In one of the more dystopian acts of corporate synergy, MGM Television is working on a new syndicated reality TV show using footage from Amazon’s Ring home security cameras called Ring Nation, Deadline reported.
Wanda Sykes will host the show, which sounds a bit like America’s Funniest Home Videos if it was exclusively geared toward shilling Amazon products. Deadline writes that series will use clips “such as neighbors saving neighbors, marriage proposals, military reunions, and silly animals.”
Pump the brakes — Amazon owns MGM — it completed the studio acquisition in March of this year — and obviously has an outsized interest in normalizing the use of the Ring products it sells. But this whole project feels insidious because of what a “nation” full of Ring cameras means, and the company’s relationship with law enforcement.
Copaganda — As Motherboard notes, Amazon has cultivated multiple partnerships with law enforcement agencies to push the use of Ring cameras, build out the company’s surveillance network, and train the company’s facial recognition software. Recent reports suggest Ring has no issues handing over Ring camera footage to police when asked, either.
The reality is that most Ring footage is not full of heartwarming puppies or marriage proposals, it’s mundane, and when it’s not, it’s frequently used against your neighbors and community. Ring Nation would only serve to obscure things, which maybe shouldn’t be surprising given the shows other producers created Live PD, a cop reality TV show that — in a slightly more salacious way — does for policing what Ring Nation could do for surveillance cameras.
“The voyeuristic thrill of surveillance comes with a built-in power dynamic. An unavoidable sense of ickiness.”
Not home videos — It’s important to consider the bigger picture too. Part of America’s Funniest Home Videos’s charm is that it often uses footage captured by people who know each other. It’s not always consensual until it’s submitted (not knowing you’re being filmed is sometimes what makes it funny) but its intimate in a way a surveillance camera never will be.
The voyeuristic thrill of surveillance comes with a built-in power dynamic; an unavoidable sense of ickiness. That will be riding under every episode of Ring Nation. Reject the show on the material grounds of “we don’t need to help police hurt us and the people we know” but also, because surveilling your neighborhood for no other reason than a misplaced sense of security is not the kind of culture we should ever want to cultivate. Let’s move out of Ring Nation; better yet, don’t let it form in the first place.