I have been meaning to write a blog about Big Brother 15 for a couple of weeks now. This is a show that I had not watched in years, for one reason or another, and I had never watched the live feeds. This year, I happened to catch the season premiere and, since they were offering a 2 day free trial, I signed up for live feeds as well. To say that I was instantly addicted is an understatement!
Since I have always had an interest in observing human behavior, particular to our society here in the United States, having the opportunity to observe people in the bubble that is Big Brother opened up a whole new world to me. Yes, I know that I am late to the party, but at the time I thought, “Better late than never!”
In life, I like to consider myself an “extremely amateur” anthropologist, but even with this interest, the ultimate purpose of watching Big Brother is to engage in a form of escapism. That is what all reality TV is for me. When I sit down to watch Big Brother, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, or Project Runway, I do so with the expectation that I will be amused and entertained for the following hour or so. I do not expect to end the night with a knot in my stomach and tears in my eyes. I don’t expect to end up reflecting on my own struggles in life based upon who I am on a relatively superficial level. And, yes, I do view race, as defined by our society, as quite superficial. My skin is brown, my nose is wide. My lips are plump, my hair is kinky. My voice is full, its tone is textured. None of these things define who I am on the inside.
When it hit the press that several of the cast members of Big Brother 15 had made bigoted and insensitive remarks, the story seemed to blow up overnight. It seemed that for a while, people were on “Racial Slur Watch”, waiting for the next bigoted remark to fly out of someone’s mouth. Most of the earlier offenses have been featured in this YouTube video. Fans of Big Brother flocked to social media to voice their outrage and many wanted the show to remove the most prominent offenders from the household altogether. Even Big Brother hostess, and co-host of The Talk, made a statement about how the racial slurs, made by Aaryn Gries and Gina Marie Zimmerman, made her feel as an Asian-American woman.
For a while, there was fear that Big Brother would cover up the bigotry altogether, but it seemed that they came to somewhat of a compromise. They would pick one house guest to feature as “The Racist” on the nationally televised shows. That person was Aaryn Gries.
While many were thrilled that they did not try to sweep the bigotry entirely under the rug, it doesn’t seem fair to exclude the comments of Gina Marie (who just this week called Candice Stewart an “oreo cookie” and mocked her attempts to come to grips with who she is as a biracial person), Spencer Clawson (who has made more homophobic, misogynistic and grossly perverted comments than I can count ), and Amanda Zuckerman (who engaged in discussion of a brutal and graphic rape fantasy involving fellow cast member Jessie Kowalski and has accused Howard of playing the race card because he dared to voice his displeasure with Aaryn’s comments). SIDE NOTE: In the aforementioned fantasy, Jessie would be gang raped and brutally murdered by a slit to her throat. Spencer’s contribution to the fantasy was that they would use Jessie’s blood and tears for lubrication. In short, these people are nasty human beings and it is very difficult to root for them, but it has become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to even tolerate watching them at all.
In the game of Big Brother, each individual is expected to play the game to the best of their ability. Being a lying, conniving, manipulative snake is almost required if you expect to make it through each week, and definitely required if you want to win. These are things about the game that all fans have come to love and anticipate. These are things that the majority of viewers look forward to every summer… But, this summer, it’s different.
I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to witness Howard comfort Candice after her “blackness” was mocked and her mattress was flipped. I cried with Candice, who desperately wanted to stand up to her bullies, and demand respect from them that she was and is never going to get. After Howard calmed Candice down, and she left the room, I cried again as I witnessed him struggle to get a hold of his own emotions. The powerlessness he felt in that moment was overwhelming for me, so I know that it was at least doubly so for him. And, once again, later that night, I cried as I watched Howard and Candice make a pallet on the cold floor of the Have Not room as if it was 1955 and Rosa Parks had yet to Refuse to Move. Even now, I cry as I recount the events of that evening. But here is the thing that people do not understand. The anger, the sorrow, the frustration, the tears are not because some 22-year-old sheltered, naive and ignorant little girl from Texas flipped a black girl’s mattress. It’s not even because she has shown complete disdain and a total lack of respect towards, not only Candice and black people, but minorities and gay people across the world. My anger, my sorrow, my tears, MY FRUSTRATION is for the society that created her in the first place.
As minorities in the United States of America, we are tasked with the unique burden of carrying the weight of the entirety of our races on our shoulders - but, only the negative aspects. We do not get to be judged, first, on our own individual merits. Black women like me, like Candice, are all judged by the “Shaniquas” of the world. The BLACK “welfare queen” with five kids and four “baby daddies.” We are regarded as promiscuous sloths (or a “bitch sloth” as Judd Daugherty called Candice recently) and leeches on a society that we don’t serve a significant purpose in. When faced with one who does not meet these stereotypes, the lesson is not that perhaps their outlook on life is limited or too narrow. The lesson is, either, “She is just one of the ‘good ones,'” or “She is fake.” It can’t be that they are just wrong about Candice’s character. It is obvious that she is trying to “talk like a white girl” intentionally, and that she is only pretending to be nice, right?
