With my pre-tenure review materials due in less than two weeks, enough colleagues (at last night's departmental party) and students (last week during class) asking me about two texts that I will now be forced to read/view them (the former asking about the film Little Miss Sunshine, the latter about Mark Danielewski's novel House of Leaves), and a son that is literally climbing hand-over-fist over everything, I should hardly have time for reality television. (Thank goodness I don't have cable, or we'd be all over Project Runway given the two episodes I saw over the summer.) I won't even comment about Survivor, whose ratings-baiting race division turned out to be a relative non-event on the actual show.
But I must point out something from tonight's episode of The Amazing Race, back to form as it jettisons the boring families-go-across-America version from last year and returns to the two-person team format it does so well. Part of me was sorry that the first two teams eliminated happened to be the Muslims and the Hindus, who all seemed charming and personable. No Survivor-type conspiracy manipulation here, I'm certain: just bad luck as both teams got bad drivers to get them to their locations in China.
Here's what warmed my heart: in China, virtually all the contestants were shown speaking English to everyone, including their drivers. The first person shown to say "thank you" in Chinese, however, (indicating the forethought to be culturally sensitive and learn some of the language) was Mary, the 31-year-old Kentucky coalminer's wife who had only once been on a plane before this experience. Given the current world political climate where we Americans seem to revel in our backwards attitudes toward the rest of the world, this one fleeting moment of a silly reality show genuinely made me smile and think that maybe there is some hope for us after all.