It was an amusing coincidence that Sunday’s “Amazing Race” aired on the same night as a Battle of the Sexes episode of “Mythbusters.”
The “Amazing Race” episode, titled “Bollywood Travolta,” spent 40 minutes on very vocally establishing a slew of gender-based stereotypes (and at least one oft-repeated cultural stereotype). Then, in the last 20 minutes, several of those stereotypes were seemingly debunked, but only somewhat.
That left me with really mixed emotions at the end of the episode. I’d prepared myself for a rant-filled recap focusing on said stereotypes and then I was left conflicted on at least some of what was put on display.
Also… Well… You know how the episode ended.
So let’s talk about Sunday’s India-set episode and gender stereotypes, after the break…
GENDER STEREOTYPE: Women can dance. Men cannot dance.
ILLUSTRATION: This week’s Roadblock asked one player from each team to learn a Bollywood dance number and perform it for a demanding choreographer. Three teams had female contestants available to participate in the Roadblock and, in all three cases (Vanessa, Rachel and Rachel), they did. Art & JJ and Mark & Bopper, however, were stuck. JJ did the challenge because Art previously did the bottle-dancing. Mark did the challenge because Bopper’s knee prevented him from that kind of activity.
POINT: Tiny Blonde Rachel was a dancer all through school. She arrived at the Roadblock, studied diligently and completed the routine her first time through. Vanessa and “Big Brother” Rachel had a little more trouble, but even at their worst, they looked semi-competent. The men, however, flailed, particularly Mark, who suffered from his ongoing motion sickness and then struggled to breathe in the thick Cochin air. As Art put it, “Dudes can’t dance like chicks.” As Brendon put it, “This is a great day to have a female partner on your team.”
COUNTERPOINT: None, really. Then again it took JJ the same number of attempts as it took “Big Brother.” We’ll leave aside that JJ got an insanely generous bit of judging on his fourth attempt, which didn’t appear to be even close to synchronized or properly executed. Mark didn’t get that generous of a judging until his 12th attempt, by which time Bopper had begged him to quit, he had decided to quit and then Bopper had begged him not to quit.
“AMAZING RACE” VERDICT: Women can, in fact, dance. Men cannot, in fact, dance. [I am a man. I cannot dance. I feel guilty, but I would have confirmed the heck out of this stereotype.]
GENDER STEREOTYPE: Women are emotional. This is bad.
ILLUSTRATION: No specific illustration required. Brendon, a PhD student, just explained it as an article of faith: “It’s good to have a girl on your team because they can do things like this, but it’s bad, because they get emotional.”
POINT: “Big Brother” Rachel finished her second or third dancing failure and jumped off the stage in Rachel-esque misery, face red and blubbering. On the Rachel-Tantrum-O-Meter, this barely registered a “2.” But again, if PhD Student Brendon says it, it’s got to be true.
COUNTERPOINT: The last 15 minutes of the episode were spent largely on Bopper crying for the pain he was putting Mark through in making him dance. And crying about how he wants a million dollars, but he wants his friend more. Then Bopper and Mark both cried about the importance of proving to their children that they didn’t quit. And then they got to Phil at the mat and the cried more about how much they’d proven to themselves and their family. Phil’s beautiful co-greeter seemed to be on the verge of crying with them.
“AMAZING RACE” VERDICT: Women are emotional and this is a bad thing. It causes them to throw temper tantrums. They require their husbands-to-be to coach them through the importance of trying. Blue Collar Dudes from Kentucky are emotional, but this is a good thing. Their emotion is based on adversity that they’ve overcome and the desire to do right by their families. If a man cries, it’s nearly heroic, darnit.
GENDER STEREOTYPE: Women cannot drive. They can, however, be badgered into something that somewhat resembles driving through shouting from male counterparts.
ILLUSTRATION: The Detour was a choice between Cricket and Clutch It. In Clutch It, teams had to learn to drive Indian rickshaw cabs and navigate around a small course.
POINT: Rachel could not maneuver the cab. She found this funny. Dave did not find it funny. He yelled at her and eventually did the course first, completing it on his second attempt. Rachel got back in the drivers’ seat and Dave yelled at her on every turn and she successfully finished the course, allowing them to win their fifth Leg. The lesson, as Dave bellowed it? “Listen to your frickin’ husband!” Ralph & Vanessa also did Clutch It and we learned that not only did Vanessa fail Drivers Ed, but she also allegedly hit The Alamo. However, with Ralph yelling at her from the backseat, Vanessa succeeded in driving.
COUNTERPOINT: None, really. But I’ll give Rachel credit for how relentlessly she was teasing Dave along the way. I can’t tell if she’s started being amused by Dave’s belligerent attitude or if she’s stopped caring and this is all preparatory for a divorce.
“AMAZING RACE” VERDICT: Men drive well. Women should not drive at all. If Women *must* drive, yelling at them improves performance.
GENDER STEREOTYPE: Men are better at sports than women are.
ILLUSTRATION: In Cricket, teams had to bat against a cricket bowler and successfully whack the ball past a fielder. Art & JJ and Brendon & Rachel opted to do the Cricket Detour. Art & JJ were convinced they could do it faster because there was no way Rachel would ever finish the task.
POINT: JJ and Brendon finished first. They’re both totally dudes.
COUNTERPOINT: But Rachel finished THIRD! And she doesn’t have a penis! That we know of! “It was a good feeling to know that they both got beat by a girl,” Rachel gloated, forgetting that she didn’t, in fact, beat JJ.
“AMAZING RACE” VERDICT: Stereotype Debunked! Or maybe Art just stinks at baseball.
So that’s what I learned from this week’s episode of “The Amazing Race.” I also learned that India is a frantic, loud and smelly country, but “The Amazing Race” teaches us that literally every time they go there.
Oh, and guess what?
So even though Mark & Bopper finished presumably hours behind the other teams, they’ll live to fight another day. This is the second time this season they’ve fallen hours behind at the end and been rescued by an NEL. Last time they were rescued by a travel equalizer. We’ll see if they get as lucky this time.
On one hand, I got really emotional for Mark & Bopper during this episode and I was absolutely impressed with their never-say-die attitude in a challenge that was tailor-made to mess them up. I get that these two guys probably need the money more than the other teams and they’re the only team I’m rooting for without reservations.
On the other hand, Bopper can’t run and he can barely walk. He’s basically passing all of the Roadblocks along to Mark, which will blow up on them eventually. Also, Mark isn’t doing especially well. He’s puking any time they drive anywhere and he has some sort of respiratory problem. That respiratory problem may just be “Being out of shape and no spring chicken,” but it could be something more serious. So anything strenuous has to be done by Mark and Mark can’t really do anything strenuous. So that’s not a good combination.
Some other thoughts from this week’s episode:
*** “Bollywood” really doesn’t refer to the Indian film industry. It refers to the industry located in and around Bombay/Mumbai. Cochin (or Kochi) is a solid 825 miles from Mumbai. I’ll let you decide if you feel like that counts.
*** I loved the sitar-ized versions of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” and “Charge” that played during the cricket scenes.
*** I look forward to asking Vanessa about the time she hit The Alamo with her car when their inevitable exit interview comes around. Speaking of Ralph and Vanessa, how were they they only team that was offered that alternative flight through Kenya that was supposed to have gotten into Cochin over an hour earlier? It didn’t end up mattering, because their flight got in only seconds ahead of the other flight. But that still would have been a weird turn of events.
*** I like that even Team Kentucky, possibly the nicest and least judgmental guys ever, called Art & JJ babies for their ongoing kerfuffle with Rachel and Dave.
Anyway, what’d you think of Sunday’s episode?