Survivor Race Hype: Kids are listening

survivor raceA few weeks ago when Limbaugh was flapping racial ‘what ifs’ and media hype swirled around the lowlife tactics of CBS’ Survivor dividing teams by race, I kept hoping kids would just cover their ears.

Kids don’t need to watch a show to be damaged by it.

Children hear media chatter from parents, peers and pop culture buzz without ever pressing the ‘on’ button.

It’s ‘viral marketing’ at its worst this season in a show that jumped the shark a long time ago. The only thing new this season are the stereotypes creeping into kids’ lexicon that were never even remotely on the radar before. ugh, gee, thanks, CBS.

Imagine little kids innocently asking their friends questions like, “Is it true you really can’t swim?” or using misguided terminology that even adults can’t get straight. (C’mon CBS, do your homework, “Hispanic” is not a “race”)

We’re not out of the toxic wastewater yet, but so far the fall debut has NOT trickled down to playground parlance. Mind you, it’s only the ‘day after’—

If we all hush, maybe we can keep the slurs from sticking to kids like filthy chewing gum on a brand new sneaker…

Kids haven’t started slinging taunts YET, but I can tell you that last season, my research on weekly playground duty for Shaping Youth revealed some kids who never watched the show in their life could recite the winners and losers of every single episode, along with who was ‘lame’ and why. Wild.

This year the stakes are ridiculously high since executives are potentially branding the brains of wee ones with racial slurs and epithets in sound bite form.

It’s only a matter of time before networks ratchet up the discontent in the tribes to try to snag some bigger numbers. Or mix up the teams to show how we’re ‘really all the same’…it’s all bogus mind play for media mavens to scrutinize. Meanwhile…

NO ONE seems to be tracking the implications for children.

I’m guessing most media moguls haven’t put in much yard duty at the local schools. Survivor’s creators are clueless about the show’s outcome and impact on kids. And even pundits, op-ed pages and columnists haven’t mentioned kids much at all.

There’s a big elephant in the living room, and Hollywood just doesn’t see it. Until media players join me in the trenches on the tarmac to hear where these messages are ultimately landing…they have no right to be scoffing that it’s ‘harmless entertainment.’

Our industry is the primary purveyor of the most powerful attitude shaping tool in the world, yet we continue to export this slop overseas by the gross, and wonder why America is regarded with such vehement disdain. Go figure.

With blue-chip advertisers bailing to the tune of $26 million one can only hope the network will decide spiking sagging ratings with sensationalist backwash is a lousy, opportunistic idea.

If history proves itself, racial slams hurled at kids won’t be the industry’s turning point, but the almighty greenback might be. (Coke, GM, Johnson & Johnson, P&G are all slip-sliding away)

Until then, either do your own counter-marketing to kids, or let the buzz die down… Silence is golden. “The day after” epilogue showed very few Technorati and Digg inquiries. Trackbacks in the blogosphere were virtually bupkiss compared to the prelude hype.

If we all hush up, maybe Survivor’s race edition will slide back into the quagmire of toxic sludge. Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble, now “Shhhhh…”

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Comments

  1. Amy,

    WOW, have you been busy writing or WHAT?!?! Great resource you are creating here!

    –bill

  2. I tuned in for Survivor’s opening night. It felt like I was watching people compete from different countries, even though every Survivor contestant is a US citizen. Now, where is that going to lead us? Amy, I hadn’t even thought of the impact on children and the games they play.

    Interesting, and maybe good news, their ratings ploy may not be working so well. This was the least-watched Survivor season opener ever.

    It’s about time to snuff out Survivor’s torch.

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