'The Activist' producers change format after public backlash; celebrity co-hosts apologize

·4 min read

Producers of the highly-criticized competition show "The Activist" are rethinking the production's format.

The show's co-producer, the activist organization Global Citizen, announced that the show will now be a one-night primetime documentary to air on a date not yet made public.

"We apologize to the activists, hosts and the larger activist community — we got it wrong," Global Citizen tweeted Wednesday. "It is our responsibility to use this platform in the most effective way to realize change..."

Originally "The Activist" was five-part series slated to debut on Oct. 22 before receiving criticism on social media.

Producers for upcoming series "The Activist," co-hosted by Usher, Priyanka Chopra and Julianne Hough, have restructured the production after public backlash.
Producers for upcoming series "The Activist," co-hosted by Usher, Priyanka Chopra and Julianne Hough, have restructured the production after public backlash.

Activists also discussed their misgivings with the show with the Bergen Record, part of the USA TODAY Network before the format change.

New York-based activist Ariel Gold, the national co-director of the anti-war and human rights organization CODEPINK, felt the show (in its previous format) went completely against the ethos of activism.

"Activism isn't a competition at all. In fact, quite the opposite. We succeed in activism, we succeed with progressive social change by linking our causes together and by building solidarity with each other," Gold said.

Anika Dhulipala, a New Jersey high school senior and a member of the Sunrise Movement climate change political adversary organization, agreed with the criticism but also said there is a positive aspect of "The Activist."

"I think there's some good to broadcasting what people are fighting for in life in terms of activism because it may inspire others to fight for equity, equality, justice and other stuff on their own time," Dhulipala said.

Social media users also expressed their frustrations with the show.

"This is truly horrific, lol. A reality competition show on who can be the next Insta-activist? It's performative at best, and kinda makes light of the hard work a lot of grassroots organisations do on the ground, on a daily basis," wrote user @StephanieYeboah.

"Despite robust discussions about the emptiness of performative activism last summer, CBS and (its partner) Global Citizen still decided to move forward with The Activist and that just really shows where their priorities lie. It's all about perception and appearances rather than reality," user @cacarusoo added.

The show was first announced to include celebrity co-hosts Usher, Priyanka Chopra and Julianne Hough. Chopra and Hough broke their silence about the controversy on social media.

Chopra posted a statement on Instagram Thursday writing that the show "got it wrong."

"I have been moved by the power of your voices over the past week," Chopra wrote. "You were heard. The show got it wrong and I'm sorry that my participation in it disappointed many of you."

Hough addressed fans' concerns with a lengthy Instagram statement Tuesday.

"I heard you say that the show was performative, promoted pseudo-activism over real activism, felt done-deaf, like 'Black Mirror,' 'The Hunger Games,' and that the hosts weren't qualified to assess activism because we are celebrities and not activists," she wrote. (CBS says the competitors' success is measured "via online engagement, social metrics and hosts’ input.")

Interview: Julianne Hough talks solo quarantine while husband Brooks Laich is in Idaho

However, she acknowledged that she doesn't "claim to be an activist and wholeheartedly" agrees "that the judging aspect of the show missed the mark, and furthermore, that I am not qualified to act as a judge."

Hough said she signed on to "The Activist" to "help educate, mobilize and inspire people around the world to get involved in activism because many worthy causes need attention, funding and most importantly, the power to effect real change.

"I have faith and confidence in the beautiful people that I've worked with will make the right choice and do the right thing moving forward," Hough wrote. "Not just for the show, but for the greater good."

Hough also addressed her own controversial past, in which she wore blackface while dressing as Uzo Aduba's "Orange Is the New Black" character, known as "Crazy Eyes," for Halloween in 2013.

"Wearing blackface was a poor choice based on my own white privilege and white body bias that hurt people and is something that I regret doing to this day," she wrote. "However, the regret that I live with pales in comparison to the lived experiences of so many. My commitment has been to reflect and act differently."

Contributing: Ricardo Kaulessar, The Bergen Record; Elise Brisco, USA TODAY

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'The Activist' TV show producers, co-hosts apologize after backlash

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting