The new reality show on CBS called The Activist has been receiving severe backlash from the public. The show by Global Citizen aims to provide a platform for activists across the world to compete in amplifying their messages. They would pitch their cause to the panel of 3 judges with the power to approve or disapprove. According to reports, the format involves 6 activists working along with 3 judges to “bring meaningful change” to health, education, and environmental causes.
The contestants will reportedly face different challenges in the show to get an opportunity to further their cause. Then later they will also get to present in front of the world leaders at the G20 summit in Rome. The winners will be decided based on the commitment they generate through their cause.
The three judges in the show are Usher, Priyanka Chopra, and Julianne Hough. Despite the high-profile casting, the show could not avoid the brutal criticism based on several reasons. A popular opinion is that it undermines and trivializes the work of real activists in various causes.
The Activist Fails to Impress the Audience
Much of the viewers and real activists have condemned the concept of The Activist. They opined that it was capitalistic and overshadowed the work being done at grassroots levels.
The show offers its audience to be a “part of activism” which implies anybody can be an activist by tapping a button. This is coming off as very disrespectful to the struggles of real activists who have to go through a lot to get something done legally. Most have lost their lives in pursuit of change. According to reports, more than 220 climate activists were killed in 2020 for highlighting how detrimental are human activities to the Earth. The show has caused concerns about whether it wants to portray activism as some kind of sick game.
Moreover, the show’s judge Priyanka Chopra had been in a problem with one activist in the past. According to reports, the US-based Pakistani activist Ayesha Malik criticized Chopra for supporting the Indian Government’s surgical strikes in Balakot, Pakistan in February 2019. Malik objected to how could Chopra be an activist if she used her platform for warmongering. Chopra responded to the activist by saying “are you done venting” after which many called her out as a hypocrite.
Priyanka also received a fair share of criticism when she suggested greeting each other with “Namaste” rather than a handshake during the time of COVID restrictions being placed in India.
Using Activism as Competition
Media personality and activist Jameela Jamil pointed out that The Activist was mocking the existing causes by starting its own little game of big stars. One opinion was that the money of their salaries could have been used in the ongoing causes that require immediate attention and solution. Folks just could not understand how this show could help solve the intersectional problems.
The show implies that social metrics, online engagement, and judge’s influence are key elements of making activism successful and getting funds from G20 for the proposed cause.
Activist Shares Experience of Audition
Young climate activist Clover Hogan took to Twitter and shared his complete experience with The Activist scene in a thread. He said that he was called to appear in what they described as an “audition”. He mentioned how heartbroken he was when he learned that somebody was “casting” activists for a reality show. He sensed a lack of compassion and lust for profit so refused to join.
One of the saddest realities that make these activists upset is the show’s reflection of the same real-world activism scenario where several issues are placed at once in the spotlight as separate entries. Most of these issues are intersectional that are often seen being competed against each other in the media and social media.
In The Activist, it is also seen that health, environment, and education are against each other which ignores the intersectionality of these issues and how they are connected. It is not activism if the audience is forced to accept one cause as the “winner” as if others don’t deserve a resolution.