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The Creators Of "The Activist" Show Have Changed Their Minds After Social Media Backlash

"We got it wrong."

Posted on September 16, 2021, at 12:31 p.m. ET

Amy Sussman / Getty Images, Rich Fury / Getty Images for dcp, Emma Mcintyre / Getty Images for iHeartMedia

A series that was set to pit activists against each other in pursuit of funding for their causes will instead be a documentary after social media backlash forced the show’s creators to admit that they “got it wrong.”

Initially pitched as the first show of its kind, The Activist was set to premiere on Oct. 22, with celebrities Usher, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Julianne Hough named as judges.

“It has become apparent the format of the show as announced distracts from the vital work these incredible activists do in their communities every day. The push for global change is not a competition and requires a global effort,” CBS and production partners Live Nation and Global Citizen said in a joint statement.

The initial concept was a five-week reality show that would chronicle six activists facing off in challenges. Their success would be measured in metrics including performance on social media.

The format was immediately met with criticism for both the idea and the judges attached. Cristina Jiménez, cofounder of United We Dream, a youth-led advocacy group for immigrant children, described the show as a “mockery” of the work activists do.

“This is sickening. Are we in the hunger games? Individuals on this panel are questionable. Lol Priyanka Chopra supporting activism?” wrote one person online.

As first reported in Variety, the show will now be a primetime documentary special highlighting the work of six activists and their causes, and all the activists will receive a cash grant.

“We hope that by showcasing their work we will inspire more people to become more involved in addressing the world’s most pressing issues. We look forward to highlighting the mission and lives of each of these incredible people,” said the joint statement.

A message from Global Citizen on "The Activist."

Twitter: @GlblCtzn

In a second statement, Global Citizen apologized for missing the mark.

“Global activism centers on collaboration and cooperation, not competition. We apologize to the activists, hosts, and the larger activist community — we got it wrong,” the statement said.

The international organization, best known for some of its star-studded fundraising festivals, acknowledged that it had a “responsibility” to use its platform in a more meaningful and effective way.

A representative from Global Citizen didn’t clarify what role the three celebrity judges would now play in this reformatted version of the series. The new air date is to be announced later on.

In some spaces, the decision has been celebrated.

Shoutout to the internet for collectively and effectively bullying Global Citizen out of activism reality tv https://t.co/wIlzec76vh

Twitter: @CLaRose96

Next time how about think TWICE before making activism of all things into a competition. We already have everything capitalised. Fashion, money, power. The last thing we need is people who are in pain being used for it too. https://t.co/FY9jrCtbWv

Twitter: @AylinDodogan

Still, others stand by the initial belief that this show is a very bad idea.

I still want to know who greenlit this idea? Who thought it was a good idea to make activists compete for a cash prize? Those with decision making power are still seated at the table and that issue still remains, regardless of what iteration the show takes on. https://t.co/4OQGOt7Jio

Twitter: @ralindawatts


Or, hear me out, they could just scrap the whole thing and put the amount of money they spent on this mess toward people and organizations that need help. No need to double down with a documentary, CBS. This was a bad idea to begin with, marketing-wise. https://t.co/S4nkmVBiUp

Twitter: @klabovitz

BuzzFeed News contacted representatives for Usher, Chopra Jonas, and Hough for this story.


A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.