France is reeling from a documentary about a psychological experiment disguised as a game show. Researchers staged a fictitious reality show to see how far people would go in obeying authority, especially if television reinforces that authority.
The disturbing results have alarmed the French.
The fictitious game show had all the trappings of a real TV quiz show, including a beautiful and well-known hostess, and a raucous audience. A group of contestants posed questions to a man sitting inside a box in front of them in an electric chair.
The hostess and a chanting audience urged the players — who had levers in front of them — to send jolts of electricity into the man in the box when he gave an incorrect answer.
Even when the player screamed out in pain for them to stop, 80 percent of the contestants kept zapping him. In reality, the man in the electric chair was an actor who wasn't really being shocked — but the players and the audience did not know that.
The documentary makers say reality television relies increasingly on violent, humiliating and cruel acts to boost ratings. They say they simply wanted to see if we would go so far as to kill someone for entertainment.