It’s not the first time that the subject of race has emerged as a heated topic of debate on the CBS hit reality show Survivor. This time – on Season 24, Episode 4 – the argument stems between Bill, a poor stand-up comic and Colton, a rich gay Republican from Alabama.
Colton: I’m the type of person in this game that if I don’t like you. I’m not going to talk to you. Like I will just ignore you. Like leave me alone.
Jeff: Who don’t you like in this game?
(Bill shakes his head.)
Jeff: Why don’t you like Bill?
Colton: He’s obnoxious, he’s loud, and plus — he’s a struggling stand-up comic.
Bill: I don’t get what your correlation is.
Colton: Like get a real job.
Jeff: Wow, Bill.
Bill: Honestly, I love the kid to death. We just come from two totally different backgrounds.
Colton: But the thing about it is
Bill: Wait, you just spoke. Give me a second. Thank you. Um, me and him come from two entirely different backgrounds. I’m not here trying to make it this whole black/white thing or whatever. I’m just talking about the differences in our upbringings. You know what I mean? I’ve been on my own since I was 17 years old, man. Me being poor. That’s just my life. When you’re a struggling stand-up comic, I mean, that’s what you do. You don’t make very much money, you sleep on people’s couches, and you go from gig to gig. The truth is, that’s what I do.
Jeff: So, Colton, tell me about where you come from.
Colton: Alabama…I mean, I live in a town of 3,000 people. And yes, I did go to a private like all white school. But I do have like African American people in my life.
Colton: (laughs) My housekeeper.
Bill: So, I mean, like that just put us on a weird vibe from day one.
Colton: But she’s like a member of our family.
Jeff: A paid member.
Colton: Yes. I mean, yeah she doesn’t work for free. But I don’t have a problem with Bill because of his race at all. The problem I have with Bill is that he’s “poor pitiful me, I’m poor.” Like, I don’t associate with people like that in the real world, and I’m sure as hell not going to associate with people like that out here.
Jeff: So being a stand-up [comic] is not a legitimate profession in your eyes?
Colton: No, it is a legitimate profession, but have a backup plan. Like don’t live off the kindness of others.
Bill: Are you out of your mind? Bro, you haven’t worked an honest day in your life or had to actually go out and get a job. You’re going to sit up here and tell me that me pursuing my dream, something that I love, which is comedy… I don’t want a fall back plan. That’s what I want to do with my life.
Bill: Hold on, that’s what I want to do with my life, OK. Don’t judge me. I don’t judge you. So don’t look down at me. Don’t call me names. And for the love of God I work with people and for no one. You got that?
Colton: Whatever, Bill.
Jeff: Colton, are there any groups where you live that look down or maybe judge the fact that you’re gay?
Colton: I’m sure there are, but the people that I associate with — yes, y’all can say country club people or whatever — I feel like they have more educated like thoughts and ideas and they’re more open and accepting to things. The ones who have a problem with it are the ones riding around in their like jacked up trucks with the rebel flags hanging in the back, and you know, they go home to their trailers at night.
(Tarzan raises his hand.)
Tarzan: All I want to say is this conversation has devolved into a number of social platitudes unfair to both guys. And as far as I can tell, Colton’s been painted in the wrong light, which is easy enough to do.
Jeff: What light is that?
Tarzan: Well, he’s been painted as a rich kid that never had to lift a finger.
Jeff: Painted by who?
Tarzan: OK, here’s the deal. The whole thing about race irks me. I think it’s time to quit talking about g*ddamn races! I’m fed up with people talking about race. I’m tired of it. I want people to base what they think about somebody on how they behave and what their merits are and nothing else. I don’t care what color they are, that’s how people should do. And I think this country is moving in that direction. We have a black president… That’s what I think.
Jeff: Very interesting what’s developed here tonight. The differences that you guys bring into this game are a very big part of what will either get you to the end or end up getting you voted out, as is going to be the case tonight. (to Bill and Colton) You two may never have met in normal life.
Jeff: But you’re here today. And the only way to get to the end is either with each other or through the other.
Ultimately, Bill’s torch was snuffed and he got voted off at the end of the episode.
Bill told People magazine about the tribe council conversation:
In another post-game interview, Bill said:
Thoughts on the tribal council debate? Will somebody like Colton ever put himself in a situation where he is not in the majority?
Do race/class debates on TV shows like Survivor have real-life relevance or is it all just a game?