French Doc Asks (And Answers) Whether Humans Are Evil

By  · Published on March 19th, 2010

On my way home from my weekly pun support group, I heard a story on NPR that made me feel terrible, a strange feeling considering how warm my heart usual is while supporting public radio.

That story focused on a documentary out of France called The Game of Death that shines a light on a game show that grew popular in the country. It saw a man hooked up to an electric chair, and if he got questions wrong, the audience pressured secondary contestants to pull levers that shocked him.

This, for some reason has nothing to do with Bruce Lee or 13: Game of Death.

It was also fake. The man was an actor mirroring the famous Milgram experiments that everyone is forced to learn about in sociology class.

What the documentary “proves” is that regular human beings are willing to shock a man even while they can hear him scream. This, of course, is a fact we’ve all known while studying Ancient Rome, Nazi Germany, and the recent career moves of Jay Leno. However, it’s still an interesting exercise because of the distance that we usually place between ourselves and Jay Leno.

I haven’t seen the documentary, although I’m hunting it down now. Until then, I wouldn’t want to judge anything about what it has to say, of course. But the basic premise seems to take a cross section of French society (which is probably a lot more like a cross section of the United States than we think) and shows that those willing to be on television are willing to do a lot to be there.

There’s a great news story on it here:

There seems to be a lot of controversy over it – which is why I don’t understand why it’s not on Netflix Watch Instantly right this second – but it essentially tells us what we’ve known since watching that one guy eat that pig feces and that one girl talk about cheating on her husband in front of him for cash on that one show that one time. America is overwrought with shitty reality programs that have no shortage of applicants who are willing to do just about anything disgusting or sexual to gain some semblance of fame.

Hell, Robert Fure was willing to shock a guy one time even though he wasn’t on film or being told to do so by an authority figure, and you don’t get more American than Robert Fure.

Looks like all this really proves is that the phenomenon is also French.

And maybe that’s really what has Europe in a twist.

What would you do to be on television?

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector [email protected] | Writing short stories at Adventitious.