Stranger Things Star's New Netflix Prank Show Slammed As 'Genuine Cruelty'

Dustin Stranger Things Netflix

Stranger Things has been a great opportunity and career boost for its child actors. Some have managed to find success outside the franchise to perhaps keep that fame afloat when the show or their run on it inevitably ends. Dustin actor Gaten Matarazzo is the latest of the crew to do this, and it was recently announced he'd be executive producing and hosting an upcoming Netflix show with a premise some have called "cruel."

The series, titled Prank Encounters, targets individuals who believe they're attending their first day at a part-time job. In actuality, the whole thing is a ruse and hidden cameras capture the participants going through wild situations billed to be "full-time nightmares." The premise hasn't sat well with some on the internet, who made sure to voice their displeasure in the replies attached to Gaten Matarazzo's announcement on social media.

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The main problem so many are having with Prank Encounters is that it's geared towards targeting people who believe they're getting a job, only to use them for an elaborate television prank. What's worse is that the participants probably find out they don't actually have a job after appearing on the program, and must jump back into the job search again. Imagine how angry someone would be if they turned down an actual job for this series?

That's the point Twitter is trying to make as fans are reaching out and asking Gaten Matarazzo, age 16, to rethink his involvement in Prank Encounters. Others like Twitter user Josh Jacobson are trying to be understanding, and hoping that the outcry will prompt Matarazzo or someone associated with his team to release a statement that things aren't as bad as they seem.

Until I see a statement from your team, I'm holding out some hope that this show isn't just literally giving people fake job offers. Hoping there's more to it cause, that's a very cruel premise. Unless the prankees get salary equivalent money and job placement help at the end.

Now, it's not like prank shows are anything new, as many have surfaced over the years with Ashton Kutcher's Punk'd (which is getting a reboot) or TruTV's Impractical Jokers being some of the more notable installments in years past. Both shows targeted unwitting suspects, but there's a difference in the public eye between well-to-do celebrities and random people who play a part in a competitive game between a group of friends.

Still, a case could be made that both of those shows were/are as exploitative as Prank Encounters, but we just don't know until we have the details. Meanwhile, the backlash alone may cause Netflix to push pause on the show, or risk making one of their big stars a controversial figure should the series turn out to be what some think it will be. Especially given several people have already made up their minds and attacked Gaten Matarazzo for his involvement. Here's just one example from his replies:

Oh good, bullying people who are already stressed out from not being able to find a job. Super classy there, kid.

At the time of writing, Gaten Matarazzo has not commented on people's responses to Prank Encounters, and it would appear Netflix still has plans in place for the series to release later this year. Will the streaming platform go through with the release in light of all this controversy, or will it perhaps quietly drop it and rely on its multitude of other original content to connect with audiences later in the year?

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CinemaBlend will keep an eye out for answers, and continue to report on big things related to Netflix and Stranger Things. Season 3 of the acclaimed drama is out Thursday, July 4 at 12:01 a.m. PT.

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.