Has the tribe spoken? An analysis of representation and portrayal on CBS's "Survivor"

Kearney, Colin Patrick
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University of Delaware
This study and analysis focused on the representation and depiction of contestants on CBS's Survivor. Specifically, how are gender, race, and age portrayed throughout the episodes. Areas including survival, strategy, participation and success in competitions, and longevity were used. Cultivation theory served as the primary theoretical foundation for this study. A content analysis showed that male contestants are overrepresented and are viewed as the dominant contestants and leaders. Additionally, White contestants were overrepresented and minority contestants, especially Hispanic contestants, were very underrepresented. White contestants were also viewed as having a higher level of strategy. Results also found an overrepresentation of contestants between the ages of 18 and 44 and an underrepresentation of contestants over the age of 45. These results, combined with the beliefs of cultivation theory, allow for audiences to not separate what occurs in reality-competition based television programs from the real world. A lack of representation and portrayal identification can create a misconstrued belief of individuals fitting that demographic for viewers.