Peruvians are lashing out at their country’s terrible reality TV shows after a recent program featured a teenage girl being dared to eat a salad full of cockroaches to win an all-expenses-paid trip to Mexico.
The program, “El Ultimo Pasajero” (The Last Passenger), has drawn fierce criticism on social media from Peruvians exasperated with what they say is a growing number of sensationalist and trashy TV shows stinking up the airwaves.
Last month, hundreds of Peruvians, some carrying placards reading “No to trash TV, yes to culture!” took to the streets of Lima in protest, demonstrating outside the offices of several major TV broadcasters.
Frustration with reality shows has also bubbled up in neighboring Bolivia. In February, hundreds of young Bolivians protested in the streets after a leading TV channel said it planned to replace reruns of “The Simpsons” with a new reality game show. The demonstrations eventually forced the channel to drop its plan.
But in Peru, the latest episode of “El Ultimo Pasajero,” in which a high school girl is cheered on by her classmates to eat a salad soiled by cockroaches, pushed even government officials over the edge.
Shortly after the show aired, Peru’s Prime Minister Ana Jara took to Twitter to chastise the show. “We have sunk to a real low!” She called the program “really unacceptable.”
The president of Peru's Congress, Ana Maria Solorzano, also dumped on the show and urged parents not to allow their children to participate in reality TV. “Parents, you should not let your underage children be denigrated on these kinds of TV programs,” she tweeted.
Some Peruvians are calling for greater government regulations to control TV content.
Others, meanwhile, joked Peru’s TV owners have “cockroaches in their head.”
One of the show’s directors, Jesus Alzamora, said he thinks the negative reactions to the show were overblown.
"I totally reject the accusations that we’re promoting trash," he wrote on his Facebook page.
Alzamora said the producers erred by not making it clear to viewers that the cockroaches used on the show were "edible."
"Yes, edible cockroaches do exist," he wrote. "Read about entomography … the cockroach that was used on the show, which we should have done more to inform about, is not only edible, but … was cooked. It was absolutely edible and it is eaten not only in Peru but in other parts of the world."