Hugely controversial when it aired on French television last year, the documentary Le jeu du la mort explores our seemingly insatiable appetite for the amorality of reality television by re-imagining the infamous Milgram experiment of the early 1960s. Stanley Milgram, a Yale psychologist, had set out to test the limits of ordinary peoples’ obedience to authority, conducting trials in which subjects were instructed to administer apparently painful electric shocks of increasing intensity to others; 62% of participants fully complied. Le jeu du la mort conducted a similar experiment in the guise of a television game show. Participants asked another “contestant” (in reality, an actor) a series of questions; wrong answers were met with an electric shock, with the voltage increasing with each incorrect response. The “game” was played on a real television set with a live audience and a well-known host. Even as the cries of distress from the actor (who was hidden from view) increased, 80% of the participants administered the highest level of shock. The provocative experiment set off a media storm in France, with many decrying the depths to which the power of TV has led us to sink, and others questioning the ethics of the entire exercise and wondering whether the filmmakers had resorted to the same reality-TV techniques they purported to critique. Judge for yourself! Colour, Digibeta video, in French with English subtitles. 95 mins.
Post-screening discussion with Dr. Dave Unger and Dr Peter Suedfeld:
Dr. Dave Unger a primary care physician who works mostly with people living with HIV/AIDS. Dr. Unger is involved in inpatient care at St. Paul's Hospital and has a family practice in Vancouver. He is a clinical ethicist for Providence Health Care and also a member of the Research Ethics Board there.
Dr Peter Suedfeld is UBC's Dean Emeritus of Graduate Studies and Professor Emeritus of Psychology. His long and distinguished reserach career is generally concerned with how human beings adapt to and cope with novelty, challenge, stress, and danger. His many honours include the Donald O. Hebb Award of the Canadian Psychological Association for distinguished contributions to psychology as a science and the Zachor Award of the Canadian government for contributions to Canadian society.
Moderated by Dr. Harry Karlinsky, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia.