The Revolution Will be Televised: Why I Celebrate Survivor

There are a lot of adjectives that I can use to describe my identity, some more obvious than others. It probably wouldn’t surprise you that I, a Jewish professional, would put “Jewish” at the top of the list. It also probably wouldn’t surprise you that I, a Keshet professional, would put “ally” and “activist” right up there with it. It may surprise you that I’d also put “TV aficionado” right alongside those other qualifiers, but it’s true—there’s very little that I enjoy quite as much as a quiet evening with the glow of my television.

Perhaps my favorite show of all times is the now classic reality TV show, Survivor. I started watching Survivor when a co-worker of mine from my Hillel days made a great sell: she convinced me that Survivor wasn’t just mindless entertainment, but a whole sociological experiment brought into my living room each week. I started watching timidly, but it soon became a weekly ritual for the two of us, something we folded into our own non-traditional Shabbat celebration. Now, seven years later,
we still queue up our DVRs in tandem as we discuss the ins and outs of this week’s strategy.

In many ways, the famous sentiment “the revolution will not be televised” doesn’t apply in my world. This isn’t to belittle the incredibly important work that goes on behind the scenes and in uncelebrated ways—but for me, when the revolution makes it onto the small screen, I know it’s really here. This week marked the finale of Season 27, as well as the first time the show featured a gay couple. (Although, this season is not the first time Survivor featured a gay contestant.) Survivor has also boasted two Jewish winners—one, Ethan Zohn, even famously passed on eating pork during a reward.

This season we saw the gay couple of Colton and Caleb throw down on Survivor—and while Caleb flourished, filling the role of a sympathetic character and potential role model, we also saw Colton act as a disagreeable villain. Both contestants were real, their relationship and gay identity secondary to their role within the game. There is something incredibly meaningful about seeing the LGBT community reflected on Survivor, where instead of filling a pigeon-holed role as the token gay couple, Colton and Caleb were simply another layer of the cast of players.

Sure, there are a lot of pressing and important things going on in the world—many more worthy of the time and energy I’ve spent arguing about Survivor at the Shabbat dinner table. But when it comes down to it, seeing representations of our community—whether in the form of gay contestants on a reality show or Jewish individuals on prime time TV—is something to celebrate.

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