I was unaware of this show until just recently. Apparently it's a spin-off of a Prime Time Live segment, but I almost never watch network newsmagazines. Here's how it works: the producers create tense situations with actors in public places and film the reactions of unsuspecting passersby.
Sample scenarios: An angry mother drops her young kids at a crowded corner and tells them to walk home... Another mother is stuffing her child's backpack with shoplifted loot... Storekeepers berate breastfeeding moms and Muslim women in traditional outfits.
What do you do, Joe Sixpack? Mind your own beeswax, or get involved? The producers call it a "candid camera of ethics." Social psychologists are interviewed to provide color commentary, and in the end we're all scolded for being part of the status quo. "Only 20 percent of customers ratted on the little backpack bandit!" For shame, America!
Here's why I got interested and spent the last hour catching up with this show. I saw a promo for tonight's segment: Man Lures Drunken Girl. What will happen when an intoxicated "young girl" is approached by a "young man" with questionable intentions? Will the other patrons at the bar come to her rescue? Will the straight guy on the make be thwarted before it's too late?
Don't worry, the answer is yes. And the whole thing was a set-up anyway. From ABC.com: "What people didn't know is that the bar was working with us; the young woman and her pursuer were both actors. And so was the bartender. All hired by "What Would You Do?" to gauge people's reactions to this frightening scenario."
Of course, taking advantage of the incapacitated is tragic and inexcusable. I'm not trying to minimize the impact of rape. Here's my problem. Well, a couple of problems, actually. First, what's with the girl/man comparison? That's sensationalism. An actual "young girl" drinking at a bar would be a story in itself, I'd think. If you're a journalist, producing a news segment on sexual predators, "woman" and "girl" are not interchangeable, sorry.
Second, I think the producers are lazy. If you want to document the risks that drunk women face, then do that, but not at some quiet middle-aged bar (in the middle of the afternoon!) where you plant the predator and lots of dad figures are in attendance to save the day. Go to a loud, dark, crowded, nightclub or frat party where the vast majority of patrons are young and out of control. That's where the real danger is. Or is that too much work?
GG, they also have a segment where they send a gay couple to a New Jersey sports bar. Cliché alert! But guess what? Things are slightly awkward but pretty much fine. End of story, right? Nope. The producers aren't satisfied, and (1) send in a fake homophobe to rile up the crowd and (2) prod the couple to ramp up their flirty behavior. Shameless. Even then, other patrons are quick to come to their defense. Hooray! For America, I mean. Certainly not for the unrepentant producers of this mess. I give them credit for trying to advance discussions on prejudice and social responsibility, I guess. But their methods are highly suspect.
Final note: Though the show would have you think otherwise, you can't easily judge people who don't rise as heroes in a confrontational moment. Everyone has their own story. You just have to trust that there are enough good guys (and gals) who will be in the right place at the right time.
I applaud GG for his courage in scolding a careless dog owner. I hope I would do the same. I think I'm quick to help where help is needed, but since I've had kids I'm a little wary about confrontation and making my home or family a target for retribution. So, for example, would I quickly confront the surly teen hooligans at the neighborhood park in another WWYD segment? Maybe I'd just walk my kids home and call the cops from there.
Oooh, that hurts to say. Twenty-Something-Straight-Guy has officially left the building.
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