Channel Seven plays the race card

2013-02-19_2340I’ve often thought it would be fascinating to have a series of Big Brother with an Australian, New Zealander, Brit, German, Chinese, Italian, French, Indian, South African, Brazilian and various ethnicities.

….a kind of United Nations microcosm that would allow us to see just who embraces differences and who is divided by them.

But part of my brain tells me that no, this would be irresponsible television. In a hothouse such as Big Brother where perspective is easily lost, it could descend into World War 3 very quickly.

None of this appears to have crossed the minds of the producers of My Kitchen Rules.

While some shows embrace differences, others use it as a wedge. And that’s what’s going on here.

Producers should never have allowed a second team of Asian-Australians to be portrayed as villains, having already wrung every last bitchy comment from Jessie and Biswa, the ‘Spice Girls’ with Indian and Bangladeshi heritage.

Where is the balance, please?

All three Gatecrasher teams have entered the contest with audacious -even spiteful- comments about the resident teams. It’s clear they have been worded up to play hard, given they have been fast-tracked into the competition.

But only one team is going to be remembered. One team will attract the attention in social media: friends Ashlee Pham and Sophia Pou from Cabramatta.

True, this is a contest about heroes and villains, but why was it necessary to cast two more Asians as villains, when Seven attracted fantastic ratings for the wonderful Anh Does Vietnam last year?

MasterChef has shown us how the genre can deliver such positive messages in multicultural casting: Poh, Amina, Adam Liaw, Akuc. It even has people who can genuinely cook.

My Kitchen Rules panders to our ugly side and condones it with ratings instead of a moral conscience.


  1. Obviously these two girls are happy to play the sort of role to get on TV. Seven has seen the opportunity and picked them. They aren’t the only bitchy contestants 7 has cast on MKR.

    I doubt they will play it exactly the same because that would be repetitive so they probably has a twist in mind. Maybe they can actually cook or something. Though they wouldn’t want gatecrashers knocking out any of the good teams.

  2. How much of MKR is actually about the cooking? While the cattiness is all very entertaining, I think it’s horrible that that is what’s keeping us watching. Could you imagine MasterChef with all this bitching? No, because they’re about the cooking.

    I don’t like or hate Sophia and Ashlee. And I think MKR is all about the editing.

  3. Butterfly Carnage

    David! Wow you’ve really gone the whole hog here! I think that irrespective of race people can display dreadful behaviour (gratuitously too), openly strategise in the basest ways and revel in others misfortune even wishing it upon them for millions of people to delight and scorn them, that they’ve never met. You may as well cast yourself to the Lions. For MKR this is the main course but the entre is (Production teams) setting people up (even tacitly) to try and cook a menu way beyond them and their domestic kitchen set ups. This brings out the worst behaviour in everyone (audience included) as people preen themselves and talk up their abilities. Bravado! Machismo! Boorish! Our reaction is human voyeurism at it’s most banal and inane almost masturbatory. However if you hold this view regards the racist card, my question is: Is the portrayal of Jake (and his more masculine sister) or Peter & Gary (from last years MKR) as stereotypically the “bitchy snipy queen” (so Sex in the City) homophobic? Reflection or incitement?

  4. Butterfly Carnage

    David! Wow you’ve really gone the whole hog here! I think that irrespective of race people can display dreadful behaviour (grattutiously too), openly stategise in the basest ways and revel in others misfortune even wishing it upon them for millions of people they’ve never met. For MKR this is the main course but the entre is (Production teams) setting people up (even tacitly)to try and cook a menu way beyond them and their domestic kitchen set ups. This brings out worst in everyone (audience included. This human voyeurism at it’s most it’s most banal. Is the portrayal of Jake or Peter & Gary stereotypically homophobic?

  5. Last year the evil people was Thomas and the two gay men form Brisbane. They are white.

    The new gatecrashers I just find there comments funny. You can see Pete and Manu just staring at them trying not to laugh.

    I personally thought Lisa and Candice were just as horrible.

  6. @Mr.J…indigenous population as of 2011 census..2.5%…so you are about 400% off on your .58%…then to claim they are over represented ..cause 1/2 a contestant was on mkr,and a few appear on some talent shows?…well…lol…have a nice day.

  7. While people would love to think that Australia is an amazing multicultural nation (which it is) there is still an underlying sense of racism that exists.
    As much as I hate to say it, casting non anglos as the villians makes them easier to hate for some. Unfortunately Ive seen it.
    While its true no one forced these contestants to be bitchy, they could have just as easily cast a nice asian couple (does nice even exists on this show)
    If anyones ever watched Border Security (another ratings success) they should know that producers love to promote a healthy dose of xenophobia .

  8. I’d like to believe that 7 did not intentionally play the race card, instead the minority teams delivered plenty of footage to work with and hence the over-promotion of these teams.

    But i agree with you in a sense that 7 should have downplayed the editing of the Sophie and Ashlee or changed their edit after seeing the reaction the Spice Girls caused.

  9. Oh come on David, the WA women were just as hateful as the other 2 nasty couples and I,m from WA. I think some couples have just decided to play up to the cameras, and its always the least talented ones.

