Tuesday, June 28, 2005

big brother; force for good or apartheid?

Two slightly conflicting articles in the Guardian today about the first Big Brother which I have not bothered watching. The first reports that Trevor Phillips is to confound his growing reputation for saying idiotic things in public by, er, claiming that BB is evidence that we "seem completely uninfluenced by issues of race and ethnicity" when it comes to the whole eviction shebang. Well, he's broadly right, although whether BB is indeed a force for good and a slap in the face to ethnic stereotypes I'm really not sure. Still, Trev is. All of which is well and good, were it not for the fact that, by all accounts, the BB house is descending into something resembling apartheid bedlam. According to another article in today's paper,

"In one corner (the living room, actually), we have Anthony, Saskia, Maxwell and Craig. All four are white. In the other (anywhere in the house that is not the living room), we have Makosi, Kemal, Science, Vanessa and Derek. All five are non-white.

On Sunday night it exploded. As usual, the source of conflict was alcohol, and who had stolen whose cider. But the subtext was more disturbing. Over the previous week, this racial split had been developing. Indeed, Vanessa had noticed how funny it was that "us ethnics" were forming one team, while the others, the Anglo-Saxons, were forming another. Then came the alcohol row, and our worst suspicion was confirmed. Any early waverers who had not yet nailed their colours to the mast joined their similarly skinned brethren, and all of a sudden we were watching a TV programme that could have been a product of PW Botha's South Africa."

That all sounds like a fair amount of hyperbole to me, although if it's true that's certainly interesting (and appalling). So after giving up my self-imposed ban and watching Eastenders for the first time in a few months on Sunday I might have to watch Big Brother tonight and see what this is all about.


Pete Ashton said...

Don't do it, man! Walk away from the television! It's not worth it! Put down the remote!

Seriously, this is a revelation? Walk down any high street and you see this. What's worrying is that people can only address it when it's shown in some dumb-assed TV show, nicely detached from their reality.

Anonymous said...

If one notes the winners of all the 12(?) BB, Celeb BB and Im A Celeb get me out of here combined(those 3 are most similar in format). All the winners are white, nearly all straight and nearly all male (one gay man and one transexual, two women have been winners). The standard BB format massively over represents non-white & non-straight housemates.

If you were going to bet on a winner, without taking too much notice of the prog itself, bet on a white (straight) male.

Anonymous said...

I don't really see how, just because people have made friends with people of their own race (not that unusual), that becomes 'apartheid'!

Fair Vote Watch said...

Well, I have unfortunately been subjected to BB by my partner...and I'm not sure that 'apartheid' report is hyperbole. It was brewing for a week, and is now blatant. Even some of the language used in arguments, while apparently neutral, did recall the things (white) agents of the state might say to (black) 'suspects': thief, dog, scum and so on. All of which, as Pete says, isn't that surprising, and may even have been expected by program makers (the non-white contingent in BB is disproportionate, so for the first time ever has been sufficient to form a coherent alternative group, as opposed to accepting lone outsider status).

Also utterly unsurprising is the timing of Trev's outburst. Really, the bloke can't see a foot without wanting to gorge himself on it.

paul said...

I know it's stating the obvious (or at least the suspected) but it seems that the contestants were picked to provoke this. Didn't Saskia, on her first night, say that "foreigners" wanted to "kill us and bomb us"? Perhaps Endemol and C4 liked the audience reaction to an asylum seeker being in the house last year.

I agree that little of this is surprising. This level of separation (I'd be reluctant to use "apartheid" as it suggests imposed segregation, although I guess the meaning has changed over the last few years) along ethnic lines is not only visible on any high street, but also, in my experience, in schools and work places.

Ditto regards Trevor Phillips.