These days you hear about so many incidents of hate, prejudice, or sometimes even just plain rude behaviour. But almost just as often you hear about why people nearby didn’t do anything about it. It’s actually a documented effect called the bystander effect – the more people that are around, the less likely any one individual will step up and take action.
Have you ever thought to yourself what you would do in that situation? If a scenario that like played out right in front of you, would you have jumped in?
Clearly someone else had the same idea because it turns out, there’s an entire show about just that.
Initially it began as a short segment on the ABC show Primetime, but it was spun off into its own separate show, hosted by John Quinones, a man who is surprising friendly given what he has to deal with. While traditionally it airs on ABC, they now regularly post some of their scenarios on Youtube, and there are troves of other uploaders who have uploaded older episodes.
WWYD typically sets up a public location, for example, in a café or simply on a street corner. Their actors then play out various scenarios, for example, a grandpa berating their daughter, or lost kids in the street. Then with hidden cameras, they record as regular passers-by encounter the situation, and see how they react to it. Eventually John and his camera crew intervene in person and interview those regular folks about why they stepped in. Those make up majority of episodes, but they’ve also done episodes that put people in awkward situations in general, and see how they respond.
Although a relatively simple concept, you’d be surprised at the range of episodes they’ve been able to produce.
Some episodes are relatively lighthearted, like the episode trying to see how far customers were willing to go to listen to a so-called wine tasting expert.
However, other episodes are more serious, and deals with many of the more difficult societal issues that we’re facing today. One of the more memorable episodes for me was a scenario where the actors were discriminating against a Latino waiter in an Arizona diner. The more cynical part of me thought that few would defend the poor young man. However, plenty of diners, unprompted, stood up for the waiter, and time and again forced the actors to leave the restaurant. You could also see how visibly shaken some of the patrons were.
Sure, there are occasionally some awkward moments, and the occasional disappointing response from bystanders. But overall, WWYD is a great way to reflect on our society, because it undeniably makes you stop and think. It makes you question why we will blow bubbles into our wine just because the lady at the counter told us to, or why we feel that we should mind our own business, just because it involves strangers.
More importantly, it also presents a relatively hopeful vision. Every day we’re bombarded with story after story about divisiveness and hate around the world. We’re always so caught up on incidents we read about everyday, that we forget that there’s a lot more people out there than just those who end up in the news. You come to realize that there’s a lot more good in the world than you might think, and that fortunately, there are still many people out there who are still willing to stand up for what’s right.
Link to their YouTube channel here.