Thursday, April 10, 2014

Reality show offers a human kidney as prize

In 2007, a Dutch reality show called De Grote Donorshow (The Big Donor Show) aired with a controversial premise: a terminally ill woman  would choose one person in need of a transplant to whom she would donate her kidney.

The donor was dubbed only as Lisa. Out of 25 patients, 3 contestants were chosen for consideration in the final selection. They each were given 30 seconds to convince Lisa why they deserve her kidney.

Viewers of the show sent texts to vote their choice of recipient to try to influence Lisa in her decision. In the words of the host, "Support Lisa and vote for the best candidate." At the end of the show, just as Lisa says she has made her choice, the presenter stops her. He reveals Lisa as an actress and says that the contestants were real patients waiting for kidneys whom shared their real stories .

The BBC reported that, "Earlier, Lisa had said that it felt like playing God. "Think of it as playing Santa Claus," replied the presenter."

Though that quote seems terribly incendiary, knowing that the show is a hoax radically transforms their meaning; the actress representing Lisa is not unlike a neighborhood guy playing Santa Claus. Like Santa, Lisa was never the signified Lisa but was always already the signifier of Lisa.

This is where Bruner comes in. His ideas of a narrative construction of reality IS De Grote Donor Show. The extreme dearth of organs resulted in the death of a producer of the program, which in turn sparked the idea for the hoax. On top of the personal sentiment to the producers, the reality is that live organ donors currently chose whom recieves their organs in a process similar to the show. is one such venue where, like a dating profile, donor scroll through desperate patients waiting for organs off the registry. The "controversial" show represented an even more problematic reality. The president of the network mirrored Bruner by saying,"We very much agree that it's bad taste but we also believe that reality is even worse taste.

"A few hours after the show BNN had already received SMS messages from over 12,000 viewers who told the network that they would fill in a donor form. The day after, 30,000 donor forms were requested, and two days after the show the official Dutch TV news broadcast "NOS News" announced that 50,000 people had requested a donor form to be sent to them, a figure that is expected to still rise. In July, a month after the show aired, 7,300 new donors were registered by the Dutch donor registration."

Though the show ruffled the feathers of many, the effect was greatly positive.

Endemol, the producers of the show, are also the team behind Fear Factor and Big Brother.


ABC article

 De Grote Donorshow Wikipedia Page

 New York Times Article: Dutch TV stunt on organ donation turns critics queasy

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