The fall of 'The Activist': How a show meant to go viral was brought down by the internet

Priyanka Chopra is the latest person involved with the planned reality competition show The Activist to respond to widespread criticism of its concept, starting with the idea that it pitted activists against each other.

"You were heard," the actress, who was supposed to be a host and judge of the show, wrote on social media. "The show got it wrong, and I'm sorry that my participation in it disappointed many of you. The intention was always to bring attention to the people behind the ideas and highlight the actions and impact of the causes they support tirelessly. I'm happy to know that in this new format, their stories will be the highlight, and I'm proud to collaborate with partners who have their ear to the ground and know when it's time to hit pause and re-evaluate."> View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Priyanka Chopra Jonas (@priyankachopra)

Her apology comes a day after Julianne Hough, who had been announced as a host, judge and producer on the CBS production, addressed the issue. Hough said that she was listening to comments that said the idea for the show — activists competing in a series of challenges to raise awareness for their respective issues — "was performative, promoted pseudo-activism over real activism, felt tone-deaf, like Black Mirror,The Hunger Games, and that the hosts weren't qualified to assess activism because we are celebrities and not activists." And she agreed that she's "not qualified to act as a judge." She again noted her regret over wearing blackface as part of a 2013 Halloween costume.> View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Julianne Hough (@juleshough)

While the CEO of producer Live Nation Entertainment, Michael Rapino, had argued last week that the show would "spread awareness about society's most urgent issues while also giving every viewer the opportunity to be part of the solution—an unprecedented example of how entertainment can change the world," the companies behind The Activist eventually relented.

Within hours of Hough's comments, Live Nation, Global Citizen and CBS said in a joint statement that The Activist would be reformatted. Though it had been planned as a five-episode series premiering Oct. 22, it would now be a one-time documentary special that would air in primetime at a yet-to-be-determined date. 

"It will showcase the tireless work of six activists and the impact they have advocating for causes they deeply believe in," the statement read. "Each activist will be awarded a cash grant for the organization of their choice, as was planned for the original show."

Global Citizen's statement was accompanied by an apology to "the activists, hosts, and the larger activist community — we got it wrong."> View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Global Citizen (@glblctzn)

But even as the regrets flowed, social media seemed unhappy that the show was going to air at all. 

Yes thank god. They didn’t get the configuration of the activist competition show right the first time

— Sonnet the Hedgehog (@germyradin) September 16, 2021

How can we make it any clearer that this "show" is the worst idea… ever? 'The Activist' doesn't need to be reconfigured/reshot. It doesn't need to be adjusted. It needs to be scrapped. 100%.

How this show got the green light is still beyond me… but no one wants it. Promise.

— 🦋 (@lmnhzd) September 16, 2021

This show #TheActivist and the people behind it are as bad as we suspected.

Read this thread by climate activist @cloverhogan about their experience with producers:

— Leah McElrath 🏳️‍🌈 (@leahmcelrath) September 16, 2021

If the criticism is that if you go on this show #TheActivist, you are not an activist, then that is correct! Activists should only want the spotlight on the subject of their activism, not on themselves…

— The Masked Native American Commentator (@naturalmelva) September 16, 2021

I want to know the names of the "activists" who signed up to be on the show. Once you know their names, never forget that they sold out their causes in the hope of getting likes, clicks, & followers.

— jerry quickley (@jerryquickley) September 16, 2021

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