Reality TV was first introduced as a frivolous and inconsequential form of entertainment to rake money. It was something to play in the background on weekends and something to jokingly rage about on social media. However, when reality TV crosses the line between television and reality, things get messy.
American TV network CBS, in collaboration with Global Citizen and Live Nation, had pitched an idea for a reality show titled ‘The Activist’. The show supposedly challenged six activists to compete with each other for the prize money. The activists, divided into teams of three, are supposed to promote their causes – each with a global significance. According to this Deadline article, the success of their activism relies on online engagement, social metrics, and the hosts’ input. Further, the teams, upon amplifying their message, will attend the G20 Summit in Rome, Italy to meet world leaders and secure funding. The team that receives the most public commitment will eventually win the show.
Netizens were quick to point out how this show was hypocritical and tone-deaf.
Couldn’t they just give the money it’s going to take to pay this UNBELIEVABLY expensive talent and make this show, directly to activist causes? Rather than turning activism into a game and then giving a fraction of the much needed money away in a “prize…?” People are dying. https://t.co/GLCUZcGgfb
— Jameela Jamil 🌈 (@jameelajamil) September 10, 2021
Of the supposed hosts – Usher, Julianne Hough and Priyanka Chopra, the latter received the most flack. Chopra even apologised on her social media, saying, “The last few days have been a powerful demonstration of real-time activism. Thank you for using your voices, calling me in, your accountability, and your candor. I am deeply listening with an open heart and mind”.
CBS, after much backlash, has decided to change the show into a documentary series. “It has become apparent the format of the show as announced distracts from the vital work these incredible activists do in their communities every day. The push for global change is not a competition and requires a global effort,” they admitted publicly.
Hollywood’s oblivion towards activism
Of all the things about the show’s premise that infuriated several Twitter users, the random selection of celebrity hosts was more prominent. None of the listed celebrities are registered philanthropists or activists. Save for a few charities and fundraisers, the trio has hardly participated in any ‘global activism’ movements. In what is now a failed stint to appease the politically correct and politically indifferent alike, CBS has demonstrated how out of touch they are with the real world.
Hollywood itself is ridden with problems – casting couch blunders, unreported sexual harassment – everything activists condemn. Despite that, the former has gone on to try and capitalise on the very revolution. Hollywood and its celebrities are oblivious of how they contribute to classism, consumerism, political propaganda, elitism and colonialism. The internet’s rage about CBS’s incompetent “contribution” to activism was justified.