Remixing Storm Troopers and the Stanford Prison Experiment

This weekend at GMX I met George Willis, who took part in a reality series called The Colony. The conceit is that a group of people must survive a global catastrophe — in this case, a viral outbreak. They dumped ten people in a Louisiana town near New Orleans that had never been rebuilt and left them to scavenge what they could from the wrecked homes. From time to time the producers sent in other people to steal their precious supplies or, in one case, kidnap one of the core cast.

George had a lot of interesting stories about what it was like to have so little food that he lost forty pounds in two months, or having to build your own forge so you can make machetes. What really caught my attention, though, was his description of how paranoid they all became after having to fight off raids and marauders, and how he and the others are still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. “Do you know the Zimbardo experiment?” he said, and it clicked: the Discovery Channel had indeed re-created the Stanford Prison Experiment. It’s nice to know that an experiment that led to new ethical standards for psychological experiments is A-OK for reality TV.

To distract you from how we’re torturing people for entertainment, have some K-Pop. The video for “Can’t Nobody”, by the Korean group 2NE1, mashes up so many pop music trends I can’t stop watching. It’s like a manufactured girl band from the 90s jumped into a Delorean so they could take advantage of Auto-Tuning, crazy costuming, and Ke$ha-like pitch bending. If you’re short on time, skip to 1:28 and watch through about 2:02. That’ll give you a concentrated dose of everything I’m describing, and will let you see dancing Stormtroopers. Culture is weird; culture filtered through someone else’s culture is even weirder.

11 thoughts on “Remixing Storm Troopers and the Stanford Prison Experiment

  1. This is great, and it reminds me of the stuff they play at the place I get my hair cut. Twenty minutes of listening delivers such a concentrated dose of pop that I’m good until my next appointment.

    1. I saw someone on BoingBoing saying that they liked listening to J-Pop and K-Pop when they’re coding or writing, because it becomes the equivalent of musical white noise with added up-tempo unfocused urgency.

  2. I quote “like” unquote how “They dumped ten people in a Louisiana town near New Orleans that had never been rebuilt and left them to scavenge what they could from the wrecked homes” now describes a thing that actually happened, versus a script treatment for a “The Running Man”-type of SF film based on hyperbolically cynical media criticism.

    (I actually had to look up this thing just now becuase I slightly didn’t believe you.)

  3. I will be distracted by awesome video later, but first I have to say GEEEEEEEEEEEZ…I watched The Colony with the assumption that it was, like most reality television, highly scripted and edited to achieve the desired affect. I had no idea the participants were going through hell at such a level. That’s one show I won’t be checking out again.

  4. I think I have whiplash from the two extreme topics in this post.

    The Colony isn’t something I’ll be watching, even though I do occasionally watch Hoarders for periods of 10 minutes or less. After 10ish minutes, I start feeling sick and can’t take it anymore. I think The Colony would have the same impact on me.

    The video also makes me slightly sick but that’s from all the jump cuts. It is pretty catchy though. Who is this music for? Teens? Adults? Males? Females? I can’t decide.

  5. I will admit to being intrigued with the core idea: have people re-create the tools they need to survive, sort of like a group version of Survivorman. The Wikipedia page lists some of the nifty things they put together, like a sand-and-charcoal water filtration system. But sending people in to steal their stuff, fight with them, and kidnap them? Yow.

    Ally: There was certainly scripting going on with some of the challenges, and I don’t know if they salted the area at all or not. But there was enough real stuff going on that it makes me queasy to contemplate for long.

  6. Do the producers screen to see if contestants have a stable psyche at baseline? As Harrison Ford said, “It’s an island, babe. If you didn’t bring it here, you won’t find it here. “

    1. I know they had auditions, but I don’t know how much (if any!) consideration they gave to mental stability. Plus that can be very hard to judge in general.

  7. Given the moral level of reality tv in general, I’m betting they consider mental instability a bonus.

    I’m also kind of bothered by their using real people’s real wrecked homes–this is the equivalent of doing a show in un-rebuilt portions of, say, Dresden or Hiroshima. Tacky doesn’t begin to cover it.

  8. Whoa. It really is like the 90s took fifteen years to get to Korea because it happened before the Internet was widespread, while YouTube got Auto-Tuning there much faster.

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