Primetime: What Would You Do?

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Primetime: What Would You Do? is an American television show, constituting one of the formats of the broader Primetime series, and hosted by John Quiñones, in which actors stage scenes of social injustice in public spaces to determine if bystanders, operating under the assumption that the scenes are genuine, will come to the aid of the victims in said scenarios.


The show uses actors to set up an example of an injustice or awkward scenario. Sometimes there are multiple versions to see if people respond differently each time. After a bystander has either intervened or stood by, they are approached by Quiñones, told that the scene was fake, and questioned as to why they responded in the manner they did. Here are a few example scenarios:

  • An actor with Down syndrome portrays a grocery store clerk, and another portrays a customer verbally abusing the slow-moving grocer.
  • A waitress discloses that she is transgender, only to be harassed by the customer. (Both are actors.)
  • Various children of different races vandalize a car.
  • A man sexually harasses his employee in front of customers. In one version, she is dressed modestly, and in the other, she is dressed less modestly.

More often than not, at least one bystander will eventually step in to defend the victim and oppose the perpetrator, and let the word go forth that some very inspirational people indeed have been showcased in this manner. Instances of bystanders agreeing with the perpetrator(s) seem to be thankfully rare.

However, it can often take a rather disconcerting amount of time before someone deigns to step in. In one episode, in which an assault on a Hispanic man was enacted, it took over half an hour before anyone came to his aid. Had the scene been real, the man would most likely have been killed. In another particularly disturbing episode, a succession of three different people—a black man, a white man and a white woman—pretended to rob a bike. Whereas the black man was reprimanded almost immediately, people by and large let the theft on the part of the white man slide, and when the white woman did it; people would actually offer to assist her in the theft![1]

Ethical concerns[edit]

The show's premise is based on people not realizing that they're on the show, and that raises an issue.

Scaring the bystanders is a potential problem. Since the participants are unwitting, they don't have the choice to opt out beforehand, nor can they disclose any mental health issues like social anxiety or a tendency to have panic attacks. Tom Cush, a man with dwarfism, described being extremely uncomfortable being catfished for "What Would You Do?" to the point of having an anxiety attack.

I don’t remember much of what Quiñones asked me after he approached me, nor do I remember what I said. I was in the middle of a panic attack. I was shaking, and I couldn’t stop cursing. The entire restaurant was silent, eyes on me. Growing up a little person, I’m familiar with unwanted attention from strangers. Twenty-seven years later, and I’m still not comfortable with it.
—Tom Cush[2]

Not everyone can handle being filmed, stared at, or thrown into the middle of an extremely awkward or frightening situation.

There was talk of stopping the show from filming a staged robbery in Greenwich, Connecticut due to concerns that it was "too disruptive."[3]

A polite recommendation[edit]

Live your life as though you were on this show! If you ever spot someone suffering discrimination; don't just stand there, go and defend them! That is unless you feel it would be dangerous to step in or would exacerbate the already tense situation or result in a bunch of nearby Trumpflakes calling you a social justice warrior. But then again, the latter should be an encouragement to step in. So, go and defend them! Onward, Justice Soldier!

External links[edit]