Remote Control: a Look into Mob Mentality

This article was published on November 8, 2020.

On October 28th, 2011, the second episode of Derren Brown’s The Experiments called “Game Show” aired on TV. Each of the episodes of the show consisted of doing different sociological experiments to learn about what influences people’s behaviors. In this certain episode, he hosted a game show called Remote Control in which the audience would be wearing masks and voting for different events to occur to a contestant that they would be watching.

The episode started in a bar, where their main subject, Kris, was hanging out with his friends with a couple seated behind them. The host, Darren, then told the boyfriend through an earpiece to go to the bathroom while the girlfriend ordered some drinks. She then made a false accusation saying that Kris touched her inappropriately and made Kris apologize to her. After some time, the boyfriend came back and got angry at Kris. All the while this is happening, the audience was laughing at the situation.

The audience was then presented with their first choice of either to make the boyfriend apologize to Kris and buy a free pint for him or to make Kris have to pay for drinks that he never even ordered. The audience members then had to vote using their remote controls. After looking at the results of the poll, Derren announced that the majority of the crowd chose to have Kris pay for extra drinks for the couple. At the sound of this, the audience boomed with cheers in excitement. Darren then told the waiter through an earpiece to go to Kris and start the act. Seeing what was happening at the scene on the big screen, the audience burst with laughter and claps.

Derren then brought one of Kris’s coworkers onto the stage to make a phone call with Kris. Jenny talks about Kris for a short period of time, saying that he was a practical joker so this would be a good payback for him and told the audience to “bring it on”. She then called Kris and told him that she has some important news that she will call him about later. Darren then passed the ball to the audience and presented the next set of choices, to either make him receive majorly bad news or some majorly good news. The show then cut to a different segment where one of the producers was in Kris’s home and snooped around his internet history, bathroom, and trash bin to learn more about Kris’s personality.

The episode continued to have the audience make other choices for Kris, all ending up with the majority of around 60% vote for the negative option, eventually leading to the audience choosing if they want him to be framed for shoplifting or be the lucky 5000 customer. The audience, as predicted, voted for Kris to be framed for shoplifting and for there to be footage of him committing the crime.

As the episode continued, the audience kept making more and more consequential choices, ultimately leading to them voting for Kris to get kidnapped. During the process of the kidnapping though, Kris is seen escaping and getting hit by a car. Derren and the rest of the production team then told the audience that they will be back and they slowly started to remove their masks. It was at this point that the audience realized the damage that they had done.

At the end of the show, it was revealed that all the footage was pre-recorded. Darren also said that the end scene where Kris was hit by a car was pre-recorded during the day and was edited to make it look like it was in the afternoon.

The episode was then posted on YouTube by Derren Brown himself, and many people commented on their thoughts on the episode. Many said that they felt extremely uncomfortable by the fact that the audience was laughing about the fake assault accusations. Another commenter added that after they see Kris get hit by a car they start to “act all ‘why are you still filming” when before they were completely okay and even rooted for bad things to happen to Kris. Overall, the commenters were able to get the moral from the episode that as long as they won’t be held accountable for it or it doesn’t personally affect them, people are willing to do anything even at the expense of others.

Now you might be wondering, why bring this up now? Though this is interesting, what relevance does it have to what’s actually happening in the world currently? Well, this pandemic has increased the amount of time we spend online due to the lack of being able to do things outside without being at the risk of getting COVID-19. Therefore, we spend more time behind the screen seeing more and more digital content and commenting on posts. Based on this episode, we can learn that some people are willing to do anything at the expense of others if they believe they are anonymous and social media allows us to do just that. We can comment on things with nobody ever knowing it’s us, however, we shouldn’t use this for the wrong reasons.

In “Game Show”, the audience opted for negative options because they knew it wouldn’t affect them, and they believed that they were completely anonymous. Many people saw this as a misuse of freedom. So how do we use this freedom correctly? We should think before we comment or say things. We should make sure everything we say has a purpose. Last but not least, we should make sure that the things we say are positive and don’t affect others negatively. We hope you take our advice and help make social media a safer place!