Why ‘The Activist’ Should Not Shock You

America has a performative problem. CBS is only one of many.

Brittany Talissa King
ZORA
Published in
3 min readSep 12, 2021

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Editor’s note: Since the publication of this story, The Activist TV show has been totally reimagined in light of the criticism lobbed at CBS. That said, the author of this piece points out issues that will continue to loom large in society as content creators all vie for more viewers and readers. — Adrienne Samuels Gibbs, Editor-in-Chief, ZORA

Competition shows have evolved as the bedrock of American entertainment. It started with The Amazing Race, America’s Next Top Model, and American Idol. The objective for these shows was to “be the best” and “beat your competitors.” A few weeks ago CBS announced a new show called The Activist. It was to be a televised contest where individuals put their philanthropy to the test — where Julianne Hough, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, or Usher will crown the ultimate humanitarian.

But soon after CBS’s announcement, there was an immediate backlash on Twitter.

One tweet from Jameela Jamil said this: “Couldn’t they just give the money it’s going to take to pay this UNBELIEVABLY expensive talent and make this show, directly to activist causes?”

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Brittany Talissa King
ZORA
Writer for

Writer and journalist. I explore race and social issues through history and pop-culture. @b.talissa IG. @KingTalissa Twitter. Journalism MA — NYU.