“Contestants on the one-off game show from the public broadcaster VPRO, part of an annual week of experimental programmes, comprise five asylum seekers who have exhausted legal avenues to stay in the Netherlands and await imminent deportation to their country of origin.
They compete in a quiz about Dutch culture, history and language, with the winner awarded €4,000 (£3,500) to help cushion them when they are expelled. Consolation prizes include a bulletproof vest”. (Peter Walker, Guardian)
To what extent can we use entertainment to
exploit communicate messages concerning the humanity of asylum seekers and refugees? It is like playing Russian Roulette, but the empty chambers are actually loaded, and the loaded chamber empty.
There are two premises to this show that are false. First, according to the Guardian article, “the intention is, far from mocking asylum seekers, to instead demonstrate how well integrated many are”. I’m sorry, I am afraid the answer we were looking for is ‘entertainment’. Any pretence that the underlying purpose of this show is to raise awareness of the country’s tightening immigration laws is false. The stakes are too high for those competing. The entertainment value is right where the producers want it to be. This is why we love game shows. We love to see people lose – it’s very satisfying. Besides, to measure the affect of this show, and determine whether it ‘raises awareness’, the network would need to run a randomised controlled trial (RCT), for which a control group watches Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
Second, that the intention of the show is to demonstrate integration. So, how does the game show work? How do the contestants demonstrate how well integrated they are? Well, like the author of the Guardian article, I Google translated the Weg van Nederland website. Apparently, the host, flanked by two air hostesses,
“bombarded them with quiz questions that they can prove how much they have learned in the Netherlands, including for the Dutch royal family, history, map of the Netherlands, Dutch artists and the Dutch language”.
If people had to prove how well integrated they are by answering questions concerning a nation’s history, culture, language, and politics, I’m afraid many natural-born citizens would lose. Hell, I would probably lose if I was bombarded with questions about Australia. I could competently answer questions about 2nd Century Roman history or about the offensive line of the Minnesota Vikings, but many Australian-related questions would probably elude me:
1) In what year did Federation take place?
2) What are the three levels of government in Australia?
3) What was Don Bradman’s test batting average?
4) How fast could Prime Minister Bob Hawke skoll a yard glass?
5) Which one of these celebrities is NOT Australian? Russell Crowe, Mel Gibson, Nicole Kidman, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo?
6) How many kilos did Warnie lose in order to get hitched with Liz Hurley?
7) What exactly is a ‘flaming galah’?
How many steps between this game show and Big Brother is there? Why not just skip those steps, and install cameras throughout places like Christmas Island, which will broadcast directly into viewers’ homes? Before the Australian Government’s political agreement with Malaysia was scuttled by the High Court, a recording of the swap was to be uploaded onto YouTube. There are other ways to effectively use media as a medium to advocate, educate and raise awareness about issues like immigration.
Depending on the ratings, I’m sure there is already talk of spin-offs. Why not have a children’s version of the show, in which unaccompanied minors compete in the style of game shows such as, ‘Are you smarter than a 5th grader?’ or ‘Amazing‘? We could even skip the need to remake the 1987 classic, The Running Man, and just adapt it to a reality TV format:
“Damon Killian is the host of THE RUNNING MAN, a game show wherein
convicted felonsasylum seekers are given the chance to run to freedom but have to elude the stalkers; men who hunt them down and kill them in gruesome manners”.
Tony Abbott could be Dynamo, Chris Bowen, Subzero, and Bob Katter, Buzzsaw.
The only saving grace from this new form of game show is that despite the cruelty demonstrated towards its contestants, it comes no where near that displayed previously on some Japanese game shows. Well, not yet at least.
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