A Case against HGTV’s Island Hunters: Micro-Colonization Edition

HGTV has a new show that is all kinds of problematic. Based on the hit model of their acclaimed show House Hunters, where wealthy suburbanites try to find their dream home and are usually persnickety about easily fixable things, comes Island Hunters.

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Island Hunters, which premiered March 21, 2014, is a show similar to House Hunters, but with the added twist of trying to find an island to buy. With millions of dollars at their disposal, wealthy suburbanites flock to the “exotic,” trying to capture the beauty of other countries to call their own.

Colonization is not some concept that is incredibly far in the past. There are many people who they themselves have experienced colonization in the present as well as those whose families have been severely affected by it. The buying and selling of land is nothing new, but the buying and selling of land to those looking for an exotic getaway where they can be in another country without interacting with the locals is another thing entirely. The concept of owning a private island as a status symbol is something to be considered on a very micro level as a new wave of colonization.

There is an episode where two friends choose to purchase an island in the Philippines so they can start a resort together. They walk through the three islands, and finally settle upon one. During the wrap up, they mention that the “Filipino natives” have been “helpful” in their adjustment. Said natives are serving these two men as they fish, swim through the reefs and hike through their new conquest.

The concept of House Hunters as an original show was interesting, albeit classist and very much heteronormative. However, Island Hunters brings this to a whole new level of horrifying. The show has thus far had a total of 1 person of color on the hunting side of the show, and this creates an unsettling trend. While the show is still new, it has inspired many people to tweet HGTV with their desire to buy an island themselves.

There are only so many island’s that a country has for sale before they start selling ones primarily inhabited by the native people. This trend in ownership of land could very much turn into a new wave of colonization as time goes on and more people are inspired to show off their wealth through island ownership. It is striking how little these purchases are, ranging from 1-5 million dollars per island. What was once a far off distant dream has now turned into a reality for many who realize that an island may be within their monetary reach.

This show is still brand new, and as of current the realm by which the show has reached is very small. There have been two episodes centered in Belize, one in Panama, one in Fiji, one in the Philippines and one in Australia. It is difficult to determine where this show will go next. However, with its predecessor’s popularity, there is little doubt that this show and its cultural influence won’t have an impact on other countries and their way of life.

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