A reality show competition that pits social activists against each other, to be hosted by Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Usher and Julianne Hough, has been slammed on social media for trivialising activism.
The Activist is set to feature six activists teamed with three high-profile public figures, working on three global causes – health, education and environment – according to Deadline, which first reported on the show.
Over the course of five weeks, the activists will go head-to-head in challenges to promote their causes, with their success measured via online engagement, social metrics and the hosts’ input. The three teams will then head to the G20 Summit in Rome where they will meet world leaders in the hope of securing funding for their causes. The team that receives the largest commitment is celebrated as the overall winner at the finale, which will also feature live performances by top artists.
Produced by Global Citizen, the global organisation known for its high-profile fundraising concerts featuring some of the world’s biggest stars, The Activist is scheduled to air on CBS in the US and streamed on-demand on Paramount+ starting Friday, October 22.
“The Activist is a first-of-its-kind competition series that will inspire real change, as the series progresses from the US to Rome for the activists’ final challenge at the G20,” said Hugh Evans, chief executive and co-founder of Global Citizen.
“The audience will see the activists’ passion and commitment for their causes tested as they petition world leaders to take urgent action to resolve the interconnected crises we face.”
Acclaimed author and social activist Naomi Klein was one of the first to voice her concern.
"I'm confused: Is this an advanced Marxist critique to expose how competition for money and attention pits activists against each other + undermines deep change? Or just the end of the world?" she posted.
Responding to Klein's post, Kill Bill actress and environmental activist Daryl Hannah said: "Competition is never as productive as collaboration."
Actress and activist Jameela Jamil also let her displeasure become known, posting: "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."
"Priyanka Chopra has sent me home because I couldn't get 'the rainforest' to trend on Twitter," author and illustrator John Paul Brammer joked.
Visual novelist Trung Le Capecchi-Nguyen called the show's premise "gross and cynical".
"They’ve tethered their viewer engagement metrics together with Who Cares the Most at its foundation. I feel sick," he wrote. "This is so deeply unethical and manipulative, it’s breathtaking."
Twitter user Micah Herskind posted: "Pleased to announce I’ll be on the debut season of The Activist, working against my fellow activists to be the best activist, with Usher as my mentor. A better world is possible, we just have to be willing to duel with other activists to the death, for entertainment!"
Following the backlash, Global Citizen said the purpose of the reality show was to support activists and "amplify their causes to an even wider audience".
“The Activist spotlights individuals who’ve made it their life’s work to change the world for the better, as well as the incredible and often challenging work they do on the ground in their communities,” a representative for the group told Deadline.
“This is not a reality show to trivialise activism. On the contrary, our aim is to support activists everywhere, show the ingenuity and dedication they put into their work.”