For the last decade, plus, I have felt that I have served my purpose by being an example of what it means to be a black woman who is just a woman. You are more likely to find me listening to rock than R & B music. I have a range of interests from reality shows like Big Brother to Scandal and Masterpiece Theater. I am not Shaniqua with a lot of babies, living in section 8 housing. I am not on welfare, I do not receive food assistance. I am just me, a woman who wants security and happiness in my future. I am just me, a woman who happens to have dark brown skin. I am just me.
My desire to be known as just me, a single and childless 34-year-old woman from the suburbs of Atlanta, isn’t mine alone. I know it may be presumptuous to state this, because I am certainly not the mouthpiece for all minorities, but I am fairly certain that the majority of minorities would love to partake in the experience of being judged as an individual.
Big Brother Elimination Show 07/26/2013:
Tonight, after Aaryn survived being eliminated for the second week in a row and, in fact, went on to win Head of Household, it suddenly dawned on me why I continued watching Big Brother, even after the producers opted not to remove the offenders. A part of me, probably all of me really, had been rooting and hoping for this tiny, insignificant victory because the issues that truly matter feel so insurmountable. I had been holding on to this notion that, AT LEAST, in a world that is not so real, good people can still get ahead of those who are not so good. No, minorities never do well in games like Big Brother where they have to rely on a majority cast of white people to support them, but I have grown to accept that. This is just a reality TV show, after all. It’s not real life. But… this season, it has been all too real.
In the end, the sad fact is that our society has been trained to disregard the plight of minorities. Technically, we are now given the same rights as white people, so people think that the work is done. It’s not. Underlying bigotry and discrimination continues to play a major role in the lives of minorities, everyday. Phrases like “playing the race card,” “chip on your shoulder,” and even “white guilt,” (which is really just a PC way of calling a white person a “nigger lover”) are frequently thrown out for the sole purpose of diminishing the concern of those who dare mention legitimate claims of bigotry.
Our society has also been trained to accept its prejudices towards minorities. Although 8 to 9 out of 10 times a white person is victimized, it is at the hands of another white person, it’s okay to fear all minorities because this provides an illusion of safety which seems to be more important than actual safety.
Profiling black people because some black people do bad things, it’s okay.
Profiling all Muslims because some Muslims have done bad things, it’s okay.
Profiling all Hispanics because some Hispanics have done bad things, it’s okay.
Profiling all white people because some white people have done bad things, it’s not okay.
(It’s important to note that I am not suggesting that we start to profile white people for crimes they have yet to commit, just that minorities shouldn’t be neither.)
There will never be a time where all white CEOs, bankers, and other white collar professionals are placed under additional scrutiny because the vast majority of white collar fraud is committed by white men. There will never be a time where white men will have to worry about stop and frisk. There will never be a time where all white males between the ages of 14 to 55 are placed under additional scrutiny because they are most likely to go on a mass shooting spree or be a serial killer. This is what “white privilege” means.
White privilege is not having to answer for anyone but yourself.
White privilege is enjoying the benefit of the doubt.
White privilege means not having to justify your emotions when you are genuinely offended by someone.
White privilege is being able to sit around with other white people and say that people are too sensitive to racial slurs, as Jessie said last night when the white house guests were joking around about different offensive things that had been said.
White privilege is thinking that being called a dumb blonde is analogous to the racism minorities face.
Tonight, I called and canceled my Big Brother live feed account. While I know that the bigots in the house are products of their environment, and our society, the emotional toll derived from watching this show now officially outweighs its entertainment value.
P.S. – Big Brother Edits:
OK, I know that things such as a “rape fantasy” could never be broadcast on national TV, but let’s not forget that Amanda was just featured as the “victim” of mean comments made by Elissa about Amanda’s risque”birthday gift” to McCrae. In jest or not, it was disturbing and it’s not the only time Amanda has mentioned using a knife on one of the cast members. She did so again, recently, the night she called Candice fat and ugly. Elissa’s comments were not nearly as harsh as that “fantasy,” but she did say it so that Amanda could hear it. If the belief is that it is okay to talk about people behind their backs, we cannot forget that these comments are out there for the world to see and everyone will eventually see what was said about them while they were in the house. The point is, if you are not going to air the horrible and cruel things that Amanda has said about other cast members, don’t REWARD her with television edits that make her look like a decent human being worthy of empathy that she herself does not seem to possess for others. That’s all.
I feel better now.