  10. I think there is very little reality in reality tv. It’s a tonne of footage put into an edit suite that’s pushed prodded and squeezed and largely shrunk into an hour of tele. Every emotion and reaction is heightened to the nth degree. I am sure even the meanest characters who say awful things say a lot of nice things too. But showing the nice comments would water down the “character” they want to portray.

  11. Will never watch this show because of the negative nature of the contestants..I watch MasterChef to get my cooking show fix because they promote good cooking & teamwork.

  12. I don’t watch MKR but thought the same as you David when I saw the latest promos for the intruders.
    What I find even more concerning than the ‘race card’ is the way viewers are being fed such negative ‘storylines’.
    More and more, our society seems to hunger for outrage and controversy. And the media is always able to come up with a new scandal.
    Even our politicians would rather call each other names than debate policies.

  13. Tvlover10 took the words out of my mouth. The teams that gave scores of 1 and 2 were the real villains and got no attention, while the “gatecrashers” scored fairly. The score of 1 by the SA team was simply unfathomable. None of the food was inedible or so bad to justify a 1. Bad sportsmanship.

  14. bettestreep2008

    I didn’t realise ACA were reporting this last night.

    They have a nerve bringing up the race card when their precious Block – and last years Big Brother have/had almost No Asian or person of color.

    Bit of pot calling kettle methinks.

  15. I’ve only ever watched one episode of MKR and from that episode, I would describe it as the Today Tonight of reality shows. It’s heavily edited and quite contrived, which makes it very hard to know what is genuine and what isn’t. From my point of view, the goal of this show is to develop a hatred of certain contestants. Not a great message to send to kids and I assume children are watching.

    Anyone who watches and enjoys this sort of entertainment is not welcome at my dinner table… and that includes Today Tonight viewers.

  16. Last time I checked they said everything that was / will be put to air.

    Last time I checked the two white west australian women did the same a moment ago….racist?

    Last time I checked so did the Queensland brother and sister.

    OMG get over yourself people! Never thought I would say David is now on the same level as ACA (they ran this pathetic story last night!)

  17. I find the rivalry and bitchiness very entertaining. It doesn’t change my opinion of Asian people, who I find are generally very nice people. There are good and bad in every race. Quite often competitively bitchy people are the type to enter these shows.

  18. bettestreep2008

    I was afraid to mention the ‘race’ card because I thought David would not publish my comment.

    Now that you have mentioned it in your very well written article – we have to admit that there is an element of ‘race’ card in MKR.

    But there is also an element of ‘sexism’ where the other women are portrayed as bitchy and whiney and what about that Cupcake who couldn’t stop crying.

    And how about the bitchy ‘gay’ guy from Queensland? He’s been quiet lately but once the bitchy asian/female teams are eliminated they producers are going to unleash this kid and he’ll make the gay couple from last season look like angels.

    I watched MCP and was impressed with the quality of the production. The contestants knew how to cook and Marco Pierre White was tough but fair on them.

    And what a nice touch giving the eliminated contestant a letter of recommendation.

    Now that’s probably worth quite a bit for a cook’s career prospects.

    Sadly only 400K or so of us tuned in while 3m people watched a bunch of amateurs bitching and a group of nice white contestants banging a few nails in wood.

    Ten Must show MCP on Sunday nights only and put Idol on Monday and Tuesday nights. At least viewers will have a choice between ‘cooking’, ‘renovating’ and ‘musical talent’.

    Right now they are damaging the MC brand and dragging once popular shows like NCIS down with it.

  19. I agree and disagree with you David. It is possible that Seven are either simply blind … just oblivious too it all or are racist.

    There is no right answer here. Should we let contestants be contestants and choose only based on their characters or should balance be achieved?

    I would argue its not an easy answer but either way for Seven its not a good look.

  20. I watched MKR last night, saw and heard all of the “bitching” but didn’t really think about the “Asian” component until you, David, put it in writing.
    I did not see this couple as anything other than Australian.
    I think you have just thrown a grenade in the playpen.
    I see that most comments disagree with your article. Maybe that should tell you something.

  21. Both of the teams spoken about in this article are Australian.

    As Australian as you, me, or the guy next door.

    Their personalities may differ from ours, but race has nothing to do with it.

  22. @nicks, there was a half indigenous woman in season 2, ran under the title of ‘urban hippies.’ other than that there have been aboriginal contestants on AGT, TARA, xFactor. deb mailman and aaron pederson are getting plenty of work in dramas, and as you say, there is now an entire channel targetted at the community. only 0.58% of the population identify as indegenous australian on a census form, it think they are well over-represented on tv. Not saying this is a bad thing, quite the opposite, but to say that they are “invisible, absent” is not correct. there are other nationalities that more than double the Aboriginal population in Austrlaia that have no representation at all.

  23. You are spot on David. Where is the balance from the producers? Interesting in last night’s episode the gatecrashers scored the dishes fairly while it was the other couples that were the true villians with scores of 1 and 2.

  24. As someone who’s parents were born outside of Australia I don not have a problem with mkr whether they are casting Asians as villains or not. I personally think a bigger problem is a show like the block where the promo should be 4 White Anglo couples again and again!!!! This is more of a problem!!! I also find it strange that home and away and neighbours have never had an aboriginal main character in the 20 plus years those two shows have been on. I am surprised Pauline Hansen has not moved to Summer Bay!!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.