Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Amazing Race lays Hanoi-sized egg

If you have ever watched "The Amazing Race" TV show on CBS network, you know the protocol. A diverse collection of two-person teams race around the world at breakneck pace, stopping at various tourist traps, landmarks and special events. At these colorful pit stops, they are usually required to participate in various contests and exercises: scaling mountains and walls and ladders into the stratosphere; dancing some intricate local tribal dances or engaging in some arcane ceremony; answering questions and quizzes about the history of wherever they are, and so forth. After they perform some telegenic activity (whilst inevitably arguing with each other about who is going to do it, who is right, etc)... they pick up the sacred clue to the next location, and off they go. The last pair to arrive at each locale is eliminated, until finally, there is one pair left, who are thereby proclaimed the winners.

Needless to say, it probably isn't easy to find distinctive, cool places to send the contestants. There is a bit of a travelogue on each show, as narrators quickly explain local history and customs, and provide interesting details, such as how many feet into the air they will have to climb, or how far away they are from such-and-such or so-and-so. It all tends to run together, so the challenge is to make each new location stand out and become uniquely interesting to the viewer.

Sometimes a locale is obviously chosen strictly for its emotional or political value, to stop viewers from getting bored and picking up that deadly remote. Or to get some drama going from the contestants' reactions to such a place.

On the March 17th show, it was Hanoi. HANOI.


I was somewhat dumbfounded.

As soon as I saw the smashed-up B-52, I thought, oh shit. I saw that coming like a freight train.

And then I instantly wondered... who is working for CBS? Who is working for "The Amazing Race"? Do they not associate with regular people out here in the American heartland? Do they understand the emotional reaction to a downed American B-52 from The Vietnam War? Good Lord.

Well, John McCain did, and a bunch of other veterans did, too. The shit hit the fan in short order.

From Yahoo:

Usually, it is "Amazing Race" contestants with loose lips that stir up controversy for being insensitive, offensive, or ugly Americans while dashing around the less scenic or underprivileged countries of the world on the competition reality show. But with last week's Vietnam-based episode, it was the producers and network that found themselves on the receiving end of public backlash.

Veterans, conservative newscasters, politicians like Arizona Sen. John McCain, and plenty of the show's fans were upset that the show filmed at the site of a crashed U.S. B-52 bomber, and featured a segment where players had to listen to a pro-communist anthem being sung in front of a portrait of Ho Chi Minh and then find one of the song's lyrics in a sea of propaganda posters. Vietnam War veteran and American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz sent a letter to CBS Thursday, asking that the network apologize for "its disgraceful slap-in-the face administered to American war heroes. We only wish that the network would not be so eager to broadcast anti-American propaganda."
And yes, they got their official apology.

From the National Post:
Senator John McCain is among those who have accepted CBS’ apology for a passage on The Amazing Race where contestants visited the wreckage of an American B-52 bomber in Vietnam, writing on Twitter that the “issue is closed.”

The national commander of the American Legion, James Koutz, has also accepted the apology. Commander Koutz said said he believed it was sincere and heartfelt.

The segment aired March 17 and angered many veterans, particularly those who served in the Vietnam War. As part of its scavenger hunt game, contestants on the show had to visit the site in Hanoi, which Vietnamese authorities turned into a memorial.

Before this Sunday’s edition of The Amazing Race, host Phil Keoghan read a statement apologizing to veterans and families who may have been offended.
For my part, I continue to be amazed at the mainstream media's general cluelessness about such matters. I could have easily predicted this reaction, as everyone I know could too.

As I asked, above: WHO works for these people? Didn't anybody on the show's staff speak up and say, "Hey, ya think maybe this isn't such a good idea?"


JoJo said...

I mean no disrespect...and please pardon my ignorance, but I was so little when Vietnam was going on that I'm not entirely sure I grasp the significance of what the Great Race knowledge of Vietnam and the War is soooo limited. I only remember Jane Fonda going there and being called Hanoi Jane and hearing that it was a bad thing that she did.

Anonymous said...

I love "The Amazing Race". I grew up with Viet Nam. Maybe I'm "off" but when I saw the Memorial, I saw hundreds (thousands?) of innocent civilians killed, maimed, or otherwise affected by "our" bombs. I personally think it does the average American good to see a glimpse of what other countries, cultures and people saw or experienced.

Although a TV game show is not the appropriate venue, I like to see and for Americans to see, the results of our imperialism.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Jojo, my surprise was that they would show a memorial that was positive about bombing Americans (the downed B-52 shown as a memorial). Hanoi was enemy territory, and some people believe it is treason to support the enemy in wartime, which was why Jane Fonda was compared to Tokyo Rose (as "Hanoi Jane").

Anon, I don't necessarily disagree w/you. My point was that they seemingly didn't realize the shit would hit the fan, which to me is a given. I repeat, I wonder what its like to live in such a world that such things would not occur to you.

As for me, I live in the South.

JoJo said...

Ooooh so it was a memorial not in memory of the Americans that died but patting N. Korea on the back for killing Americans? OK. Get it now.

D. said...

JoJo: North Vietnam, not North Korea.

Apparently no one under 50 knows any history between 1945 and 2001. It explains so much.

JoJo said...

Whoopss so bad.....I started a temp job this morning and my head wasn't quite in the blogging game. I totally meant North Vietnam. Not sure why I wrote Korea!

You are right though. When I was in American History in the late 70s, early 80s, Vietnam was still too recent and raw. I don't even remember learning much about the Korean War. Seems as though our books ended 'modern history' just after WW2.

DaisyDeadhead said...

D, Charles Krauthammer (neocon who obviously would send his kid to the best schools around), said on C-Span that history education was bad in the USA regarding anything "controversial" or open-ended. He said his own son did not know who Jefferson Davis was, and it freaked him out. Teaching too many details about the Civil War might open up that whole can of worms about states rights, after all. It's all given a very perfunctory treatment so they can quickly move on to the next topic.

I assume "controversial" Vietnam is treated similarly... I made sure to teach my own kid the truth.

Annie said...

Living is easy with eyes closed. People in this country know far more about vapid pop culture than the actual history of their country. Rather depressing...

Anonymous said...

It's a reality tv show, probably expecting tact and or class is asking too much anyway.