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TV TATTLE

Survivor 41's changes look promising yet concerning, while Jeff Probst is still proving he's an "a**"

  • "With a full two hours allotted to the first days of the game due to the shortened 26-day competition, 'A New Era' uses some of its twists to deliver great early game strategizing, and plenty of time to really delve into the cast and make them seem like a group of people that I’ll be excited to see play this game," says Myles McNutt. "But as the twists pile up, there’s always this nagging feeling that around the corner will be the producers tripping over themselves, or Probst stumbling his way through an impossibly messy attempt to navigate the consequences of his actions in Season 39. And while it’s nothing new for long-time Survivor fans to live in this space of ambivalence, this season’s insistence that it’s a whole new game—and the fact so long since the show was on the air—makes the whole exercise more fraught this time around even if I came out the other side encouraged about the season’s cast." But, says McNutt, Probst tripped over himself by asking the castaways if he should still use "guys" in his phrase "Come on in, guys!" "It was an embarrassing display," says McNutt, addressing Probst directly. "I can’t even imagine what was going through the players’ heads when the host and producer of the show—who ultimately controls their entire edit, and thus how they will be perceived publicly and potentially subjected to all forms of discrimination—asks them to police his language on broadcast television. And I am sure those people felt very safe with you when, after one queer woman says that 'guys' is fine, you decided that the fact no one else spoke up means that the issue is now formally decided, as though you just held a global tribunal on sexism. For you to act as though this was some type of democratic decision, as opposed to a group of nervous castaways whose fate is in your hands struggling with how to address something they had no reason to think they would need to have an opinion on, is precisely the kind of attitude that Season 39 revealed as a problem. And yet somehow you chose to see this perpetuation of those problems as a solution, which is unfortunately par for the course with you."

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    • Jeff Probst’s utter lack of awareness of power dynamics is stunning: "He’s the host, executive producer, and showrunner asking players who’ve just started a game for $1 million to challenge him, argue against tradition, and take a stand without having any sense of who they’re playing with yet," says Andy Dehnart of Probst's "Come on in, guys"! question. "What an egregious breach of his responsibility to put the cast on the spot like this—and then to have the episode assign responsibility to a queer woman for that change." Dehnart adds: "I’m usually the person freaking out over Survivor’s sexism, and I really do think language is important. I’m glad the change was ultimately made, because I think using “guys” to refer to all people is fundamentally exclusionary language, even if that’s not the intent, and even if not all people feel excluded. But in the grand scheme of Survivor’s problems with sexism—and Jeff Probst’s personal, relentless sexism—that line was literally the last thing that needed attention. How about diversifying the very white and very male crew that stood around and filmed sexual harassment and did nothing about it?"
    • Overall, Survivor 41's premiere mostly worked: "With two hours (well, 90 minutes after commercials) to cover three days, Survivor was able to reintroduce itself, explain the new advantages, and explore the personalities of its contestants without feeling rushed," says Riley McAtee. "But the show won’t always have that luxury, and future episodes of this season could feel hectic. Rushed pacing has plagued nearly every recent season of Survivor, and it’s a problem that certainly won’t be fixed by adding more to the game. (I am once again asking for Survivor to switch to two-hour episodes.) More dangerous, still, is how these changes will affect the game itself. Survivor is at its best when it mixes relationship building, game theory, and physical endurance. It’s at its worst when it becomes a game of chance. College student JD Robinson, who won an extra vote in this episode, quipped that his tribe’s tribal council could look like 'a Saturday night in Las Vegas' if multiple people decided to play their dice. He meant it as a joke, but it could be read as an ominous portent for the entire show. Outwit, outplay, outlast could become outluck, outluck, outluck."

    TOPICS: Jeff Probst, CBS, Survivor, Reality TV




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