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Tag: Big Brother

Big Brother merely holds a mirror up to our society

Nina Funnell and I wrote the following post on Big Brother which was first published at both The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on November 5th.

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Big Brother is set to evict his final housemate tonight. Despite earlier laments that the return of BB hailed the decline of civilization as we know it, the most controversial element of this series seems to have been Sonia Kruger’s flamboyant outfits. Oh how threatened some seem to be by a woman over twenty who dares to combine silver and sequins. And oh how fearful we are of this particular television genre. But why?

One of the common concerns about reality TV is that it encourages a perverse level of voyeurism and a sadistic interest in watching others suffer. There is, of course, a long history to both this type of spectatorship and the accompanying cultural concerns. But watching reality contestants duel for immunity pales in comparison to the sadistic spectatorship of past eras, where people would gather in the town square to cheer on public executions. Not to mention what went on in the coliseums when gladiators were placed at the mercy of “the audience vote”. Historically, evictions tended to be far more permanent, and there were no consolation prizes.

Another criticism frequently leveled at shows like Big Brother is that it is not ‘reality’ at all, because the environment is artificial and the contestants suffer from the observer effect (where the act of observing a phenomenon influences the phenomenon being observed). However the genre routinely draws attention to its own constructedness: the contrived situations and the experience of being constantly observed are key talking point within the show, and housemates openly acknowledge and draw attention to the artificialness of situation by waving at the cameras. The audience too are absolutely in on this.

Other critics are scornful of the types of people who appear on these shows, especially those who seek and acquire public status as a result of their reality TV journey. Part of the aversion to ‘instant celebrity’ is that it doesn’t seem to be connected to hard work or talent.

Of course there have always been those who have achieved fame and wealth without it being linked to innate ability or merit, including royals and the children born of powerful family dynasties. And yet our protestant work ethic makes us suspicious (envious?) of anyone who succeeds without the requisite hard yards, and even more so if they make any money out of this.

But we should remember that for every Ryan (Fitzy) Fitzgerald and Chrissie Swan who manage to leverage their 5 minutes of fame into something sustainable, there are plenty who don’t.  Like it or not, there is a real skill in maximizing these opportunities.

And while some truly disturbing incidents have occurred throughout the numerous seasons of Big Brother, including bullying, backstabbing and sexual harassment, the show itself has not authored these behaviors, so much as exposed them. Big Brother holds a mirror up to ourselves and in doing so it generates vital conversations around issues which we may be otherwise loathed to discuss. Often we, the audience, are left self-assessing and recalibrating our own moral compasses.

When Professor Catharine Lumby interviewed teenage girls as part of a research project exploring their media consumption habits, she was “amazed by how eloquently the girls talked about the ethical lessons embedded in [the] show Big Brother. [These included] how do you remain true to yourself and get on in a group? What’s the line between healthy self-interest and selfishness? Under what circumstances is it OK to lie? Should appearances matter?”

“These were some of the questions that defined their interest in the show. What looks like an extended conversation between a bunch of indolent and horny 20-somethings hanging around a house to some of us, is a catalogue of the dilemmas of everyday life to others” writes Lumby.

It’s a fascinating insight which reminds us that young people are perfectly capable of having sophisticated conversations around cultural goods which appear to be anything but sophisticated.

And perhaps that is what is really at stake here: a struggle over taste and the right to determine what counts as legitimate cultural goods. Could it be then, that Big Brother’s ultimate sin is who it appeals to: those who cheer on Reggie’s antics. Those who slap along with Sara-Marie as she bum dances. Those who laugh along at the “dancing doona.” Those who love to cheer on a contestant named “Boog.”

BB is the Bogan’s choice. And it never pretends otherwise.

Whether you watched this season or not, let’s at least be honest about where our objections really come from.

 

Wall of Shame

The healthy Beer?

What was Jessica Simpson ( who is not only the spokesperson for this new brand of beer but also an investor in the brewery that manufacturers it) thinking when she got involved in a range that obviously targets young female drinkers in the most irresponsible way?

The singer, 28, says in the campaign: “I work out and take care of myself. But I also like a cold beer once in a while. That’s why I made the smart choice with a smart beer. Stampede Light, it’s beer plus.”

Yes, it is light beer infused with vitamins…I kid you not. The company’s web site declares it contains vitamin B and is “made from pure spring water…geared towards the health-conscious.”

Take Me On The Floor

Australian Rock group The Veronicas (twins Jess and Lisa Origliasso) are heavily marketed towards the tween demographic. They have a highly successful clothing range for girls aged 7-16 which is sold at Target stores and are regular cover girls for tween magazines. In recent interviews, the twins have acknowledged that fans as young as four go along to their concerts:  “For our last record (their debut, Exposed: The Secret Life of the Veronicas) we were surprised by the age demographic it appealed to – we had kids as young as four coming, but adults as well,” Lisa says.

What will their devoted tween fans make of their new single “Take Me On The Floor”? The film clip is simply soft-porn. Shots of the now almost obligatory girl on girl kissing, lots of gyrating and close ups of thighs being groped…the lyrics include an incredible amount of heavy breathing (do they suffer from asthma perhaps?) and the mantra “I wanna kiss a girl, I wanna kiss a girl, I wanna kiss a boy, I wanna … ” The dancers meanwhile writhe uncontrollably as they all “take each other” on the dance floor ( all this at 9am on Saturday morning TV, before I’ve even had my Coco Pops!)

 

When asked about the move towards highly sexual lyrics in their new album “Hook Me Up ” when the album was first released way back in October last year in an interview in the Sydney Morning Herald, Lisa offered this:   

I think in the music world today that (sex) is a very big part of all songs…You can’t really listen to one song on the radio that isn’t referring to relationships or that whole thing. Every song seems to be about that, it seems to be driven by that. I don’t think this is any different. It’s just a fun song. You know, you can interpret how you want to. But I think kids are a little bit more wise these days … I mean kids have boyfriends when they’re 12. I didn’t have my first kiss until I was 15,” she adds, with a laugh. “

So Lisa wasn’t ready for her first kiss until she was 15, but children nowadays should be ready for anything much earlier? And sorry, but unless I am missing something this new song is not about a relationship at all, the opening line states: “I barely know you…”

My 9 year old daughter had a Veronicas t-shirt.

It’s been binned.

Ralph magazine makes me ralph

Ralph maagzine hit a record low (and that is saying something!) with their pictorial of ex-Big Brother “star” Brigitte this month. She is posed in scanty lingerie, proudly exposing her fake breats – on a bed surrounded by children’s cuddly toys, with a baby’s dummy in her hand! One can only assume readers are meant to be aroused by her child-like appeal. Disgusting. Devastating.

And, what sage advice does she offer to readers? When asked what she would do if she became PM she offered this: “I’d probably give everyone free boob jobs. I think guys would appreciate the girls getting them.”

Seems our work is far from done…          

 

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