“Survivor” Goes to China

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Survivor, one of the most popular TV shows in the U.S., has just kicked off its fifteenth season, this time in China. The show claims to be the first major American TV series to be filmed entirely in China. Here’s how the episode re-cap describes the show: “Transported back in time, 16 Americans from various walks of life begin the adventure of a lifetime in the mysterious land of China.”

Survivor has a colorful history when it comes to race and culture. Last year, in season 13, the show ruffled plenty of feathers when it decided to divide contestants into four teams based on race: the African American tribe, Asian American tribe, Hispanic tribe and white tribe. At that time, host Jeff Probst said he thought all Asians liked each other due to ethnic solidarity. He also admitted he did not know that the term “Asian” comprised several ethnicities. “When you start talking to a person from Asia, you realize–wow! They have all different backgrounds!” he told reporters in a conference call.

15.1 million Americans tuned in Thursday night to watch the first episode, which sent the group to camp out near the Lake of 1,000 Islands, or Qiandao Hu in Hangzhou. After being split into two teams—the Flying Dragons (Fei Long) and Fighting Tigers (Zhan Hu)—each team was given a copy of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War “for tribe motivation.” So will Survivor teach Americans more about China or help reinforce existing stereotypes? I must admit I am worried.