September 30, 2004

Race, anti-Semitism, and sex on "The Apprentice."

"The Apprentice" last night began with a gesture at solving what some perceive as the show's race problem, by running a long clip of Kevin (the only remaining black contestant) mildly ranting at the women when they return from the boardroom, where last week they achieved the end of their conspiracy to oust Stacie J. (the other black contestant this season). Kevin does not mention race, but since he's black, it quite clearly seems intended that we should read his scolding as criticizing the women's team for racism. But, neatly, the show does not have to take any responsibility for actually calling anyone racist.

Later in the show, Jennifer is fired, after doing any number of stupid and irritating things. Because Jennifer has made herself such an obvious target for firing, Trump fires her without ever calling on Stacy R. to tell the tale of how Jennifer detested two elderly women customers at the team's restaurant and repeatedly called them "two old Jewish women." Stacy R., who identifies herself as Jewish, is righteously irked, and when Jennifer, this week's team leader, picks Stacy R. as one of the two women who will join her in the boardroom in the end, we see Stacy R. reacting with a knowing smile and a little nod. During the commercial, we anticipate Stacy R. accusing Jennifer of anti-Semitism, but we never do hear it. I'm sure it was said, but edited out. Maybe we'll hear it if there's an extended boardroom show over the weekend, but I'm thinking the show's producers think they must walk a fine line, showing the antagonism among the contestants, including some behavior we may easily interpret as racist or anti-Semitic and allowing us to see the offenders punished in some way, but editing out the inflammatory labels.

Meanwhile, the show's woman problem rages on. Here's Prof. Yin's take. Miss Alli shows no pity as she scoffs that the women are "sure to have an easy time ... now that the bothersome troublemaker has been banished." The women are an awful group who seem to beg us to think all sorts of bad things about women. The men are a much more appealing group. On the positive side, at least it was the men this week, not the women, who decided to use their sexuality to win. Well, maybe the women did it a bit too, by wearing little black dresses as they milled around in the restaurant, looking like extras in a Robert Palmer video on a break. (I love the way the men all agreed who among them was the best looking. Would women ever do that?)

Oh, the poor clueless women! They are trying to use their prettiness the way the women last season did quite successfully. And they all dressed alike this time, and that worked so well for the boys the time they all put on bow ties and sold ice cream. Their real problem is a complete failure ever to come up with a single creative idea or even to notice that they should. Then they resort to the short-term strategy of attacking each other to get someone fired, which only makes things uglier when they go back to their rooms. Next week, Pamela, the woman who early on was sent to the men's team, is reunited with the women. Hopefully, she'll change the dynamic in some exciting new way--maybe by pointing out exactly how awful they all are.

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