There is a surprising new reality TV style feature on Netflix called, The Push. The basis of The Push is to determine how far people can be pushed within social constructs. Basically, will a person do things most would consider morally wrong if put in a situation where it is considered the norm. Fellow Movie Guy Josh recommended that I watch this Netflix original and for the most part I am glad that I did.
About The Push on Netflix
Simply put, The Push is a social experiment in which people are “pushed” to do things by an authority figure. An experiment is created to demonstrate how humans will blindly follow social norms or authority figures. The experiment is very carefully constructed using actors, and an elaborate plan to get normal people to perform immoral acts.
In The Push Derren Brown screens candidates to find a small group that exhibits traits that make them likely to fall into social constructs, or to blindly follows authority. Those patients are then put through a scenario comprised of actors to see just how far they can push it. Throughout the experiment, the patients were instructed to lie and perform other immoral acts simply because they were told to.
To me, the best part of the experiment is the name of the character that essentially spends the entire show as a corpse, Bernie. That’s right, the patients spend most of the experiment with Bernie, the corpse. I would have had a hard time not making Weekend at Bernie’s jokes the whole time.
The Push and the Milgram experiment
When I was first told about The Push, my immediate thought was “Oh, this is the Milgram experiment.” For those of you that aren’t familiar, it was an experiment at Yale University to determine if someone would willingly harm another human being at the command of an authority figure. The overall purpose was to demonstrate how Nazi’s could indeed just be following orders during the Holocaust.
During the Milgram experiments, subjects were directed to push a button to deliver an electric show to a learner. The shocks progressively increased to the point that they would be lethal had they been real. In the Milgram trials, the shocks were fake and the learners were in on the action. This was much like the time we made Guy wear a shock collar…
In many ways, The Push is an over the top version of the Milgram experiment. Instead of a shock, the subjects were pushed to progressively break moral boundaries to the point of murder. From a research standpoint, I actually really like this approach as it shows a more real-life scenario vs a short isolated experiment like Milgram had performed.
Keeping The Push in perspective
Now, at the conclusion of The Push, we learn that Derren Brown ran the experiment multiple times, and the show only truly follows one subjects account. I really appreciate Derren’s decision on this one, because the one he chronicled seemed to have the most conflict with the scenario. I think that this conflict made the show very entertaining to watch which ultimately led to someone choosing their own path when things went too far. Granted, it went further than I would have expected.
Then we are presented with the alternative results. Every other trial ended with the patient doing the unthinkable. The initial thought is to immediately lose faith in humanity. Let’s not fly off the deep end though, these patients were selected because they had a personality that would make them likely to succumb to social constructs. There were essentially pre-screenings to ensure that a test pool was selected that would get the desired outcome.
With that being said, they still pushed people to commit acts that most of society would consider immoral. I don’t know that the pre-screening procedure should completely diminish the results, but still, something that should be considered. My real question is, will Derren Brown release his findings, including the pre-screening, to the public? I for one would love to see the results.
Should you watch The Push?
If you have Netflix, and like reality/documentaries, I would say yes, definitely watch The Push. I wouldn’t subscribe to Netflix just to watch it, but I definitely wouldn’t pass it up if I did. It is an interesting experiment with even more interesting results. For me personally, it even left me uneasy at times wondering about the long-term damage being done to the patients.