Game Show Networks’ Without Prejudice? proves prejudgment can be at once ugly and entertaining.
Originally a British creation, the hour-long show revolves around a simple and often embarrassing premise: humans appraise one another with the greatest of ease. Producers select five varying contestants, stick them in a back room and let a panel of five pedestrian judges, well, judge them. The last man – or woman – standing wins $25,000. The judges can ask anything and everything except how the contestants will spend the money.
Tonight’s episode gets all sorts of crazy when the judges discover one of the male contestants does dudes. We won’t give away all the details, but we will tell you that moral and maniacal assessments get lobbed like you wouldn’t believe. For example, one woman claims gay men become gay after being raped at a young age. Insane.
Of course, that’s just our opinion. For a more professional opinion, we turned to the beautifully informative New York-based therapist and Without Prejudice? host, Dr. Robi Ludwig.
Queerty: First of all, how are the contestants chosen? Both the people on the panel and the people back stage being judged.
Dr. Robi Ludwig: My understanding is that that’s handled by casting. I would love to be a part of it, honestly. I do know they were looking for interesting people who were vocal and had very distinct perspectives. They try to get a balance.
QT: I’m calling specifically with regard to this evening’s episode, which deals with gay marriage and homosexuality in general. I’ve seen the episode and it’sâ€¦pretty astounding to hear some of the things these people say. For example, the woman who says that gay men are gay because they were raped.
QT: You of course remain pretty silent during the show, but I’m wondering, what are your thoughts on some of these people’s perspectives?
RL: Well, what I can tell you is that I was shocked that some of these people hold the perspectives that they do. Having said that, I live in New York City, which I consider to be a socially progressive place. All the people I interface with have pretty similar views to me socially. Not necessarily politically, but socially. So, I think that’s what I found so interesting: there are people from different parts of the country that hold very different perspectives on how the world works or how the world should work.
QT: It’s crazy!
RL: I’m a New York therapist, as well. I have a private practice, so it’s not like I interface with people and it’s just PC. People come in and share their thoughts and I can honestly say some of the thoughts that were shared on the panel were not thoughts shared by my clients themselves.
QT: Even more shocking aside from these people’s perspectives is that they’re willing to be on television and have their views out there. Is everybody prejudiced?
RL: I think everybody has biased judgments.
QT: We form our opinions within fifteen seconds.
RL: It’s a very short period of time where we form our first impressions.
QT: Is there any psychological mechanism that explains why people would be stuck in their beliefs?
RL: Yes. In part it’s comfort level and familiarity. We operate within a certain group that feels familiar to us, that’s why we feel more comfortable and are willing to see people within our group as more diverse. We see people outside our group as less individual and sick. Stereotypes, judgments, biases tend to be real quick, short hand way to navigate though the world: this is what I feel comfortable with, this is what I know and this is what I’ll stick to.
QT: I understand you’re a human psychologist, but is this evident in any other species? This discerning.
RL: Oh, gosh, that would be an interesting question for a veterinarian. And, also, do other species have to interface with other groupings that are as diversified as we do. It’s not clear. I can’t really answer that. It’s a fascinating question.
QT: What have you learned from your experience on this show?
RL: I have learned that people are far less socially liberal than I have ever imagined.
QT: Is it scary?
RL: I find it – interesting and potentially scary. You certainly see where hate crimes can come from. I just want to state, we can all sit in our holier-than-thou throne, but the goal of the show is not only to point the fingers at those who are in some cases less progressive than others, but also to then ask ourselves, where are we judging people? We might look more sophisticated, we might put on a more PC facade, but in the end are these people just a more extreme example of who we are? The way to get to a different place is to be more conscious of it.
QT: Are you more conscious now of your personal prejudgments?
RL: Oh, yeah! In fact, I was taking my son to a Yankee game and the easiest way to get there from New York City is the subway. I had just come from shooting all the episodes of the show from California. I was looking around and noticing my judgments of what I thought certain people’s lives were like, whom they were. It was all fantasy based completely on the unknown and I caught myself.
QT: Aside from comfort level, is there any other psychological reason why we judge people?
RL: It’s a projection of aspects of our own personality that we don’t want to own and place on other groups. For example, in terms of homosexuality, people who struggle with their own inner tendencies in that area and are frightened by it might be more inclined to hate a homosexual person.
QT: I definitely got that feeling from the bald man on the panel in tonight’s episode. He said something like “I know it’s wrong to like men, so I’m married,” which struck me as an odd comment from someone who was so [publicly] anti-gay.
RL: Not if you know people who have struggled with it. It’s very sad. I actually work with someone – if his religion gave him permission to be gay, he’d be such a happy guy. He can’t get over that hurdle.
QT: What’s the psychological effect of something like that? That self-denial?
RL: Well, it produces a lot of complex. It’s going against who you really are. How long can you do that?
QT: How does that manifest? Would somebody be more prone to mental illness?
RL: I wonder if it contributes to some form of destructive lashing out. And the other thing, in terms of the other reason to hate is envy. When we assume another has it better or easier. That can also contribute to being a target. That would be a case of terrorism and America and what it stands for symbolically.
QT: It could also be the case for any number of things.
RL: Or, if you have a hate of your own group.
QT: How common is that?
RL: It happens. It can get normalized, when you think about plastic surgery. Is it an attack on oneself and one’s individuality in an attempt to achieve a more homogenized look or assimilated look.
QT: I think your show really raises some interesting points.
RL: From a group therapy perspective, what we know in terms of group therapy is that one person will be speaking, but you can bet your bottom dollar that there are people who are thinking the same thing and not saying it. That’s why these panels are so important. If we live in a PC world in which we never have access to how people are really thinking, we can’t do anything about it. Pretending it doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away, it just makes it go on longer.
QT: Do you think the show will change the way some people think?
RL: I certainly hope so. As a therapist, I love the idea of reality television having purpose and I believe this show has purpose, otherwise I wouldn’t be a part of it. I could not do. My principles as a therapist – I like to be involved in hopefully people having better, more interesting lives. Or, at least questioning what they do.
For more Without Prejudice?, check out their snazzy website.