If you’re in the mood to rebrand the surveillance state into wholesome family entertainment, have I got the show for you! Ring Nation is an upcoming viral video television show hosted by Wanda Sykes that “will feature clips such as neighbors saving neighbors, marriage proposals, military reunions and silly animals.” All videos, according to the Deadline announcement, will be sourced from Ring Doorbell footage. It’s like a prank-style Black Mirror episode!
Ring Nation will be produced by MGM television, Big Fish Entertainment and Ring. If you had to take a guess at which corporate behemoth was behind this anti-privacy nightmare of a show, how long would it take you to say “Amazon”? Amazon owns MGM, Big Fish, and Ring. Deadline described this venture as the “latest example of corporate synergy at Amazon.” The whole thing feels like a vertical integration scheme.
“Bringing the new community together is core to our mission at Ring, and Ring Nation gives friends and family a fun new way to enjoy time with one another,”
Jack Donaghy, the vice president of east coast television and microwave oven programming for General Electric Jamie Siminoff, the founder and CEO of Ring Doorbell, told Deadline. “Bringing the community together” is an interesting way of spinning the fact that your company not only provides police with users’ videos without permission, it’s also officially partnered with over 400 police departments. Now that’s synergy.
What’s also synergetic is that Sykes has a history of working in surveillance herself. While honing her standup skills in and around Washington, D.C., the comedian worked for the National Security Agency. Not only that, but she had high level clearance! “I shopped, but instead of buying shoes, I bought spy equipment,” she told The Washingtonian in 2010. She spent her time “making something that’s not a piece of spy equipment look like something else.” It really feels like there could not have been a better-prepared host candidate.
A lot of Ring Doorbell footage has gone viral on social media and it can be lighthearted and fun. But ultimately, the surveillance state it promotes not only gives companies like Amazon a lot of personal data but reinforces racial profiling, and breaks down trust between neighbors. This cheerful video show is a bold branding effort to make these home security devices seem a lot less menacing than they actually are.
It’s unclear if there will be cash incentives for contestants to submit their footage, like there is on AFHV. It’s even a bit unclear who owns the footage in the first place. Perhaps Amazon will scroll through it without owners’ permission—like they’ve done before—and find some knee-slapping content for us to laugh at as Amazon’s vice grip tightens around our necks!
This post has been updated to more fully reflect on Wanda Sykes’ work history.