I, too, have something to say about BB.

(Photo from Telegraph, 19 Jan 2007)

I can’t believe I am writing a post about Big Brother. >_< Indeed, I’m one of the 1.2 million people who joined the viewing after the recent controversy arose. Season 1 just started when I was doing my MA in Leicester in 99/00, so I saw one or two episodes in the kitchen with flatmates. That was all my experience with this reality TV show. I have never followed any series since I came back to the UK this time. Well, before yesterday. Despite the global popularity of this kind of programme, Korea has never had one on a national channel. I still remember how MBC contemplated launching a Korean equivalent to Celebrity Big Brother a few years ago and how they ended up facing such a furore before even doing anything. Although they tried to project a better image on it by announcing all the money made out of the show would go to charity organisations and all that, the public couldn’t even bear the thought of having such a horrendously immoral thing. 🙂

News about what has happened of late in the BB house is everywhere, so I don’t think I need to go into details. In a nutshell, those three girls (from left in the photo) didn’t like the Indian actress (far right) and ganged up on her. Immature enough, they refused to call her by name, referred to her as ‘Shilpa Poppadom’ instead, bitched about her accent, her food, and her skin colour. Tens of thousands of viewer complaints were sent to Channel 4, accusing particularly Jade (next to Shilpa) of racial bullying. Tony Blair spoke about it in the House of Commons, protesters in India burned an effigy of a BB producer, both mothers of the two girls in question were interviewed in news programmes, and Gordon Brown had to emphasise Britain is a country of tolerance and fairness while his recent trip to India. Whoa. Jade was finally evicted last night.

I started to read stuff as I was initially interested to find out if online users here react any differently from Korean Netizens would to an event like this, i.e. an event where there is an obvious public enemy. In Korea, a typical pattern is that (i) outraged comments flood in, almost like virtual stoning, (ii) a small number of users start to voice out and urge others to stop a witch-hunt. The latter’s argument is generally based on either humanistic sympathy (“That’s enough; leave them alone”) or the both-are-wrong attitude (ć…©éžè«–. “Criticise them only if you have never sinned”?). Then,  (iii) sanguinary discursive battles take place between two sides, and (iv) things cool down and are quickly discarded. This pattern has been identified through quite a few events, from the President’s impeachment/reinstatement to scandals around celebrities’ illegal exemptions from military service. So, according to this scenario, my guess was that sooner or later there would be a voice defending Jade, mainly underlining what Shilpa did wrong.

That said, I would never have imagined that would be me. Let me clarify: I have no intention to defend her. Some of the comments she and the two other girls made were fairly unacceptable. However, the more I read different articles and viewer opinions, the more I get to think about racism itself. I do have naive ideas about racism. A friend who studied in France with me together once said to me that was because I’d been lucky enough to have no nasty experiences myself. Quite right. However, this whole happening has made me wonder about a couple of points. First, if it had happened the other way around, would it have caused such a fuss? Is there any kind of categorisation of ‘always-victimiser’ races and ‘always-victim’ races in racism? Second, maybe out of class hatred or maybe out of female jealousy, Shilpa doesn’t strike me either as an absolutely likable type. Does this mean we still can’t dislike anyone of another race? Third, bitching towards an individual always involves verbal attacks on the person’s distinct points. Which is with no doubt bad, but does this mean we just can’t attack if the person happens to be from another race? Isn’t this the Poisoning the Well fallacy? Finally, is my beloved Red Dwarf, making fun of vindaloo curry and poppadom all the time, racist?

All in all, Stephen Coleman was sooooo right when he pointed out in a lecture on the OII Summer Doctoral Programme that BB voters were interested in simple moral values and decided who to be evicted almost solely based on those values – just like political voters.


4 thoughts on “I, too, have something to say about BB.

  1. If all the world’s problems related to racism were limited to the scale of four immature girls bitching about each other on “reality” TV, however crude the comments, it deserves no second mention anywhere. I understand some of the comments made against Shilpa were very totally unacceptable and no doubt in very bad taste- and while they attacked her name, her dietary habits, her accent, made some cursory references to India – it appears more to be a class war, than a race war. Shilpa is rich and snotty with a smooth ride in life – the other girls, I understand had to struggle and come from relatively modest backgrounds. I think its simply the case of struggling middle class successes feeling envious about the star with a chip on her shoulder ( which she does have, I do find her annoying myself) , more than anything else.

    To me , there are bigger issues on the horizon.

    I have personally heard British Asians make very crude comments directed at people of European descent and people of African origin making supremacist like comments. To me this is equally if not more unacceptable.

    Last year in Glasgow a young boy was burnt to death for being white by an Asian gang – I wish such a large fuss had been made then, because in a sense it highlights the existence of rabid counter-racism as well, which is no different from the main issue, but people are not allowed to speak about it for sake of political correctness.

    >>>First, if it had happened the other way around, would it have caused such a fuss? Is there any kind of categorisation of ‘always-victimiser’ races and ‘always-victim’ races in racism?

    Maybe, one could just say , you are a bitch and I dislike you and leave it at that. Sadly, people can’t stop there can they.

    >>>>Second, maybe out of class hatred or maybe out of female jealousy, Shilpa is not an absolutely likeable type to me, either. Does this mean we still can’t dislike anyone of another race?

    Anyways, the moot point for me is that I cant understand why such a fuss is being made. Discussion is good, but the responses in this case seem out of proportion. The comments were made on a program, designed to bring out the worst in people – not the best! So it seems a waste of time and money that politicians and diplomats are being concerned.

    The biggest joke for me is the Indian government getting involved – In a sense I do subscribe to the “Criticise them only if you have never sinned” adage — Indian media is regularly responsible for stereotypical and crude representations of people of other races, and even members of its own heterogeneous population! ( I would not be surprised if Shilpa has not acted in a few such) . Even if we do accept that this is a case of media racism, I think the Indian government, should now analyse its own media and set its own backyard in order, rather than interfering in the media matters of another country and demanding apologies of the British. The incident didn’t happen in the UN hall after all.

    nuff said — Red Dwarf is not racist. Its a deep philosophical satire on the state of man and life in a cold Godless world. I will not accept anything against Red Dwarf 😛

    Jade probably eats two Indian meals and a dozen Poppadoms a day. Perhaps it was what she was thinking of when she called Shilpa a Poppadom. 🙂 I suspect she is gorging on them, now that she has been evicted.

  2. Thanks for such a profound comment. I absolutely agree with everything – perhaps not the “only if you have never sinned” bit, that is.

    I am still chewing over this whole racism thing. (I really should learn how to let go of things…) Assuming there had been an Italian boy contestant in the BB house, if they had called him, say, Paulo Spaghetti, would that have constituted a racist offence?

  3. Pingback: Sriramkrishnan Srinivasan (Sriram) “Vade mecum” » Big Brother 2

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