Netflix is known for its unique original programing, but on Feb. 27, the streaming platform is raising the stakes with a new reality special. The Push on Netflix is about manipulating people into committing murder, and the special promises to be equal parts unsettling and captivating. Hosted by British psychological illusionist Derren Brown, the bizarre reality event serves as the latest social experiment that explores just how far we're willing to go to save our own skin.
The Push follows a man named Chris who attends an auction, unaware that everyone around him — all 70 of them — are in on Brown's experiment. When one of the rich auction attendees suffers a heart attack, Chris is pulled into what Brown describes as a "web of lies" designed to "make him feel like there's only one way out when he's told to commit murder." Slowly, the actors convince Chris that their only option is to push the man off a building. While we won't know until Feb. 27 whether Chris actually commits murder, from the looks of the trailer, it seems like he comes pretty damn close.
As Brown explains, this experiment is part of his attempt to prove "how readily we hand over authorship of our lives everyday." Because if we didn't already feel like the earth was falling apart beneath our feet, here's one more reason to doubt ourselves. Clearly for Brown, there is no limit to the power of peer pressure. "Can social compliance be used to make someone push a living, breathing human being to their death?" asks Brown as the music swells behind him. The answer seems to be yes, because people are the worst.
The Push will no doubt stir up some controversy once it hits Netflix, but it's important to note that the reality special isn't really all that new. Brown's 70-minute special first aired in the United Kingdom in 2016 under the name Derren Brown: Pushed To The Edge. But considering that Brown is much better known in the UK (you could call him the British Criss Angel), it's no surprise that Netflix changed the name of the special to shift the focus away from the illusionist himself.
According to The Verge, Brown is not the first psychologist (and that's a loose term to describe Brown) to ask if we can be manipulated through social pressure to commit murder. In the 1960s, Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram instructed participants to administer electric shocks to a person screaming in pain. By the end of the experiment, two-thirds of Milgram's participants had administered lethal levels of electricity because they were told that it was required to do so.
Brown's televised take on Milgram's experiment will likely be a big event for Netflix, but the special has already come under fire from fans on Twitter who feel that the show's premise is unethical (the same criticism levied at Milgram).
If Brown's website is any indication, responding to concerns like these are not really his top priority. His website boasts a long list of controversial accomplishments: He's played Russian Roulette on live TV, convinced people to commit armed robbery, led a nation-wide seance, hypnotized a man to murder Stephen Fry, and more.
Many of these experiments have been documented on television and in reality specials, so if you like The Push, you won't run out of Brown content any time soon. Plus, the illusionist just made a deal with Netflix to air two more of his specials: Derren Brown: Miracle, an adaptation of his stage show that also aired in 2016, and a brand new special that promises to be just as "jaw-dropping" as The Push.