CBS Faces Backlash for Turning Activism into a Reality TV Competition

zo Zo is a staff writer at Okayplayer where he covers…
Activist and environmentalist Marvina Newton leads the march at Extinction Rebellion's Carnival for Climate Justice in London
Photo by Dave Rushen for SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

The announcement of CBS’ new show, The Activist, was met with sharp critique and a whole lot of head-scratching.

In case you weren’t yet convinced whether we’re truly entering the end of days, the premise of an incoming five-part series from CBS should just about do it.

Today, the network announced The Activist, a celebrity-hosted reality TV competition that pits advocates for social and environmental causes against one another for funding and awareness. According to the show’s official synopsis, contestants will “go head-to-head in challenges to promote their causes, with their success measured via online engagement, social metrics, and hosts’ input.” Whoever manages to score the highest in these seemingly arbitrary metrics will move on to the G20, where they’ll make their case for a panel of world leaders. Usher, Priyanka Chopra, and Julianne Hough, will be the show’s high-profile judges with painfully minimal experience in anything activist-related.

The show’s announcement was met with sharp critique and plenty of head-scratching from actual activists and really anyone with even a cursory understanding of how philanthropy and advocacy work. Mostly, the backlash has centered around how throwing a Hunger Games of social and environmental justice campaigns only lines the network’s pocket and ramps up ratings, instead of bringing meaningful attention and money to those very causes. Others noted how the show is effectively encouraging performative activism by turning advocacy into a gameshow. “The revolution will be monetized,” wrote LA Times columnist, Erin B. Logan, leaving little else to be said. But the responses to The Activist started pouring in the moment the series was announced. And they are heated.

Read through some of the reactions to CBS’ new series below. Brace yourself for the show’s arrival on October 22nd.

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