Monday, July 28, 2008

The end of Big Brother?

First came the news that, due to poor ratings, the Australian Big Brother had been axed. Now, according to the Mirror, some people are ready to bet that that "there will be no Big Brother 10 in 2009 after last week's eviction recorded a seven-year low of 2.5 million viewers". This is what happens when a formula as shallow as piss on concrete is overdone to the point of saturation. There's a reason why they don't do the World Cup every summer. Sure, it would generate a huge turnover in the short run, but within a decade it'd die of asphyxia.

Since its triumphant debut in 2000, Big Brother was followed by nine successive editions of the same. For the circus to survive, each time the threshold of vulgarity, nothingness and artificially shocking behaviour had to be set an extra notch further to the bottom. Meanwhile, on the trail of BB's success, dozens of other hybrid 'reality' (what exactly is real there we'll never know) TV shows were hastily assembled. They were all invariably centred around an all-pervasive staple of voyeurism, 'celebrity' (which will probably be remembered as the defining word of this decade) and sensationalistic transgression, be it Rebecca Loos masturbating pigs on The Farm' or Busted's Matt Willis eating a crocodile's penis on I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

The words 'trashy', 'dumbing' and 'down' may spring to mind, but 'reality' TV soon became something more insidious and perverse than simply that.
Until ten years ago, 'trashy TV' had been associated with daytime telly of the Jerry Springer variety. But that never became a lynchpin of contemporary culture, nor did it generate a whole multi-millionaire industry. The 'reality' frenzy was (is) of an entirely different scale. Our beloved Sun and other tabloids were given more meat to guzzle, pull-out features and cheap characters to put on a pedistall and then devour for breakfast. A whole industry of magazines feeding off z-list celebrities' antics multiplied and gained prominence as it took the notion of 'gossip' to new levels.

Yesterday's Observer featured an excellent article by Rachel Cooke on the subject. The reporter argued that, amongst other things, BB has been feeding "our obsession with presentation" and has "reinforced class, gender and racial stereotypes". According to maverick Italian journalist and TV presenter Michele Santoro, "reality TV is all but [politically] neutral as it plays a part in moulding the values scale of young people as well as society and culture". False idols, as well as a misleading, unreal notion that all there is to aspire to in this world is to get your face on telly. Where these people would do anything to get talked about, including wanking off a donkey or coming across as thicker than pigshit.

Defenders of Big Brother usually cling on to the trite formula of "cultural snobbery", arguing that the genius of BB is that of "reflecting" society, rather than setting the pace and establishing new 'models'. According to the creator of Big Brother, Peter Bazalgette, "The fads of young people, what obsesses them, what interests them, their lingo; [Big Brother] has reflected that".

Which is pure bollocks. Big Brother reflects society no more than those old farts sitting on their arses in the House of Lords do. The success of BB is exclusively based on casting, an artificial, clinical selection. Not to mention that the housemates are fully aware of the type of antics that are going to help them grab headlines and fame. BB 9's Alex and her "pow pow pow" gang-links prompted complaints and crocodile cries, but that's exactly why she was casted in the first place. If you don't possess any outrageous, freak show-like, marketable potential simply there's no chance you're going to get on the show.
Film director Marco Tullio Giordana recently said of contemporary TV :"it tries to elude all [the viewers'] worries, to anaesthetize their anxiety; it induces them to a sort of bulimic consumerism and brings them in a permanent state of dizziness, just in case they might be tempted to think".
It's working a treat.


Anonymous said...

That Alex was vile

Anonymous said...

This article is living proof of how a smart arse like yourself looks down on things purely because they're successful.