Social media users accuse CBS' new show "The Activist" of trivialising urgent universal causes when in many countries, activists are being jailed or otherwise repressed.
A new US reality show that pits activists promoting charitable causes against each other and uses social media as one metric of their success has ignited controversy.
"The Activist," whose launch was announced this week, will be broadcast on the American network CBS in October and co-produced by non-governmental organisation Global Citizen, with celebrity hosts such as the singer Usher, actress Priyanka Chopra and dancer Julianne Hough.
The audience will follow the adventures of "six activists from around the world working to bring meaningful change to one of three urgent universal causes: health, education and the environment," CBS said in a statement.
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
"The activists will compete in missions, media stunts, digital campaigns and community events aimed at garnering the attention of the world's most powerful decision-makers, demanding action, now," it continued.
Success "is measured via online engagement, social metrics and hosts' input."
The finale will take place at the G20 summit in Rome in late October, where the budding activists will meet with world leaders in hopes of securing funding and raising awareness for their cause.
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*If* it airs.— Karen Nicole Attiah (@KarenAttiah) September 11, 2021
CBS executives described the show as "groundbreaking" and said it hoped it would inspire viewers.
But the backlash was swift, with social media users accusing the show of trivialising such causes at a time when in many countries activists are being jailed or otherwise repressed in their bid to stand up for human rights.
I won't relay what has already been said so eloquently by folks like @jameelajamil @DijahSB @myeshachou@xinwenxiaojie. What I will add, from BTS experience, is that they were not interested in the issues - at all. They only wanted a story. & a story manufactured for Hollywood.— Clover Hogan (@cloverhogan) September 11, 2021
"Fighting for issues is tough enough without having to dance and sing for a bunch of millionaires while they decide who's worthy of their crumbs," wrote Nabilah Islam, an American activist and former Democratic congressional candidate in Georgia, on Twitter.
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Some of us have been arrested, jailed, hunted, exiled, passport confiscated for our activism and yet celebrities want to have the fun of having " activists" compete in a TV game show for funding.— Judicaelle Irakoze (@Judicaelle_) September 10, 2021
It's more disappointing being an idea championed by @GlblCtzn. where is the shame?
"This is not a reality show to trivialise activism," Global Citizen said in response to the backlash in a statement to Deadline.
The aim, said the organisation, "is to support activists everywhere, show the ingenuity and dedication they put into their work, and amplify their causes to an even wider audience."
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We're all laughing at the Activist show starring Priyanka Chopra, but that's what activism has been reduced to. Rich UC kids using their Instagram activist pages for getting into Ivy Leagues is the norm now. Activism is now only meant for making a career rather than making change— Sankul Sonawane (@Sankul333) September 11, 2021