What I find most strange about this whole Celebrity Big Brother hoo-ha is the idea that Channel 4 should apologise and the fact that the Carphone Warehouse have felt the need to withdraw their sponsorship of Big Brother.
So Carphone Warehouse finds the racism broadcast by Channel 4 deplorable. Presumably Carphone Warehouse want to dissociate themselves from the racist comments made by Big Brother contestants.
But Carphone Warehouse has been sponsoring Big Brother in some form or another for years. So are we to assume from this that Carphone Warehouse condoned the several instances of bad behaviour that have happened in the Big Brother house since they began sponsoring the programme?
Did anybody, for instance, say that because Carphone Warehouse sponsored Big Brother then they must have supported Sandy taking a massive slash in the kitchen bin? Of course not. If you sponsor a reality programme, you ought to expect reality — good and bad — to be associated with your brand. But nobody will expect you to like everything that makes up reality. None of us do; why should Carphone Warehouse be made to feel any different?
Clearly, the entire row has been blown out of proportion. This whole thing does stink a little bit like a coordinated campaign. People are amazed that Ofcom has received so many complaints about Big Brother now, but that is just the nature of campaigning today. The internet spreads the word and empowers people to do this sort of thing very easily.
Just like the complaints about Jerry Springer: The Opera, the numbers will be misleading because of the nature of the campaign. In future, complaints on all matters will be measured in tens of thousands — not dozens like they were just a few years ago.
As Chris Dillow says, criticising Channel 4 is just shooting the messenger. Besides, surely Channel 4 should be applauded for bringing the issue to the fore.
It is a cliche to say that Big Brother isn’t a “reality” television programme. But it is really. What we are seeing here is what Jade Goody, Jo O’Meara et al really think. Of course, were they not shielded from “the outside world”, the protagonists would have stopped bullying Shilpa Shetty as soon as the issue of race came up. But because they are not aware of the public reaction we continue to see their true colours; we are seeing the real reality.
I have always liked Big Brother compared to other reality television shows because it focuses on these kinds of issues that affect us all. Other reality shows focus instead on, for instance, which celebrity can eat the grossest animal gonads. Big Brother is smarter than that.
So imagine now if Channel 4 had decided to censor Big Brother by deleting all of the comments made by Jade et al against Shilpa Shetty — which I presume is what those who are complaining would rather have happened. That would have completely gone against the entire point of the programme. Channel 4’s job is to show us what is going on inside the house and to ask us what we think of it (by the mechanism of the regular public vote for eviction). What else are they supposed to do?
As things stand at the moment, you can probably expect Jade to be evicted unequivocally and she will face a fierce and worldwide public reaction. She will have paid her price for her racist comments and for losing the game of Big Brother (ironic, given the fact that Jade — having been on Big Brother before — was said to have an upper hand over the celebrities in terms of winning the game). Everybody looking on will have a pretty good idea that racism causes a great deal of offense.
Had Channel 4 censored the comments, nobody would know anything about it and Jade et al would have got off with their bullying. Then there would have been a real reason to criticise Channel 4 — for covering up the misdemeanors of the racist housemates and allow them to get away with it without having to face the reality of the offense their comments make.
Put simply, it is not Channel 4’s fault of some of the people in the Big Brother house turned out to have racist views — although it’s clearly not as simple as racism, as Robert Sharp excellently points out in a good post looking at class and other issues surrounding the row as well, as does Cassilis.
As for those people who claim that people like Jade Goody and Jo O’Meara are role models for young people — bollocks! If anybody has Jade Goody as a role model — which I highly doubt! — then they are already a lost cause.
I saw Big Brother’s Little Brother the other day. On it was Paul Morley, who rather optimistically saw this as a potential turning point. He said perhaps this was the turning point where people realise that celebrating non-entities is pointless because there’s nothing to celebrate about them.
I also saw a few people comment on the fact that it was the foreign housemates — Shilpa, Jermaine and Dirk — who were smarter than most of the British housemates. I think this says something about celebrity culture in the UK. I’m not a snob about this, but the Celebrity Big Brother gig probably only appeals to a certain kind of celebrity.
An funny comedian, for instance, would not be seen on CBB today — although you did when Big Brother was still new. That’s because Big Brother is now associated with the Jade Goodys of this world. Shilpa, Jermaine and Dirk probably didn’t realise this. Shilpa said in the house, “This is what the modern UK has come to?”
Fortunately, Shilpa is incorrect in this instance — because she has only been living with the real dregs that British celebrity has to offer. It is a pity that it is this shameful side of British culture that the world is seeing. Come the eviction, everybody will be reminded of the downright mediocrity — and unpopularity — of Jade Goody.
Update 23/01: I can’t believe it took me this long to realise the mistake I made in the title…