If there’s one thing K-pop fans can count on Mnet for, it’s to take things from dramatic to ridiculous, which is what they’ve pulled off for the second season of their survival show, Produce 101.
Like the first season, the 101 trainees will be ranked on a scale of A to F according to their talent and potential. Having a letter A stuck to the front of your sweater meant Choi Yoojung, from the first season, got the spotlighted center position for their huge “Pick Me” debut stage.
For this season, though, trainees will be allowed basic privileges based on their ranks. By ‘basic’, I mean basic. Trainees with lower grades won’t be allowed to use the bathroom, eat, or leave their dorms until after the higher ranked trainees.
The company behind one of the show’s trainees stated, “The bathroom is allowed for usage starting from the ‘A’ group, so the trainees in the lower groups have incidents where they can’t take care of their basic biological needs. We understand that it’s necessary to group the trainees because there are so many of them, but it’s unfair for the grades to affect everything”.
“They’re all growing boys, but they’re eating just rice without any side dishes. They’re not given enough food and they’re forced to fight over the leftovers. The boys in the lower tier levels need to eat to gain strength, but they’re only getting weaker. We’re concerned this will heavily discourage the younger boys,” added another label.
Another label revealed that because the boys were only allowed out of the dorms in order, the lower tier trainees had to wait over six hours after filming just to be able to go home. “The label can only follow the staff’s orders because our trainees might have to pay the consequences for our complaints. Trainees are working so hard just to get their faces seen once. We’re sad that their effort is being twisted”.
Mnet has since put out a statement defending the show’s rules, saying, “We’re moving by group because there are so many of them. The trainees are treating each other with respect while competing. There is nothing that viewers have to worry about”.
But when it came to light that boys as young as thirteen were in the lowest ranking F group, online netizens were horrified. Does the entertainment industry need to go so far as to take away basic human rights for the sake of commercial priorities?