When CBS’s new show “The Activist,” which puts six activists against each other to advocate various social causes, was unveiled earlier this week, it was unanimously slammed as the worst idea ever, in a rare case of everyone actually agreeing on the internet.
The five-week reality TV series, co-hosted by Priyanka Chopra, Usher, and Julianne Hough, promises to “bring meaningful change,” but critics have slammed it for being a “unhelpful distraction from the real work going on,” promoting a “zero-sum game ideology,” and focusing on contestants rather than the “marginalized groups that the activists are supposedly advocating for.”
Hough is now reacting to the criticism, posting on Tuesday on Instagram that she is “truly listening with an open heart and mind.”
“I heard you remark there was hypocrisy in the show because activism is rooted in a fight against capitalism and the trauma it causes so many people, and the play itself felt like a gleaming commercial endeavor,” Hough wrote. “I also heard you mention that valuing one cause above another seemed like the Oppression Olympics, and that doing so completely overlooked and disregarded the many activists who have been slain, assaulted, and subjected to various forms of abuse while fighting for their causes.”
“As a result of this, there is a legitimate sense of disrespect, dehumanization, insensitivity, and hurt,” she continued. “I make no claim to be an activist, and I totally agree that the show’s judging portion fell short of expectations, and that I am unqualified to serve as a judge.”
The “Dancing with the Stars” veteran also addressed critics who claimed that her wearing blackface to a Halloween party in 2013 while dressed as Uzo Aduba’s “Orange Is the New Black” character was proof that she shouldn’t be in a position of authority on the program.
Hough added, “Wearing blackface was a horrible choice based on my own white privilege and white body bias that injured individuals and is something I regret to this day.” “However, my regret pales in contrast to what so many others have gone through. My commitment has been to think and act in new ways. Not flawlessly, but hopefully with a better knowledge of how racism and white supremacy damage everyone.”
Hough said she agreed to join “The Activist” because she wanted to “be a part of something that highlights, and is based around sharing activists’ work on a broader platform,” but she is now reconsidering her role on the show.
“I have faith and belief in the lovely people that I’ve worked with will make the right choice and do the right thing moving forward,” she wrote, addressing others involved in the production.
“It’s not only for the sake of the entertainment; it’s for the greater good. I’m going to keep listening, unlearning, learning, and being truly present with what you’ve said because I don’t want to merely respond. I want to consume, comprehend, and answer in a genuine and appropriate manner.
“I also recognize that there is no response that will make everyone happy,” she concluded. “However, I want you to know that this is a dialogue and I am still listening.”
Hough’s co-hosts have yet to respond to the uproar surrounding “The Activist,” which is still planned to broadcast on CBS and Paramount+ on Friday, Oct. 22 at 8 p.m.
Contestants will “go head-to-head in challenges to promote their causes,” including health, education, and the environment, according to a news release, with their performance “evaluated via internet interaction, social metrics, and hosts’ comments.”
In a statement to Deadline earlier this week, Global Citizen, the series’ producer, addressed the controversy.
“‘The Activist’ highlights individuals who have dedicated their lives to improving the world, as well as the tremendous and often difficult work they undertake on the ground in their communities,” a spokeswoman told the site. “This isn’t a reality show designed to make action seem petty. Our goal, on the other hand, is to help activists everywhere, to showcase their brilliance and passion, and to bring their issues to a wider audience.”