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Derren Brown: Pushed to the Edge

Spoilers ahead.


Image property of Channel 4 and Derren Brown.

Recently, on Channel 4, Derren Brown returned with another spectacle to wow the British public. This show was called Pushed to the Edge and was a special episode where four members of the public were manipulated in such a way that they could possibly, willingly, murder another human being. Throughout the episode we meet the members of the public, for most part a man named Chris, and follow his/their journey at a charity auction event. All the other people at this event are actors and the actual charity is completely made up. Throughout the course of the event we see Chris being made to do small tasks to show his willingness to follow orders. This starts with little things like putting vegetarian signs on meat sausage rolls and getting people drinks when it’s not his job to and it escalates to Chris being told to push a man off the roof.

Now this may seem like a sudden jump, pardon the pun, but there is a whole storyline that goes along with it. The man who may be pushed was supposed to be dead. Terrible things happened to this man with Chris’ help and if the man lives, Chris will go to jail for the crime/ But if he doesn’t, Chris will be a murderer but no one would be the wiser. It’s an awkward dichotomy, what’s worse? Having a man’s dead body over your head or spending the rest of your life in a jail cell? Another part to this story is that the man was supposed to give 5 million to the charity to help a bunch of children. If he lives, the children won’t receive this money either. What would you do?

In the episode there were four candidates and only one didn’t push him: Chris. All the others did and this somewhat surprised me. I found it amazing that so many people went along with what they were being told to do and chose their own lives over someone else’s. Of course you could say ‘Oh but they did it for the sake of the children and the money’ but did they really? On the roof they are told again and again that they will go to jail if they don’t do it so really they’re just thinking of themselves and their freedom.

It does make you think though…how often do we do stuff like that? Obviously I don’t mean murdering a millionaire but just following orders? How often do we really think for ourselves? The amount of times we’ve gone out after a bout of peer-pressure and really paid for it the next day. Or the times where we’ve only bought an expensive purchase because of other people’s recommendation and realised it was a silly purchase and you’ve just wasted who knows how much on something you’ll never use or wear or whatever!

Why don’t people stand up for themselves more? Say no? Of course it’s awkward especially in a group of friends being the one to go against everyone else or the one to stand up for ourselves. But what if we did? What would happen if we starting standing up for ourselves and saying what we want and what we really mean? It COULD get you hated, it COULD lose you friends, it COULD this, it COULD that but it could also be freeing. You would finally have free reign of your life. You CAN choose your pathway and who you want to be and what you want to do in life. You know what? People actually respect you for that. If you stand up, even on your own, and go against the ‘sheep’ of other people they might actually start following you instead.

It can be hard to say no, but, if you do you’ll feel way better for it. Even if you think the people telling you what to do are givng you free reign over your choice, really they’re not. Not until you decide to go against them.

But really, the question in the end is: what would you do in this situation? You kill the man and give millions to the children that need it and give yourself a free life BUT with a man’s murder over your head, or, you don’t kill the man and you go to jail for life.

What would you do?

Until next time.


  1. This is such an eye-opening post, I really enjoyed it! A great review of the show, and a further bit of insight into the idea of social compliance, you’re very right with everything you mentioned that we should stand up and question things more, as opposed to simply going along with what people tell us to do.
    I’d like to think that after having my eyes opened to this phenomena I would stand by my own morals and not get tangled up in that mess!
    Awesome post Shona! xx


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