Looking for race/sex statistics for reality TV shows.
August 31, 2011 6:30 AM   Subscribe

Looking for race/sex statistics for reality TV shows.

My theory is based on very casual observation and (I am guessing) confirmation bias: there will always be one black person on a reality TV show, and they will get voted off / sent home almost immediately; there will also be a gay white man who will make it right up into the final few rounds.

Is there somewhere I could see real statistical analysis that would prove / disprove this?
posted by Meatbomb to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

three of the eight winners of so you think you can dance have been black. there have also been a fair number of runner ups who were black (one season had 2 black men, seemingly straight, in positions 1 and 2).
posted by nadawi at 6:38 AM on August 31, 2011

I think it depends on the kinds of reality tv shows.

I think it's total confirmation bias on your part though. I know for a fact neither statement is true for Survivor or The Next Food Network Star.

Each show has their own special.. criteria - though. You often see the same kinds of people with the same kinds of spirit from season to season.
posted by royalsong at 6:40 AM on August 31, 2011

The Amazing Race, especially in recent years, has tended to cast similar "types" of teams, but perhaps tweak them a little bit each time. They've also noticed that, the show being what it is, teams composed of two buff guys or one buff guy and a reasonably buff girl (or one who can keep up as her partner does most of the heavy lifting) tend to make it deeper into the race. Athletic fitness combined with good luck and a reasonable amount of savvy about navigation tends to be the determining factor, not race or sexual orientation. However, this show is not based around eliminations made by the other competitors, and it's more difficult for producers to interfere to directly bump people off the show.
posted by PussKillian at 6:49 AM on August 31, 2011

That's not how it went down on Flavor of Love.
posted by box at 6:49 AM on August 31, 2011

Response by poster: I think it depends on the kinds of reality tv shows.

Yeah, sorry. I don't think of the "talent" shows like dancing, singing as part of this. I don't know anything about them and from what people are saying wouldn't follow this model.

I mean the kind of shows where people are pitted one against the other, or other elimination shows like cooking, baking, business, etc.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:56 AM on August 31, 2011

could you classify more what you mean? to me, cooking shows are talent shows. are you putting any distinction between judge vote off, cast vote off, or home viewer vote off?

as to business, i can only think you mean the apprentice. donald trump/the apprentice has been called racist and donald trump refutes that in a less than convincing response.
posted by nadawi at 7:05 AM on August 31, 2011

I am pretty sure that there hasn't been a "black" finalist on the bachelor or bachelorette. In fact I never see them past the second episode.
posted by The1andonly at 7:38 AM on August 31, 2011

Response by poster: could you classify more what you mean?

It is hard because I do not really watch any of these shows except accidentally. I just wanted to take "So You Think You Can Dance" and "So You Think You Can Sing" off my list here because of the early answer that disproves my suspicion :)

So, aside from that show where black guys have won, is it the case that they are usually removed in the early rounds?
posted by Meatbomb at 10:59 AM on August 31, 2011

Certainly not true for Top Chef. While I don't think they've had any black winners, they've had plenty of African American contestants who have made it into the second half/last third of the competition.
posted by mmascolino at 12:15 PM on August 31, 2011

Best answer: we could keep discounting things that don't fit your view, but i think that really only proves confirmation bias.

to run down a few more:

america's next top model has been pretty diverse in winners - 6 of the 16 winners have been black or biracial.

i don't think there's ever been a black winner of project runway, but i do know that a handful have made it to the final.

on mtv: the challenge, vote offs are absolutely not race based and certainly more based on status and seniority. members of the same key groups win it every single year.

mmascolino brings up top chef - and yeah, certainly plenty have made it far.

the bachelor/bachelorette one is interesting and true. i think that has a lot to do with remaining biases about interracial marriage. the lead contestant (the bachelor or the bachelorette) as far as i can tell have all been lily-white from upper middle class families. sadly, i think the voting off of african americans is much more a reflection of who they'd actually date even if they weren't on a reality show.

i guess what i'm saying is that i've watched a LOT of reality tv - probably more than most - and i think you're seeing confirmation bias and a few shows where it is true (apprentice, bachelor/ette).
posted by nadawi at 12:44 PM on August 31, 2011

Best answer: On Survivor:

"This season, there was only one person -- Gary Stritesky -- who actually applied to be on the show. Probst says after recruiting players for the racially-divided concept used last time around, the producers had hoped to find a more diverse pool of people applying.

That wasn't the case.

So, in the interest of casting a more diverse show, the producers recruited what appears to be a fascinating mix of people, from a former homeless man to a table tennis enthusiast. "

This says a few things: One, the application pool for Survivor is not terribly diverse. The reason for this is an open question. Two, the producers are aware of this, and claim to have made changes in their selection process to aid in diversity. How much if this is a genuine appeal to diversity and how much is lip service is up to interpretation; I don't have an opinion either way.

The "racially-divided concept" refers to a season where the contestants were initially divided into tribes by race: Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, and Asians. This means the tribes would compete against each other in challenges, and the losing team chooses someone to eliminate amongst themselves. Thus the eliminations from the early part of this season were not racially biased, because players could only vote out players from their own race and no one else. (This is not to say whether or not eliminations are normally biased; however this is the only season where it would be functionally impossible.)

Other notes:

--From time to time shows will bring back contestants from past seasons to compete in new seasons; decisions on who to bring almost always rely on audience popularity. By my count there have been 2 out of 41 black Survivor contestants who've played in multiple seasons, though I stopped watching in recent years and don't recognize some of the names on the list. There have been two black winners; neither has played multiple seasons.

--On The Amazing Race, at least two black teams have won and been brought back again. I haven't watched this in a while so there may be more. However this is one of the few shows that hinges solely on player ability and not the decisions of judges, other players, or the home audience.

--You mentioned not being concerned with singing competitions; however it is notable given the state of popular music that American Idol hasn't had a black winner in four years.

That's probably way more info than you really asked for, I got carried away there.
posted by Smallpox at 2:10 PM on August 31, 2011

On the UK's Strictly Come Dancing, from 8 series, 3 runners up and one winner have been black, and only one gay white man has made the final.

On the UK's Big Brother in 11 series there has been one black winner, one gay winner, and one transexual winner.

On the UK's Apprentice in 7 series there has been no black winner. I don't think there have been any white gay male contestants at all.

I don't think there is a consistent patten here.
posted by roofus at 3:42 PM on August 31, 2011

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