Joe and Heidi Eliminated from The Amazing Race

We bitch about how Asian Americans aren't well represented in the media, but we've made some inroads in three areas: online entertainment, children's programming and reality TV. This makes sense, because reality TV is supposed to reflect... reality.

Granted, you're holding a distorted mirror to reflect this reality, but at least you have a wide range of Asian American players being profiled and showing a wide range of emotions under a wide range of extreme circumstances. In Hollywood reality, everybody is white and colored people are merely supporting characters in the stories of white people.

Asian Americans have won or come close to winning many high profile reality shows, which is signficant considering they make up a small percentage of contestants. There is of course Yul Kwon, who won Survivor: Cook Islands, but there are others:

-Victor and Tammy Jih won Amazing Race 14.

-Yau-Man Chan came into the top four of Survivor: Fiji.

-Jun Song won Big Brother 4 in 2003.

-Dorothy Hui won the second season of The Mole in 2001-2002.

-James Sun came in a controversial second on The Apprentice:




The first two seasons of Solitary were won by Asian American men, Steve G:



... and Phu Pham:



Asian American men have also won a number of episodes of the now defunct Fear Factor. And there are countless other Asian American contestants that I haven't even mentioned.


As you can tell, I'm a big reality game show freak. I enjoy the social psychology aspect of it, because these reality shows hold a distorted mirror to our lives at work. Going to work is like being on Survivor, but we ain't getting paid one million dollars.


Unfortunately husband and wife team Joe and Heidi were eliminated in last night's Amazing Race 16.  It was heartwrenching to see them blindsided by another team and slip from third place to dead last. But it was also touching that they persevered despite inevitable defeat and that they took comfort and solace in each other as a loving couple.

I think a couple of things added to the downfall of Joe and Heidi. For one thing, they allied themselves initially to the lesbians, Carole and Brandi, and Joe actually saved a place in line for them at the ticket counter. This act of loyalty upset the other teams who were behind them and didn't get tickets to the next destination. Cooperation is nice, but why ally yourselves to people who haven't proven their worth and don't reciprocate?

The Amazing Race is somewhat different from other reality shows, because it is straight competition. There is really no need to form alliances, because there is no voting by the group as a whole. In games where you must vote (such as in Survivor and Big Brother), it makes sense to form alliances, so you can vote as a bloc.

Reality show competitions are indicative of Western culture. Western culture views life as competition. You are constantly fighting others to secure what is yours and to gain by making others lose. Westerners promote competition over cooperation.

This makes sense given their history. Europe, geographically, should not even qualify as continent. At most it is a large peninsula of Asia. When compared to other continents, it is a very small piece of land with a lot of tiny little nation-states. These nation-states were constantly at war with each other throughout much of European history. In ancient Greece, for example, city-states would constantly wage war on each other. Greeks fought other Greeks and would only unite against outside threats (such as the Persians). That's like having New York invade Boston or San Francisco declare war on Oakland across the Bay.

European nations constantly fought each other, because resources and knowledge were quite scarce, especially in the Dark Ages. Because of this, Western Culture grew to believe that life is a zero sum game. And as a result, a handful of nation states which constituted less than 10% of the world population came to dominate and subjugate 90% of the world.

Western Culture subscribes to the idea of winner take all. Westerners promote competition as opposed to cooperation, and reality TV shows reflect this mindset: Survivor, The Apprentice, Big Brother, etc. Participants must fight for their team or alliance in order to advance their group as a whole, but they must also fight their own teammates for their own survival. Members of losing teams must turn on each other in order to avoid being voted off or fired. There can only be one winner, since that is the way the game is set up.


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