Jeff’s ritual yelling of “Come on in, guys!” before challenges was pushed to the edge of reason this week, because the reward challenge was on a bare pile of sand surrounded by water. I assume the players got off a boat, but then they’re not really coming “in” anything – they’re already there. Or did they emerge from the sea like Aquaman? Or did Jeff mean it metaphorically, since the players were leaving the game of Survivor and entering a commercial for Applebee’s?
This week, I want to discuss the way that Karishma told her tribemates about her arranged marriage. It was good to see a conversation about modern arranged marriage, especially since many Americans might not realize it still happens in the United States. However, Karishma went far beyond a description of how arranged marriage works. She also said her parents had barely placed any value on her before her marriage and had seen her as a “burden” because she was single. Then she described her husband as nothing but a “roommate” and that she was reconsidering her “life choices”.
Has Karishma reached a point in her life where she doesn’t care if her husband and parents know how she feels? Or are they already aware of how she feels, so she doesn’t think it matters if she airs their troubles in public? Or is she so self-centered that she didn’t think about how her family would feel when they saw this episode?
Or… maybe Karishma is using Survivor as a platform to gain a real-life emotional advantage over her parents and husband. In this way, she could possibly set the tone for their disagreements, because she might gain public sympathy for her situation. If her family thought that other people had sided with Karishma, they might be more likely to go along with her opinions.
I’ve written a lot in this blog about the difference between inside the game and outside the game. Most of that writing has been about whether it’s ethical to use elements from outside the game to affect elements inside the game. But if Karishma IS trying to get an emotional advantage over her family, then she’s using elements from inside the game to affect her life outside the game.
Is this ethical?
Of course, many people have used the media this way. Public relations professionals even have terms for it, like “controlling the narrative” and “feed the beast” (the “beast” being the media). Often in high-profile disagreements, one person has far more media exposure than the other person. This allows them to steer public approval to their side, even if they’re actually in the wrong. In Karishma’s case, Survivor has given her a very large megaphone compared to her family. The only chance for them to offer their side of the story is if Karishma lasts to the family-visit episode (and considering how badly she’s playing, that doesn’t seem likely).
Unfortunately, the ethics of situations like this are extremely circumstantial. If the person with the media exposure is in the right, then the weight of public opinion can help bring justice. If the person is in the wrong, then greater media exposure can be a cause for injustice. History is rife with both types of situations.
In general, I find it’s good practice to have a healthy (but not obsessive) degree of skepticism when only one person’s side of a story is available through the media. However, hunting down both sides of every story can be impractical for viewers. Since you’re probably not personally involved in Karishma’s family disputes, you probably don’t need to find out if she’s misrepresenting her relatives. It was probably simply good to hear her and become more aware of modern arranged marriage. On the other hand, if you do happen to be one of the few people with a personal stake in her situation, then it would probably be best to hear the other side too.
Unless the side with the media power is Applebee’s. Because they will crush you.