind of cultural sensitivity. I'm a little disappointed that the tribes are not split evenly according to gender; some tribes are 3/5ths men, the others 3/5ths women. Perhaps the next twist will be to segregate tribes by race AND sex, with eight tribes competing to survive. As long as everyone in the group is ready with a big smile when they win their reward of a new (Insert Brand Name Product Here), and they make sure the product logo is facing the camera, I'm sure the advertisers will come around.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Crocodile Hunter No More

Steve Irwin, television's fabled Crocodile Hunter, has been killed at 44. As you might have guessed, he was killed by a poisonous animal. Ironically, experts are suggesting that this was a fluke, that Irwin was killed by one of the least dangerous of the animals he performed with, the stingray, and that in fact if the stingray had struck anywhere but Irwin's heart, he would probably be alive today. Nevertheless, I contend that Irwin should be alive today, for this simple reason. He is a father.

Irwin has two small children; Bindi, 8 and Bob, 3, who achieved fame a couple of years ago when Irwin seemed poised to feed poor Bob to a crocodile. (In fact, he was only taking Bob in to accompany him on his visit with the croc, a move that still earned him heavy criticism from the media.) If you are single, you should certainly have the right to risk your life in whatever way you want, as long as it does not endanger the lives of others. Even if you are married and your spouse knows what they are getting into, I think it's okay. But those kids didn't sign up to grow up without a father. Perhaps the family prepared them for this eventuality, but I doubt it. If it was discussed with Bindi at all it was probably to say something like "what daddy does is dangerous for most people, but he is well trained and always in control of what he is doing, so he is perfectly safe." After all, that's what he told the public after he risked his son's life.

People praise Irwin for his brave attempts to promote the welfare of animals, but in the end, his death was a result of his own selfishness. It would be different if Irwin needed to do the job in order to provide for his family, or if there were an important life goal that he had not met. But given his frequent television appearances it is likely that Irwin was already fairly wealthy, and if his goal was to work with and promote awareness of dangerous animals, well, he had handled hundreds of poisionous animals on television and communicated that message all over the world for years. Some will say that he was doing so much for conservation that he had to heroically continue to risk his life in order to keep such efforts alive. Personally, I didn't send any money to reptile rescue during his career, did you?

Even if it is the case that Irwin did a tremendous amount to raise animal awareness, he could have done plenty more behind the scenes, trading on his name and knowledge of the animal world for years to come, all the while making sure his two children grew up with two parents.

I suspect those children will be traumatized for some time. I'd be surprised if you saw them wading even in a swimming pool any time soon. Being killed at 44 in a freak accident is a tragedy to be sure. But so is neglecting your children.