‘The Activist’ co-judge Julianne Hough responds to ‘powerful’ criticism of the show

‘I want you to know that this is a conversation and I’m still listening,’ said Hough

Entertainment Desk September 16, 2021

After the intense backlash received by the upcoming reality TV series The Activist, in which six international activists will be pitted against each other to determine which activist and their related cause are worthy of a prize, co-judge Julianne Hough took to Instagram to share a detailed response to the criticism. Speaking of the backlash the show, which will also be judged by Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Usher, has received, Hough explained that she is “listening” and that she is urging the people in charge to make due changes.

Speaking of how many people labelled the show as problematic due to the “tone-deaf” way in which it approaches activism, Hough wrote, “I heard you say the show 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 they were celebrities and not activists.”

On how the show was criticised for capitalizing on social causes, she added, “I heard you say there was hypocrisy in the show because at the root of all activism is a fight against capitalism and the trauma that it causes so many people and that the show itself felt like a shiny capitalistic endeavour.”

Addressing how people felt that the show missed the mark with its “Oppression Olympics”-like nature, she continued, “I also heard you say that trying to value one cause over another felt like the Oppression Olympics and totally missed and disrespected the many activists who have been killed, assaulted and faced various abuses fighting for their causes.”

Hough explained that she is actively listening to the criticism, and she feels that the anger against the show is justified. She added, “There is a feeling of insult, dehumanisation, insensitivity and hurt that is being rightfully felt.”

Accepting that she is not qualified to judge the show, the actor said, “I do not claim to be an activist and wholeheartedly agree that the judging aspect of the show missed the mark and, furthermore, that I am not qualified to act as a judge.”

While addressing the fact that she wore blackface in 2013, an issue that was brought up once again after the announcement of the show, Hough wrote, “On top of all of this, many people are just becoming aware that I wore blackface in 2013, which only further added insult to injury. Wearing blackface was a poor choice based on my own white privilege and white body bias that hurt people and is something I regret doing to this day.”

Sharing the original motivations that led to her signing on to The Activist, Hough wrote, “The original reason I signed on to this show was because I was really excited to be a part of something that highlights, and is centred around sharing activists’ work on a larger platform. In doing so, I felt it would help educate, mobilise, and inspire people around the world to get involved in activism.”

Explaining that she has urged the producers of the show to make changes, the actor wrote, “I’ve shared your concerns, as well as my own, with the powers that be, who I believe have listened,”, adding, “I have faith and confidence in the beautiful people that I’ve worked with will make the right choice and do the right thing moving forward.”

“I’m going to continue to listen, unlearn, learn and take the time to be fully present with everything you have all shared,” wrote Hough, concluding her note with, “I also understand there is no response that I could share that would make everyone happy, however, I want you to know that this is a conversation and I’m still listening.”


A post shared by Julianne Hough (@juleshough)

The announcement of the show was met with instant backlash by netizens, celebrities and other activists. Criticising the show for its exploitation of struggles for social justice, actor and activist Jameela Jamil retweeted a news article on the show, commenting on how the celebrity judges would have been paid an exorbitant amount of money to be a part of the show. She wrote, “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? Rather than turning activism into a game and then giving a fraction of the much-needed money away in a ‘prize’? People are dying.”


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