UPDATE: Julianne Hough has issued a statement addressing the both the backlash over “The Activist” and her blackface controversy, which some people are only learning about because of the reaction to “The Activist.” Read her statement here.
The original post continues below.
A former “Dancing With the Stars” professional dancer and judge is under fire for a new CBS show — Julianne Hough’s new reality competition series “The Activist” has fans riled up. Read on to find out why and what role Hough will play on the show.
‘The Activist’ Is a New Reality Competition Series
CBS announced at its 2021 Television Critics Association summer press tour day on Sept. 9 that its latest reality competition series premieres at the end of October. “The Activist” aims to “bring meaningful change” to one of “three urgent universal causes: health, education, and the environment,” according to the CBS press release.
“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.
The hosts are Grammy-winning record artist Usher, actress Priyanka Chopra Jones and former “Dancing With the Stars” pro Julianne Hough.
“’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,” said Hugh Evans, CEO and co-founder of Global Citizen, in a statement. “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.”
“Combining philanthropy and entertainment, ‘The Activist’ is a ground-breaking series poised to inspire viewers,” added Jack Sussman, Executive Vice President, Specials, Music, Live Events and Alternative Programming for CBS. “We’re thrilled to have Usher, Priyanka and Julianne as part of the series, guiding our CBS audience through the journeys of passionate changemakers from around the world.”
TV Viewers and Hough Fans Are Not Happy About the Show’s Premise
The backlash about this show was swift on social media. Activist and former Georgia congressional candidate Nabilah Islam cannot believe “The Activist” got the greenlight at CBS.
“Fighting for issues is tough enough without having to dance and sing for a bunch of millionaires while they decide who’s worthy of their crumbs. Who ever thought this was a good idea should take a f***ing seat,” wrote Islam on Twitter.
On Hough’s Instagram announcement for the new show, one commenter wrote, “How is this even remotely ok and being celebrated when the money being used for the production for this whole thing could just be given directly to the work being done…and then also without encouraging unnecessary competition for resources that we already have to face in real life? Really?!?! This ain’t it.”
Another commenter added, “Turning activism into a competition sounds truly heinous.” There are also many more comments about the “performative” nature of “The Activist” and how it “undermines everything that true activism is about.”
There were also several commenters on the Instagram post who mentioned Hough’s 2013 controversy where she dressed as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren (Uzo Aduba) from “Orange Is the New Black” complete with dark face paint. At the time, Hough was blasted about wearing “blackface” for Halloween, which she later apologized for in a tweet, writing, “I am a huge fan of the show ‘Orange Is the New Black,’ actress Uzo Aduba, and the character she has created. It certainly was never my intention to be disrespectful or demeaning to anyone in any way. I realize my costume hurt and offended people and I truly apologize.”
On Twitter, one user compared the show to “The Hunger Games,” the dystopian book series by Suzanne Collins wherein children fight to the death in an annual tournament broadcast like a reality TV series, and journalist Cody Johnston of the “Some More News” show wrote, “Weird way to announce a new season of ‘Black Mirror,’ but okay!”
Another user wrote, “It’s like capitalism finally figured out a way to kill off empathy.”
Rapper Propaganda, who also hosts the “Hood Politcs with Prop” podcast, wrote on Twitter, “I think the grossest part of this is it’s not far from how activism and no profit fundraising actually is. You’re forced to be pitted against other causes for the peanuts of funding the state gives out.”
Intercept correspondent Naomi Klein wrote, “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?”
Author Joey Ayoub observed, “The reason dystopian stories can be uncanny is that we know that they can be real. They just often precede reality. Such obscene shows make total sense in a disconnected, elite world where activists are nothing more than entrepreneurs-to-be. It’s dehumanizing.”
The five-week “The Activist” season premieres Friday, Oct. 22 at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times on CBS. “Dancing With the Stars” season 30 premieres Monday, September 20, 2021, at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times on ABC.
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