Sunday, 29 April 2007
The Amazing Race 11 (All-Star Edition), Episode 11
Macau SAR (China) - Andersen Air Force Base (U.S. Territory of Guam) - U.S. Naval Base Guam (U.S. Territory of Guam) - Fort Soledad (U.S. Territory of Guam)
The growing popularity of The Amazing Race and its continued status as the only travel show on primetime national commercial broadcast television in the USA has made the producers of the race increasingly the focus of pitches from government tourism promotion officials eager to see their country, region, or city portrayed favorably on television as a destination for tourists.
This week there was a new twist: instead of a "product placement " for a destination or a product, the bulk of the episode was a product placement for the U.S. military.
Guam remains a colony of the USA (a "territory" governed by a Congress and a President for whom Guamanians have no vote) primarily because of its militarily advantageous location. Much of the territory is off-limits to local people, tourists, or or any other civilians, unless they have permission from the military. So for most of this episode the racers had military drivers and escorts.
The "roadblock" ("a choice between two tasks, each with its own pros and cons") could have been a choice between "killing" and "dying". Instead, it was a choice between two tasks whose descriptions had in common only the word "care", and the military was repeatedly cast in the role of helpers and rescuers.
The racers weren't doing anything you could do if you go to Guam -- unless you get there by enlisting in the military. If there's any lesson in this for travellers, it's that there are as many differences between typical tourist experiences and the images in tourism marketing materials as there are between real life in the military and the pictures painted by military recruiters.
These differences between the race and reality are not as unusual as one might imagine. More native-born U.S. citizens have travelled outside the First World in the military than as tourists. In much of the world -- including some of the places with the largest numbers of people from the USA -- those Americans mostly live in all-American (or at least all-foreign) enclaves such as military bases or residential and employment "compounds" for oil workers and other expatriates. Often those areas are off-limits to local people or to tourists without an invitation and perhaps an escort.
Local people's opinions of America and Americans are often shaped, for better or worse, by their attitudes toward those who live within the walls they've built to close themselves off from the locals. So you can't ignore the presence or impact of these other foreigners. But your experience of a place like Guam or Nigeria as a tourist may be very different from that of someone who saw it from the inside of a military base or an oil-workers' compound.Link | Posted by Edward on Sunday, 29 April 2007, 23:59 (11:59 PM)