The Activist: New ‘Inaudible’ TV Show Pits Activists In Competition To Pressure G20 Leaders | Global development


Producers touted it as an exciting new twist on reality TV: an X-Factor-style competition between activists that will give them the chance to lobby world leaders at the G20.

But The Activist, a show announced last week by US broadcaster CBS, has already learned the hard way that popular power can be unpredictable, ruthless and highly effective.

Amid a storm of protests that the show’s concept is a “dystopian” celebration of “Instagram activism,” one of the celebrities lined up to judge the contest admitted that the show “missed the mark. target ”and that she was not qualified for it. role in it – not least because she once wore a blackface for Halloween.

Julianne Hough, a dancer and actress known for judging Dancing with the Stars and America’s Got Talent, said the explosion of criticism had been “a powerful display of real-time activism.”

“I heard you say that the show was performative, promoted pseudo-activism rather than real activism, felt deaf to tone … and that the hosts were not qualified to assess activism, because we are celebrities and not activists, ”she said in an Instagram statement Wednesday.

Hough added: “I also heard you say that trying to value one cause over another was like the Olympics of oppression, and utterly disrespected and disrespected the many activists who were killed, assaulted and confronted. to various abuses while fighting for their causes.

“I do not claim to be an activist and I wholeheartedly agree that the judgment aspect of the show missed the mark, and furthermore, that I am not qualified to act as a judge. “

Co-produced by Global Citizen, an international advocacy organization dedicated to eradicating extreme poverty, the show will feature six activists teaming up with high-level mentors, then competing to champion a particular cause for a ” significant change ”.

The participants, who will be judged not only on their ideas but also on their online engagement and social measures, will travel to the G20 summit in Italy in October where, according to the press release, they will seek “funding and an invaluable awareness for their cause ”.

“The Activist is a one-of-a-kind competition series that will inspire real change as the series progresses from the United States to Rome for the latest activists’ challenge at the G20,” said Hugh Evans, CEO and co-founder. of Citizen of the World.

“The public will see activists’ passion and commitment to their causes put to the test as they call on world leaders to take urgent action to address the interconnected crises we face.

As the backlash has grown, Global Citizen has sought to downplay criticism, insisting the show will not “trivialize” activism. “On the contrary, our goal is to support activists everywhere, to show the ingenuity and dedication they put into their work and to amplify their causes to an even wider audience,” said a spokesperson. at Deadline.

Others disagree. On Twitter, British activist Gina Martin says the concept was “the absolute worst”.

“1. Why the hell do they judge this 2. Why the hell is there a TV show that turns activist into competition when all * essential * [sic] activism is solidarity and community, ”she added.

Writer Stephanie Yeboah called the idea “really horrible.” “A reality show about who can be the next Insta activist?” It’s performative at best, and lightens the hard work that many local organizations do in the field, on a daily basis. Disgusting, ”she added.

Many critics have turned their anger on famous judges: Hough, singer Usher and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, the former Miss World and Bollywood turned Hollywood star.

“Couldn’t they just donate the money it takes to pay for this INCREDIBLY expensive talent and put on this show, directly to militant causes?” Actor Jameela Jamil tweeted. “Rather than turning activism into a game and then giving a fraction of the money we badly need into a ‘prize …?’ People are dying. “

Additional disbelief came from those who pointed out that Hough wore blackface for a Halloween costume featuring a character from the drama Orange Is The New Black, in 2013. She apologized at the time but did. again in response to new reviews of these. who felt that she was not suitable for the activist.

” In addition to all that [criticism of the show], a lot of people are just now starting to realize that I was wearing blackface in 2013, which only added insult to injury. Wearing blackface was a bad choice due to my own white privilege and prejudices about the white body that hurt people and that’s something I regret doing to this day, ”she said. .

Global Citizen has been approached for comment.


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