Both I Survived a Japanese Game Show and Wipeout premiere on ABC tonight. Personally, I’m more excited for Wipeout because I believe in the purity of humiliation, and don’t need to be distracted some Hollywood suit’s complex conceit. But both of the shows look like the right thing for summer: people falling on their dumb faces. Still, I’d always thought there was something slightly off about these bold repurposings of Japanese culture. My former claims of “benign Xenophobia” don’t seem exactly right. Where had we gone wrong? What had we lost in the translation? An article in the New York Times brought some clarity on the issue:
The contestants in “I Survived a Japanese Game Show” may be playing silly games, but they have a serious goal: winning the $250,000 prize at the end of the series. Likewise the “Wipeout” contestants are running obstacle courses in hopes of winning $50,000 each week. In that aspect the American versions differ from the originals. In Japan the games are about pride and honor.
There you have it. No one in this country will dress up in a baby bonnet and a diaper and try to get through the obstacle course without spilling the milk just for the love of a job well done anymore. It’s all about cash rewards. I think we need to take a good long look in the mirror, America. Are we a country that’s willing to jump from one slicked ball to the other because we fought for our independence and we know that our forefathers gave up their lives for our freedom to do faceplants into a man-made river of mud that will read well on-screen, or have we become so craven and detached from our noble selves that we won’t even put on a velcro suit for less than 150,000 dollars?