A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Push is a British reality show featuring a social experiment with this goal: to manipulate an unsuspecting person to kill someone. There's lots of sneaky behavior, some cursing, and alcohol is visible. There are also some violent moments, including people appearing to actually commit murder (but no one is really hurt in the end). It's not meant for kids, but the way the experiment is conducted raises a lot of ethical issues that are worth discussing.
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What's the story?
THE PUSH is a controversial British reality series featuring a large-scale social experiment designed to determine if human beings can be manipulated to commit murder. With the help of a team of 70 professional actors, a stunt coordinator, and special effects artists, self-proclaimed psychological illusionist Derren Brown creates a fake youth charity gala and hires an unsuspecting subject to work at the event. As the pre-planned events unfold throughout the evening, hidden cameras capture the team of actors attempting to persuade the subject to do things she or he normally wouldn't do. From a separate room, Brown monitors the subject's responses to these demands. Over time, the stakes are raised, and the subject is put in a situation where he or she must decide whether to comply with the group's desire to push a man off a building to his death. Throughout it all, scenes reveal how contestants were unknowingly selected for the show, and other behind-the-scenes moments.
Is it any good?
This disturbing, host-centered reality special, which aired in the U.K. as Derren Brown: Pushed to the Edge in 2016, seeks to demonstrate how easily people give up control over their own lives. It also underscores how dangerous it can be when it is allowed to happen. But while these messages are important, Brown's process appears to violate the ethical standards of psychological research established after the infamous 1960 Milgram Experiment, which was designed to pressure people to cause harm in the name of science. Meanwhile, the potential for watching someone shove a person off a building (supposedly to his or her death) on a reality show also raises major ethical concerns.
Perhaps as a way of deflecting these complaints, Brown continually reminds viewers that the goal of the experiment is to highlight the problems that come with giving up autonomous control over one's life. But the show is meant to be more entertaining than educational, and purposely builds suspense among viewers by mainly focusing on one subject, and counting down the minutes until that subject must make the decision to commit murder. The Push may be different from anything you've seen before, but it also makes you wonder how far reality television will go to captivate audiences.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the ethics of showing people hurting other people on a reality show like The Push. Is it appropriate to trick someone into thinking that they should hurt someone, even if it is potentially entertaining?
Is The Push really meant to teach viewers something? Or is it really just a way of entertaining them?
What is the Milgram Experiment? Why is it considered unethical?
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