“The Activist” Undergoes Changes to Format Following Online Criticism


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Dominic Rascati, Copy Chief

After a storm of backlash from the internet, CBS is changing the format of its new show, “The Activist,” from a reality competition to a documentary.

The show’s original concept was to pit activists against each other, creating campaigns for their various causes and measuring them based on digital engagement. The winner would also be selected based on input from three celebrity judges, namely Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Usher, and Julianne Hough.

Criticism swiftly followed as the internet labeled the show as “dystopian.” People online agreed that the original concept came off as performative, notably when including wealthy celebrities and selecting one social cause at the expense of other causes.

On the tailwind of the frustration, both CBS and Global Citizen have released statements about the show. 

CBS wrote, “‘The Activist’ was designed to show a wide audience the passion, long hours, and ingenuity that activists put into changing the world, hopefully inspiring others to do the same. However, 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.”

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

Two of the original judges, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Julianne Hough, also took to Instagram to post apologies to their fans and those upset by the show’s format.

Priyanka Chopra Jonas said in part, “The show got it wrong, and I’m sorry that my participation in it disappointed many of you.” Hough also said that she “was really excited to be a part of something that highlights and is centered around sharing activists’ work on a larger platform,” but in light of the criticism, she will “continue to listen, unlearn, [and] learn.”

The new format of “The Activist” will now be a documentary that follows six activists, showing off their hard work and talent without putting them in competition against one another.