Mnet’s “Produce 101 Season 2” has been embroiled in a controversy over the alleged mistreatment of its contestants.
“Produce 101” is a survival show in which 101 contestants compete for the chance to debut in a new boy group. Both season one and two have a graded system. In season one, the 101 girls, after an initial “level test,” were divided by grade, and that’s how they received lessons. In season two, the boys are divided into groups A through F, which denote the groups that will receive training together.
Though similar to season one, controversy has arisen with the graded system extending beyond the purposes of the TV show, dictating when the groups eat, go to the bathroom, or even leave to go home at the end of the day.
According to various industry insiders on March 20, the “Produce 101” contestants have to use the restroom in order of their grades. One agency source said, “Since the group A trainees go first, the contestants in the lower groups sometimes don’t get to properly take care of their business. We understand the need to group the trainees because there are so many, but this is unfair.”
The graded system also applies to meal time, according to the report by Ilgan Sports. Communal living for “Produce 101” extends for three days and two nights, with spicy stir-fried pork and rice the only meal being offered. As with the bathrooms, group A contestants are fed first. As the later groups wait, food dwindles, and in some cases, the contestants toward the back of the line only get rice as food.
Another agency source said, “The boys are maturing and growing, and they only have rice to eat. They have limited food, and they’re competing. The lower a contestant’s grade, the harder they have to work, but they just lose more and more energy.”
It doesn’t stop there. Interviews and leaving to go home for the day are also determined by grade. The average time on standby for someone in a lower grade is reportedly about six hours. One agency source said, “They have no choice but to do as they’re told, because if they express their disagreement with how things are run, it could play against their favor. The contestants are desperate for this chance to make themselves known. It’s a shame that their hard work is being distorted like this.”
Meanwhile, Mnet has responded to the news of unfair treatment, saying, “There are a lot of people, so we are moving around in groups. The trainees are taking care of each other and engaging in friendly competition. Filming is going quite smoothly, with nothing for viewers to worry about.”
In a statement to SE Daily, a source from Mnet refrained from commenting on the issue of meals or transportation: “It’s difficult to confirm anything at this time. The first episode will air in the first week of April, and there will be a press conference, so please ask any questions then.”
“Produce 101 Season 2” airs its first episode on April 7.
Thanks to Sarah for the tip!