Upcoming reality show The Activist, starring Usher, has been facing a brunt of backlash on social media due to its premise of putting activism in the space of capitalism and online engagement.
The Activist, also starring Priyanka Chopra-Jonas and Julianne Hough as fellow hosts and created by Global Citizen, was announced by CBS Thursday as one of the network’s upcoming reality show projects. Billed as an “unprecedented series,” the reality show would feature six activists competing to garner online support for their various causes with the final challenge taking place during the G20 Summit in Rome, Italy. According to the official description:
“THE ACTIVIST is an unprecedented series featuring six activists from around the world working to bring meaningful change to one of three urgent universal causes: health, education and the environment. 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. The competing activists’ success is measured via online engagement, social metrics and hosts’ input. The hosts will guide the activists through their journey, with plenty of surprises from high-profile public figures.”
Social media took issue with the idea of the reality show, with many posting about how antithetical it is to turn an altruistic endeavor like activism into yet another commodity that can be used as a popularity contest and money-making endeavor.
“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 is it just the end of the world?” wrote climate justice professor and writer Naomi Klein on Twitter.
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?— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) September 9, 2021
Or just the end of the world?
Popular YouTube channel The Grapevine also sounded off on the series on Twitter, succinctly writing, “America is a game show.”
America is a game show. https://t.co/VUSQjqFk72— The Grapevine (@TheGrapevineTV) September 9, 2021
Is usher going to pay the activists with this pic.twitter.com/WeXHdv2PIB— javi posting his L’s online (@etrnl_oblvn) September 9, 2021
According to Global Citizen co-founder and CEO Hugh Evans, The Activist is meant to be a new way to bring activism into people’s lives.
“The Activist is a first-of-its-kind competition series that will inspire real change, as the series progresses from the United States to Rome for the Activists’ final challenge at the G20,” he said. “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.”
Jack Sussman, Executive Vice President, Specials, Music, Live Events and Alternative Programming for CBS, also said in a statement that The Activist is meant to be “a ground-breaking series poised to inspire viewers” by mixing philanthropy with entertainment.