Those wild and crazy Dutchmen are at it again. PRI reports on a new game show where rejected asylum seekers in the Netherlands compete for US$6,000.00 to help them resettle in their country of origin. Losing contestants receive a bag of tulips and a bullet proof vest.
The show, “Out of the Netherlands,” is actually a “harsh criticism of the Dutch government’s conservative immigration policy,” where asylum seekers are held in limbo for long periods before being deported. Contestants answer questions about Dutch culture, cuisine, food, and language:
[The] program’s creators attempted to show how Dutch these contenders are. “We don’t present sad stories, we want to show who these people are, and that it is a shame to let them go. They are real rejected asylum seekers. They are really leaving.” The show’s participants are all young and highly educated immigrants who are facing a grim future in their countries of origin.
So I suppose the show is meant to be a hip, ironic commentary on Dutch society that aims to educate the public about the value of the asylum seekers to Netherlands society. Nevertheless, I can’t help but find this idea idiotic. Plus, I remember a cooler, hipper version of this show called Running Man, hosted by Richard Dawson (Also starring Jesse Ventura! And yes, it also starred everyone’s favorite product of Nazi gene manipulation, Arnold Schwarzenegger). One difference was that Running Man was a show where convicted criminals–as opposed to rejected asylum seekers–competed for their freedom. The losers died in the process. Another difference was that Running Man was fiction while “Out of the Netherlands” features real-life asylum seekers returning to real-life countries where they face harm.
For me, the ultimate authority on exploitative game shows was an episode of the old TV series Insight, a fictional drama that “illuminat[ed] the contemporary search for meaning, freedom, and love.” In the episode, teams of two family members compete in a game show to see who is more willing to hurt their own family member. Through a series of escalating challenges, different teams drop out after they are not able to hurt each other. For example, one team drops out after a brother refuses to insult a sister. Another team drops out after a son refuses to slap his mother. The winning team is a husband and wife. The husband agrees to put a bullet in a revolver, spin the chamber, aim it at his wife’s head, and pull the trigger. The chamber is empty, the wife lives, and the couple wins the contest. It is clear from the wife’s reaction, though, that her husband’s willingness to risk her life in order to win money has killed her love for him. Thus, even the “winner” of such an exploitative show has not really won.
I suppose my point is, there are ways to inform the public about the issue of rejected asylum seekers without exploiting their situation. Somehow I doubt “Out of the Netherlands” will achieve that goal.