Josh Wolk says Sept. 11 has changed the rules about ugly Americans running wild in foreign locales
Is ”Amazing Race 2” a good idea now?
CBS has recently confirmed that the network is planning an ”Amazing Race 2,” to which I say, Doesn’t the rest of the world hate us enough right now?
I am a huge fan of ”Amazing Race,” but I cringe every time a contestant gets apoplectic over the fact that a local can’t speak English. Just last week in Thailand, after a citizen struggled to answer frat brother Drew’s question about where to find a hotel, Drew patronizingly joked, ”Take your time, this is not the $64,000 question.” When another Thai couldn’t understand perma-huffy Emily when she asked how far the bus station was, she stormed off, yelling, ”Screw you!” And every single time one of these teams jumps into a taxi, the first thing they whine is, ”HUR-ry!” and then settle back in their seats to loudly talk about what a backward country they’re in.
It’s like a world tour of bad will, with loud Americans barging into alien cultures and demanding that their game-show goals be put first. Let’s see: Many foreigners think Americans are boorish, ignorant of other cultures, and imperialist. Done, done, and done, thanks to the ”Amazing Race” folks! They should retitle this show ”The Ugly American Hour.”
They’re not the only reality-TV troublemakers abroad: This year on ”Road Rules,” glamour-girl Ellen strolled around an Arabic country in shorts when women in that culture keep themselves shrouded from head to toe. Ellen apparently thought the old saying goes, ”When in Rome…demand a Wendy’s hamburger,” since when she was loudly castigated by the local men, she refused to change her clothes.
Jingoism aside, wouldn’t mounting an ”Amazing Race 2” right now be a logistical impossibility? The first series was shot pre-Sept. 11, before we and the rest of the world were hyperaware of security issues. But now, consider what would happen when hopped-up pairs of people run into bus and train stations and airports, trailed by a camera crew loaded down with bulky machinery, and start screaming for last-minute tickets. Just how long will it take for a team to be carted off by the local militia? And if CBS decided on a race across America only, those issues would be even worse.
Then there’s the anti-American sentiment. Even in our allies’ countries there are frequent demonstrations against the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan. I don’t think angry citizens are going to make the distinction between their hatred for America’s imperialist ways and their love for American television. (”Get out of Saudi Arabia, you imperialist bastards, and…what? You’re trying to win a million dollars in a reality TV show? Why didn’t you say so? Do you know Richard Hatch? We just love to hate him!”) Any bubbling anti-American sentiment will surely be brought to the surface the first time a contestant storms up to someone yelling, ”Don’t you speak English? We need a taxi!”
Perhaps the best thing to do is make ”AR2” a race on foot. In fact, why not send them to a island where they can run around one side while ”Road Rules” uses the other. And what the hell: ”Temptation Island 3” can shoot down by the beach right near a ”Big Brother 3” cabana. Best to keep all our self-involved citizens in one place, where they can’t get hurt, they can’t hurt anybody, and they certainly can’t create an international incident.