Does Occupation Double still have a place on our screens?

GUEST BLOG. I could not remain silent after the intimidation scandal that shook Quebec in front of the disturbing images of Occupation Double (OD) Martinique. I listened. I read. I watched. I keep asking myself THE question: do reality shows like OD still have a place in 2022?

Let’s not forget that the vast majority of reality shows were born almost 20 years ago. This Quebec television product in question was born in 2003, even before the harassment provisions found in labor laws, well before the #metoo movement and the waves of denunciations of all kinds, and at a time when there were few (or no) cases reported in the media.

Let’s face it: the world has changed a lot since then. Reality TV concepts? Very few unfortunately. The destinations are certainly more exotic, but the essential remains: tears, tactics, clans, chicanery, discomfort and (a lot) of bitching. In short, a good prime-time show for an audience that has abandoned traditional television.

I want to believe that the participants “choose” to be there, but does this mean that they agree to be intimidated or humiliated?

The production has, as an employer, the obligation to provide a healthy and safe work environment to its employees just as it has the obligation to prevent and put an end to any situation that would be brought to its attention. Does it not also have an equivalent obligation towards the participants?

Would the ‘reality TV’ seal grant immunity to the producer? A bit like saying to the participants: “Do you want to be here? Very well. But know that everything is permitted; read the fine print at the bottom of your contract. I dare to believe not, but we certainly tend to stretch the rubber band of the “good show” as much as possible to the detriment of a healthy climate. After all, a healthy climate in reality TV is not very salesy…

I draw the parallel with a work environment where it is said that the culture is misogynistic or toxic. If I have always wanted to work in this company because the mandates are exciting and I still sign an employment contract, do I agree as a woman to be treated with contempt or to evolve in an unhealthy environment? Of course not. I can also hope that things change and act as an agent of change.

We must stop falling back on “here it has always been like this”.

Poor excuses
The interview with Julie Snyder on the show Tout le monde en parle convinced me very little. Offending candidates were excluded, training was offered (a bit late) and, let’s not forget, candidates always had access to a psychologist! We apologize, we learn and we move on. wow.

My summary is simplistic, but in the end it was just a nice public relations operation. In 20 years of OD we have learned above all that the harder it plays in homes, the better the ratings. In 2022, it was only a matter of time before it exploded.

Julie Snyder might let her children participate in OD, but as a mother she would certainly not accept to see them being humiliated or bullied in front of more than a million viewers just because it is part of the game.

The production pushed the note by broadcasting the images. And let’s be clear, no one saw a problem with the editing because it was damn good entertainment for our 18-25 year olds. Besides, it saddens me that this is what we present to this age group.

If tactics like bullying are a staple and an essential component of OD-style reality TV, then this kind of show is frozen in another era and no longer aligns with our current values. Our society advocates more than ever respect, kindness and harmony.

After 20 years on the air, maybe we’ve done the trick?

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