Big Brother 15 Racism Free Pass
For the past thirteen years, every summer Tony and I have followed the saga of the Big Brother house guests on CBS. In the earlier days, pre-DVR, we would even bring blank video tapes on vacation with us to Provincetown so we could go back to our hotel room and watch what happened later at night. And BB is actually the only reality show of this nature we have continued to watch over the years. We grew tired of Survivor and American Idol a while ago. And after Donald Trump came out so viciously against gays we gave up on The Apprentice, too.
One of the main reasons I've always watched BB is because I find the interactions between the house guests fascinating. The basic premise of the show is to put a group of people together from all walks of life and make them compete in physical and mental competitions for a grand prize of five hundred thousand dollars. Each week, a house guest is voted off the show by his or her peers. It's amazing to see what people will do for money, and how low they will stoop sometimes, but it's also amazing to see how they form relationships with each other and how they often support each other. The house guests are not allowed to have any contact with the outside world the entire time they are sequestered in the BB house. In 2001, because the show was aired during the summer, none of the remaining house guests that season even knew about the terrorism attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It was very emotional.
There are always a few things you can expect at the beginning of any BB season opener. And this summer was no different. The host of the show, Julie Chen, always looks amazing, and as the house guests are introduced we see a cross-section of new contestants who represent various segments of the US population. As a side note, it would be nice to see a little diversification sometimes so that all segments of the LGBT community are represented, including house guests that are either transgender or bi-sexual.
In any event, this particular season has turned into a firestorm of racism that's even shocked me. It includes everything from misogyny to slurs against Asian Americans. And BB is no stranger to hate, as you can see from this former post I wrote in 2011 when a past contestant, Jeff Schroeder, made hate comments against gays.
He made a comment this season about kids books and gay characters in kids books that was probably the dumbest thing I've heard on television in years. In this case, he was talking about a character in Harry Potter, Dumbledore.
As far as I know, unless I missed it, Schroeder has yet to apologize for anything he said on the show that was anti-gay. In fact, he's still faking it and smiling and doing interviews with the new BB 15 cast. He is a straight white male. This is a link to Jeff Schroeder's anti-gay comments on youtube from 2011. If you do a simple search with his name and "anti-gay" you'll find many other examples I'm not going to link to here. What's up with that, CBS?
This particular season of BB, number 15, isn't even completely underway and so far there have been racist and anti-gay comments that have erupted into one of the biggest online firestorms I've seen in a long time. Aaryn Gries has been fired from her modeling job for racist comments about Asian Americans, Gina Marie Zimmerman has also been fired from her job for making similar comments, and Spencer Clawson's job is now on the line because of his anti-gay comments and his fondness of the way Hitler made public speeches. You can read about all of them here, with more links. None of the house guests even know about this right now because they have no contact with the outside world in the BB house.
Spencer was one of a handful of contestants who were caught on the "Big Brother" 24-hour live feed making a series of comments. Spencer used gay slurs, and praised Hitler's speaking abilities, according to Reality Blurred.
A simple search will lead you to all kinds of articles and posts about BB 15 racism, and there are examples. What I find interesting is how CBS has decided to handle this. Every Thursday evening there is a live show and one of the house guests is voted off. After the recent racism comments, I was particularly curious to see how Julie Chen would handle last night's live show. She basically handled the issue as a professional and didn't approach the topic head on. But she did get in a few comments the offending house guests clearly didn't pick up on, especially Aaryn Gries.
CBS didn't air all the hate comments yet, and from what I've read they weren't sure they would air any of them at first. But it seems they've changed their minds.
"CBS and 'Big Brother' showed it because it is now driving a story. It is now affecting how the other players want to see her gone," she said of Aaryn. "You can't just put it in there and say, 'Judge her, everybody!' It has to have to do with the game and the rules of the game ... She will have to face consequences."
So it's okay to put Paula Deen out there and judge her, but it's not okay to put Aaryn Gries out and judge her in the same way. As far as I know, Paula Deen's comments were made in confidence, and Deen claims they were not malicious and she's apologized in public. Aaryn Gries may have thought she was making her comments in confidence, but she also knows she's on a live feed twenty-four hours a day and everything she says and does is being recorded. And last night on BB when one of the house guests went to Aaryn Gries and gave her a chance to redeem herself on national TV for making her racist comments, she basically made a face, brushed it off, and said she didn't care. Aaryn Gries is a straight white female. I saw this myself, and so did millions of other people. I cringed for everyone she insulted, I cringed for the house guest who tried to bring the topic up, and I cringed for Aaryn Gries. It's not often you get to see that brand of hate (and dismissal of hate) so openly on live television.
In an open letter to BB's production team, former house guest, Ragan Fox, is calling for BB to disclose all the hate speech that's been happening this season on BB, and to bring it all out in the open.
I just read Andrea Reiher’s Zap2It article in which she documents racism,
misogyny, and homophobia that’s already emerged in the Big Brother 15
house. Feed watchers have watched Spencer call women “c#nts” and spit the word
“fag” in Andy’s face. Similarly, Aaryn Gries (pictured above) complained that
Andy would most likely get next week’s MVP because “people love the queers.”
Aaryn’s also demanded Candice, an African American woman, say “asked, not axed”
and suggested Helen, the season’s sole Asian American houseguest, should “go
make some rice.” GinaMarie also wondered if they could make Helen’s eyes
straight. And this is only WEEK 1! Imagine what will happen when they forget
about the cameras.
Keep in mind that I have been watching the show all season, and I didn't even know half of the things mentioned in Fox's paragraph above. So far, as a viewer, I've only seen Aaryn Gries's Asian American slurs. And that's because this is all CBS has decided to air in public so far.
In this one sentence, Fox sums up exactly how I feel. And I think millions of other Americans feel. Let's stop giving them a free pass.
Big Brother, I LOVE you, but, if you really want to provide a
groundbreaking twist, SHOW CBS VIEWERS HOW SOME STRAIGHT, WHITE PEOPLE talk
about gays, Asian Americans, and African Americans.
You can read the entire letter in full, here.
I love you, too, Big Brother, and I understand how important it is to remain objective when it comes to dealing with content of any kind. As a writer I often find myself strugging with the same issues with certain characters and situations. But this is too important to ignore. The fact remains that we have race issues in this country and maybe it's time to get it all out in the open once and for all, especially since it's become such a highly charged issue with the Paula Deen controversy and the George Zimmerman trial. With all this going on right now, you have the chance to help change the world.