Netflix’s new reality docu-series, “100 Humans,” aims to examine what it means to be human, touching on subjects that range from torture and happiness to racism and sexism.
The concept of 100 Humans, though relatively simple, immediately caught my attention when I recently opened up a Netflix tab one night: viewers could watch a group of 100 human beings, diverse in every way imaginable, participate in a series of (vaguely) scientific and social experiments — experiments that explore just what it means to be human.
The experiments performed on the show covered a rather wide range of questions, ranging from silly to heavy: Are men funnier than women? Does being attractive make you more likeable? Do old people have a particular smell? Are humans intrinsically biased?
And what better way to answer these questions than to take bored, quarantined viewers along for a silly ride with a huge group of human guinea pigs?
The Experiments Are Far from “Scientific”
Due to my love for crazy social experiments that shine a light on the inner workings of humanity, I had high hopes for this show. But, unfortunately, as would be the case with any Netflix special that hires stand-up comedians wearing white lab coats that don’t belong to them to conduct mildly scientific social experiments, the so-called “results” of many of their studies fall short, leaving far too much room for error and space for their own personal opinions to influence the results.
But more specifically speaking, episode 4, entitled, “Are you biased?” attempted to conduct several experiments, including the following: one to prove our inherent racial prejudice as humans and the other to show our narrow-minded views of sexuality.
Episode 4 attempted to conduct two experiments: one to prove our inherent racial prejudice as humans and the other to show our narrow-minded views of sexuality.
In the study regarding race, participants wielding a fake gun were asked to rely on their gut reaction as two men (one white, one black) jumped out from behind a wall. One man would be holding a cell phone, and the other, a gun — and the participants had to quickly decide which one to “shoot.” The humans overwhelmingly chose to shoot the black man, even in the takes where he wasn’t holding a gun, essentially proving what the show’s hosts had expected all along: we’re all super biased, especially when it comes to race.
And the study about sexuality was no different. Participants stood before a group of three men and three women, being asked to matchmake them. Every single participant (except for one) paired them up into three heterosexual couples — but as the show’s hosts told them right after, while the six people did make up three couples in real life, only one of the couples was straight — the two others were made up of two men and two women. And once again, our humans were shown to be biased, having assumed all six people standing before them were straight, just what our hosts expected.
Here’s Why These Studies Were Bogus
Perhaps unwittingly (or worse, intentionally), the show had the black man involved in the gun/cell phone study wearing a bright red shirt — a color we’ve associated with violence, anger, and danger from the time most of us can remember — and a black baseball cap that cast shadows on his face, making anyone who wore it appear more ominous and unknown. And the white man? He wore a green shirt, a color often associated with nature and peace.
The so-called “results” of many of their studies fall short, leaving far too much room for error and space for their own personal opinions to influence the results.
And as for the matchmaking study, it’s hardly biased to assume a group of six human beings are all straight — a 2017 study showed that roughly 4.5% of Americans self-identify as part of the LGBT community, so the chances that a group of six people are all straight are relatively high. In fact, after the experiment, the expert brought on after the "experiment" to give feedback on the results, immediately started her assessment by pointing out that assuming people are straight is pretty safe given the statistics. But after some prompting by the host, she backtracks and decides the whole experiment is really just proof that people ignore the existence of LGBT people. Wait what?
But perhaps the most disturbing part of the episode is when they claim even toddlers display "racist tendencies." They start citing a study from 1940 that showed young children (of all races) had a preference for lighter-skinned dolls over darker-skinned ones. Apparently, more recent studies have shown similar results. Has there been any exploration of why (besides racism), young children might prefer lighter skinned dolls? No, because the show isn't interested in getting down to the root of the issue. Instead, they spend several minutes showing how a white baby just might be a budding KKK member. Watch the episode if you think I'm making this up.
But Let’s Not Dismiss the Issues
Here’s the thing: racism is absolutely an issue in our nation, so much so that 64% of Americans believe it’s still a major problem for us. And although 67% of Americans support same-sex marriage, LGBT people are frequently victims of hate crimes.
Racism is absolutely an issue in our nation, so much so that 64% of Americans believe it’s still a major problem for us.
Sadly, 100 Humans took these facts and attempted to call attention to them by conducting completely bogus experiments that no true scientist would ever take seriously. The show’s own bias ended up being awfully clear to viewers: they believed human beings were inherently racially biased and anti-LGBT before they’d even conducted the studies, so they designed experiment that would skew results in that direction, rendering their experiments absolutely useless.
All in all, 100 Humans is a relatively entertaining watch — but their so-called studies aren’t credible in the least bit due to their own lack of impartiality and their messy means of conducting said studies, so don’t take them too seriously! But hey, if nothing else, 100 Humans will take up some of our quarantined hours, right?