ABC’s hit primetime show What Would You Do aims to gauge the reaction of the general public in the face of a real life moral dilemma. The hidden camera show employs actors to improv situations like racist or homophobic encounters, child abductions, robberies and even sexual assaults—usually in public places—to capture the (hopefully) heroic response of those nearby.
The show is no stranger to LGBT issues, as it usually simulates hot-button scenarios and has covered everything from transphobia to business discrimination in a collection of sketches staged in some of the most accepting (and disapproving) cities in America.
A majority of Americans now believe in marriage equality, but would they come to bat for you in a time of need? The answer may surprise you…
Gay teen athlete comes out to homophobic teammates
The situation: Homophobia in the locker room became a topic of discussion immediately after NBA star Jason Collins came out as the first openly gay man in American team sports. He received overwhelming support and a few rogue hate tweets, so WWYD wondered, would the same happen in real life? The show sent a group of three athletic teenagers to a New Jersey sneaker store, where Jonathan comes out as a gay man to his teammates.
The winner: Check out the dude around 6:20, when producers modify the situation and have Jonathan come out to his coach. “You shouldn’t be talking to him like that,” he says once the coach threatens to remove Jonathan from the team. “You’re taking this shit wrong, I don’t even think you should be coaching.” He tells Jonathan to seek help from a guidance counselor or the media if the harassment continues.
Transgender woman confronted by disapproving father in a dress shop
The situation: Transgender rights were a hot-button issue this year as hate crimes toward trans men and women rocked headlines almost every month. Through Homecoming and Prom seasons, a number of public battles over students’ gender identity were fought. WWYD sent an actor posing as trans teen Lisa to a dress shop, where her father towed along to voice his disapproval.
The winner: The first woman confronted with the situation pulls through with flying colors. She offers guidance to both father and daughter, offering fashion advice for Lisa while suggesting tips for her father to have a calm and rational discussion with his daughter. “If you say you’re a woman, you’re a woman,” she says.
Same-sex couple with children denied service
The situation: While it’s not illegal for gay men and women to become parents in the US, joint adoption by a same-sex couple is still not permitted in several states. The situation is even more troubling abroad, as places like Russia and Puerto Rico still ban same-sex adoption. WWYD sent a lesbian couple with children to a Brooklyn diner, where their waiter offers some unsolicited opinions about their family.
The winner: Unfortunately, there are few winners in this situation. Over the course of two days, not one restaurant patron stepped in to express disgust over the clear breach of civil liberties happening in front of them, aside from a few disgruntled folks. Around the 6:30 mark, an American expat from the Ukraine wages a verbal war against the waiter.
Gay teen bullied by peers
The situation: Gay bashing continues to affect the lives of countless children and teens across the globe. Nine out of ten lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students report being bullied and harassed from elementary school to high school, and gay teens are reportedly three times more likely to commit suicide than other youths. WWYD sent a group of teens to a busy Long Beach boardwalk, where a group of bigots physically and verbally assault another gay teen.
The winners: A “self-professed former bully” steps in around 6:17 to set straight the next generation of bullies, but a group of passionate high-schoolers arrive soon after and offer some much-needed hope for the future (and a friendly hug to boot).
Boy Scout comes out to fellow scouts
The situation: Though it still remains a staunch antigay movement at it’s core, the Boy Scouts of America did a lot of half-assed work to repair their image this year. Gay men are still not allowed to become leaders in the organization, but a lengthly process forced the Boy Scouts to halt discrimination against gay youth. WWYD finds out what happens when a young Boy Scout comes out to his fellow scouts over dinner.
The winners: Nobody! Of two different couples profiled in the show, both were hailed as “accepting” in the eyes of the show’s producers. One the men offered what is referred to as a “comedic approach” by threatening to punch the child if he “looked at me funny.” The first woman, albeit with good intentions, calls the boy a “sinner,” supports his “choice,” and as expected, misquotes the Bible. Whatever, lady!
The situation: Somebody actually called 911! Another suggests shooting gay men simply for being gay. I’m speechless.
The winner: To renew your faith in humanity, fast-forward to 6:02.
Lesbian denied service at a bridal boutique
The situation: A number of complaints were publicly filed on behalf of shunned LGBTs looking to be married this year, from a couple that was denied service by a baker to another discriminated against by a florist. What happens when a lesbian is denied a wedding dress by a salesclerk who calls her “disgusting”? WWYD investigates…
The winner: Everyone! Some cry, some immediately leave the store, and all women involved put this nasty salesgirl back in her place. Kudos, ladies.
White woman racially discriminated against in Harlem barber shop.
The situation: This last clip is not motivated by an LGBT theme, but a lone voice of reason offers brilliant perspective that can be applied to hate crimes across the board. At 5:37, a patron of the barber shop compares the racial discrimination to her struggle as a lesbian. Rather than berate the bigots involved, this woman actually inspires an apology, offers a hug, and moves forward hand-in-hand with both parties.
The winner: Isn’t it obvious?