Have you noticed that game and reality shows have gotten a lot more intense lately? The newly released short film WHO AMONG US (presented by DUST) gives us a glimpse of what is possibly the most perverse, harrowing, and disturbing reality show I’ve ever witnessed – and yes, including the very real programs Married At First Sight and Love Is Blind.
Here’s the premise of the eponymous show in WHO AMONG US: there are nine contestants – and someone on the stage is a robot. The robot is so advanced that it looks, talks, acts, and moves exactly like a human. And the robot was built to believe that they are, in fact, human. The contestants go through challenges to prove their humanity while an international audience votes on who they think is the robot.
The short film centers around the final episode of “Who Among Us” and the final two contestants: a man and a woman. The audience has overwhelmingly decided that the woman is the robot. The contestant tries to convince everyone that she is human, all while enduring aggressive gaslighting, dehumanization, and humiliation. As audience members ourselves, we find ourselves on the fence: is the contestant human or a highly advanced robot?
WHO AMONG US is successful as a horror short because it is horrifying. So many of us, especially women, have an intimate experience with gaslighting and other forms of psychological abuse. We empathize with the contestant on a gut-wrenching visceral level as she slides to a point of trying to convince herself that she’s not a robot. We watch in horror as her male counterpart examines her and starts to refer to her as “it” rather than “she.”
It’s sick. And, given our gross obsession with spectator sports and reality TV, this kind of show is too far in the realm of possibility to comfortably pack it away in the “horror-science-fiction” box.
The fact that the creators of WHO AMOUNG US, Abhishek Prasad and Rebecca Kahn, aren’t already writing and directing episodes for Black Mirror is truly shocking. You can watch WHO AMONG US on YouTube now.