Thursday 18 January 2007

show me your colours, baby....

I kicked the Big Brother habit a few years ago, and I haven't really been watching this one. I did happen to be catch some of it last weekend though, before the darts started. I saw what I thought was some pathetic bullying by three girls who were clearly not the shiniest pebbles on the beach. They were all sat on a bed bitching about another member of the house. At first it was laughable because they were moaning about how this person, the Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty, was doing all of their cooking for them.

How dare she!

Things rapidly took a turn for the worse though, and one of the girls decided it would be funny to impersonate Shilpa's accent.

Apparently it's got a whole lot worse since, and has kicked off a bit of a shitstorm (as well as, I couldn't help but notice, adding nearly 2 million people to Channel 4's viewing figures). There have been something like 30,000 complaints, major sponsors have pulled out, and there have been protests in India.

Are they racist? Are they 'just' bullies?

It all looks pretty bad to me. Even if they aren't being intentionally racist, they are picking on Shilpa's colour, her accent and her background as ways of singling her out and isolating her. Even if they aren't doing this in a conscious way (and they would all no doubt be horrified if they were called racists - or racialists, as Jade puts it), what does this say about British society? How much of a 'multicultural' society do we really live in? Is Jade Goody really the face of a modern Britain? Is she everything that's good about the cult of celebrity, or everything that's bad about it?

It's not just that either: Channel 4 are broadcasting all of this for our entertainment, and we're lapping it up. Lest we forget, all of those cameras are rolling 24 hours a day, and the footage that we see is a carefully edited package of highlights. This does not excuse the comments, but it does strip them of their context. I watched some of the highlights tonight, and they clearly know that they are onto a good thing here, ratings-wise, and they are milking it. They have started feeding leading questions to the main protagonists, prompting them to fuel the fire even further. They're not looking to defuse this, they're looking for the controversy.

Mind you, I had to laugh when Jo O'Meara, the former singer with S-Club 7 and one of Jade's coven, was summoned to the diary room when she had been crying. As she left the bedroom and headed across the house, she was muttering to herself about how they were going to be putting her onto TV when she was looking dreadful and not wearing any makeup. Well, I've got news for you Jo:

1) There are cameras running everywhere. They are running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We're seeing you now, you dozy cow, not just when you are in the sodding diary room

2) Us seeing you without your makeup is going to be the least of your worries when you finally come out.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this whole affair is that I never thought I would see the day when H from Steps emerged as a voice of reason.

But I can take it or leave it, obviously.....


  1. I also gave up on Big Brother as collecting a bunch of half wits and then sticking cameras on them is not entertainment in my books.

    If it was, every mental health ward would be on tv.

    I wonder how far people on Big Brother can go before the show is shut down...

  2. I know it's a package of edited highlights, so to some extent Channel 4 has control of what it shows, but what is irritating me about the whole thing is the scream from "the public" to have this filth taken off the air. The nanny state has finally prevailed and we're now screaming for it to protect us from the grim reality of casual racism.

    To echo (unfortunately) David Cameron, there is a perfectly simple way to avoid being exposed to it all - it's called the off button.

    The whole point of the show (if it can really be said to have a point) is to see how people react to that claustrophobic environment. As soon as they start editing out the nasty reactions, the point is lost.

    (In Jade's defence - again, unfortunately - 'racialist' is a perfectly cromulent word)

  3. I haven't been watching it. i don't need to eat a shit sandwich to know it stinks.

  4. I'm addicted to reality television, although I like celebrity versions less than those with "real" people. I've been following the media reaction to this with an eagle eye, and while I completely agree that there is bullying going on and that it's disgraceful, I'm not entirely sure it is racially motivated. I think it's about the usual things which motivate bullying - someone being different, the perpetrators feeling insecure about themselves and so on - and the media have picked up on the fact that Shilpa's Indian and branded it racist as a peg to hang it on.

    Having watched every series of Big Brother thus far, there has been bullying in every single one - in fact Jade herself was a victim both by housemates and the media - and it never attracts this much attention.

    That said, I was bullied in my younger days for being different myself and I can remember exactly how horrible it was. If the media storm in a teacup raises awareness of the horrors of both bullying and racism, then fair play. And Channel 4 have got zillions of viewers out of it.

    I suspect Jade and co will seriously regret this little episode. Jade's perfume's been withdrawn from sale by shops and Danielle's modelling contracts have been cancelled.

  5. I liked the comment left on the BBC site (I think) along the lines of: "Is anyone else here fine with pronouncing 'Shilpa' but not so sure about 'Jackiey'?"

  6. I have only heard clips from the show, but it sounds like this young Indian woman is intelligent, polite, and gracious. I'm sure she can hold her own.

    What I find ironic and hypocritical is the fact that the Indian government is ready to come to the defense of an upper class movie star who is on the show voluntarily - and being well-paid for her appearance - yet they have ignored the ubiquitous racism and discrimination perpetrated against ordinarian Indian citizens, not just abroad, but in their own country. Caste discrimination is not a thing of the past in India, by any means.

  7. Hopefully Jade and co aren't the face of modern Britain. Several thousand people voted her off today thankfully.

    I was of the 'it's just bullying' camp originally but have decided that it's bollocks, they're being spiteful and racist to make themselves feel good at the expense of someone else. Racism pure and simple.

    Have you seen that the Indian Tourist Board has invited Jade over for a visit?