September 13, 2007

"I'm not a racist, but ..."

I did spend a good part of the summer watching the Game Show Network. (It started with a Jeopardy marathon, ok? And by then I was hooked.)

Anyway, there's a new show that I found absolutely riveting, so much so that I can only find time to write about it now that I no longer have access to cable TV. It's called Without Prejudice, and the basic premise is this: five panelists are supposed to decided which of five contestants to give $25,000 to, with very little substantive information beyond stuff that's likely to trigger the panelists' prejudices and reveal them for the viewing pleasure of the at-home audience. Of course, the real fun is playing along at home and seeing who you would eliminate at the end of every round (and why).

Case in point, Episode 2 features a pretty young mother from Utah; a black teenager; a racecar enthusiast/recovering alcoholic; a preternaturally perky thirtysomething white guy in a tie; and a sixty-something old lady with a lot of makeup.

Makeup Lady was gone by the end of the introductions; although there was some speculation that the kid would fritter the money away ("Hey, I was a teenager once," said one of the panelists), ultimately they decided there was just something off-putting about her.

Well, it turns out in the next round that Utah woman was a polygamous child bride whose children had been taken away from her by Social Services; the black kid had a white girlfriend (and, by the way, was from an upper-middle-class family and had a habit of constantly referring to himself as "spoiled"); the racecar enthusiast broke his spine in an accident twenty years ago and was now a paraplegic and an artist; and the white-bread tie guy was an evangelical Christian who had converted over 200 of his classmates by the end of high school.

All of a sudden, The Contestant Formerly Known As Irresponsible Drunk NASCAR Hick was transformed into The Most Courageous Man In The History Of Ever, Mr. Evangelical was the new darling of half the panel (with the notable exception of the two vehemently secular panelists), and That Poor Sweet Young Girl from Utah became Brainwashed Icky Person and was summarily voted off lest her husband siphon off her winnings. (She said, once she was gone, that the money would have gone into college funds for her remaining children.)

Anyway, there are full episodes on the GSN website - although this is not one of them, and you can watch teasers and excerpts from other episodes on YouTube. Here's a teaser about Evangelical Guy.

Oh, by the way? In the next round, he came out as both gay and HIV+ . . . and, well, all hellfire-and-damnation broke loose. The pot-smoking teenager ended up with the cash, which he said he'd use to buy his nineteen-year-old girlfriend an engagement ring. So it goes.

Other episodes have featured queer parents, a trans woman (who was booted off partly for being trans, and mostly for being an illegal immigrant), an intersex person (who seemed to severely piss off a gay panelist), and other highly interesting people. But as usual with this type of show, the most interesting people seem to be the panelists themselves - and the people in the room watching with you.


icarus said...

whoaa, i think you just gave me my procrastination for the evening.

also, i'm entertained that "haters" is now officially a quench tag.

icarus said...

and yes, i do check quench obsessively. shh.

wannatakethisoutside said...

Now that you explained the premise of the show, what did you think of it? What message did you get out of it?

What was the tone? Did it seem self-aware?

maudite entendante said...

Interesting question, WTTO. I actually do think it seems pretty self-aware, especially for a game show. The message seems to be two-fold: first, we all have prejudices, and it's short-sighted to pretend otherwise; second, our prejudices are generally something we shouldn't cave into. There's usually a moment in every episode where someone is called on an assumption that just turns out to be completely wrong, and that person either gets really defensive and starts looking dumb or performs a ritual eating-of-crow. Which is fairly predictable, I guess, but a nice thing to see on TV.

Also, the show's website features a "Resources" section, called "The 'Without Prejudice' Project," focusing on starting conversations about prejudice with, I would imagine, the goal of reducing the amount to which we allow it to affect our decisions. Their list of partners includes the NAACP, GLAAD, and CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations). So, not bad at all.

garçon-fille said...

I can see why it would be easy to get sucked into that kind of thing. And that gay panelist addressing the intersex contestant was just unnecessarily bitchy...