The United States is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the
world. Despite the fact the numerous studies have proven that diversity
enhances the productivity of teams. Survivor has opted to embrace our
country's weaknesses by setting up ethnically segregated teams
Survivor: Cook Islands castaways Photo by: Monty Brinton / CBSSurvivor
to Divide Teams by Race
Fueled by critics who slammed its lack of diversity, CBS's Survivor has
unveiled a new twist for its upcoming season: Contestants will be
divided by ethnicity.
When it premieres Sept. 14, Survivor: Cook Islands will feature 20
castaways divided into four tribes: black, white, Asian and Latino.
"We're going to take some heat for it," says creator and executive
producer Mark Burnett of the twist, which was announced Wednesday
morning. "But it's a great cast."
For a show entering its 13th season with steady ratings but ebbing buzz,
the decision could be a shot in the arm if it once again generates
Survivor water-cooler chatter.
"Some people will think this is controversial. Others will think,
'What's the big deal?' " host Jeff Probst tells PEOPLE. "Either way,
it's going to be very interesting."
Along with the usual real-estate agents and struggling actors, the cast
of characters competing for the $1 million purse includes a heavy-metal
guitarist, a female police officer who has been shot in the line of
duty, a Vietnam War refugee who manages a nail salon and a gay fashion
director for a denim company.
The segregated Survivor grew from an effort to diversify a show that has
featured primarily white contestants (and winners Â only two of the 12
winners have been minorities). "We've taken a lot of flack," says Burnett.
But Probst says the main reason for the Emmy-winning show's largely
white complexion was a dearth of minority applicants. "Most of the
people who apply are white," he says. "That's just a fact."
In response, the Survivor casting team scouted for a more diverse group
of players everywhere from the Internet to audition tapes for another
CBS show, The Amazing Race.
Until the tribes merge later in the season, the four teams will battle
each other and, perhaps, racial stereotypes. "There are going to be
people looking for stereotypes: Will this tribe be smarter than this
tribe, or will this tribe be faster than this tribe?" says Probst.
"That's why I think it's fun. But five people on a tribe do not
represent an entire ethnic group."
Set in New Zealand's Cook Islands, the location of the famous mutiny on
the HMS Bounty, this season features a pirate theme, including Tribal
Councils held on an elaborate shipwreck set built into the rocky
coastline of a local island.
Whether one ethnicity ends up plundering Â or walking the plank Â"This
is a game that starts very even," says Probst. "Everybody starts the
same way with the same materials and the same chance: a 1-in-20 shot at
a million bucks."
Tracey de Morsella
The Multicultural Advantage
Email: tdemorsella AT multiculturaladvantage.com
Publisher of The Diversity Recruitment Advertising Toolkit
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