The racism question is a tricky one, really, and I’ve barely been watching enough of the CBB footage to form an opinion, but when’s that held me back before? I think the thing is that racism means different things to different people, both the word itself and what constitutes it; there’s a difference in my head between racially motivated abuse and racism, and I think what’s happening in the Big Brother house is the latter and not the former. If Shilpa were a burping, farting, loud-mouthed British-Indian woman from a similar social background to Jade, Danielle, Jo and Jack, I genuinely don’t believe they’d see her ethnic background as an issue; therefore, the bullying she’s experiencing isn’t racially motivated. However, the fact that the issues that they have with her are more about class/social background than ethnicity (and yeah, of course the two are linked) doesn’t mean that racism isn’t going on; now that she’s been identified as their victim of choice, they’re going to use every difference as ammunition, and that includes race. Of course, it really doesn’t make any difference, because terms of racist abuse are being used, and 30,000 people (last I saw) have identified it as racism, and that’s what the legal definition of racism is. But I think that the racism/racial motivation division is what’s behind the flurry of breathless denials. No doubt they don’t feel themselves to be racist, but nonetheless that’s what they’re being.
Also, if people would stop saying stuff like “oh, but that’s just what happens when groups of women get together", then I would stop wanting to punch them in the face. Thanks!
So then there’s the wider question of whether Big Brother and its ilk is essentially exploitative. Obv I am tempted to go into a breathless flurry of denial because while I am not a huge fan of Big Brother in itself (mostly because it’s the sort of show that you have to keep watching and I am crap at telly in that I come home and switch it on and go “oh hey, it’s that same programme that was on last week!” and then chiller looks at me like I’m crazy because that’s how telly works) I do love reality TV in general; anything like Wife Swap or Gillian McKeith shouting about poo is the sort of thing that’ll have me glued to the couch, slack-jawed and saucer-eyed. I have flippantly claimed that my fondness for reality TV is related to my anthropology/fiction-writing background, and I do actually think that’s true – NOT that my appreciation for reality TV is any more intellectual because I have an anthropology degree, of course not, but that the things that appeal to me about reality TV are the same things that appeal to me about anthropology and writing (the sort of ) fiction (that I write) – it’s just that people are bloody fascinating, and I love watching them do their thing. I do think that we learn things from these sorts of programmes; we get a wider appreciation for difference (or at least I do) and similarly I do think this Big Brother row has been instructive in the same way – at least people are thinking and talking about bullying and racism in a way that they weren’t before. And as for exploitation: people go into these situations willingly; the celebs at least are handsomely remunerated for it; and actually I find the suggestion of exploitation to be fairly patronising; the idea that either the viewers or the participants need to be protected from themselves and don’t fully understand the consequences of their actions strikes me as fairly classist and othering and I dislike it.
(The issue of Shilpa is slightly different I suppose, given that she allegedly had never seen the show before going into the house. But still, it was her choice; she is being paid, and given that three of the celebs have walked so far, she is aware that she doesn’t have to be there.)
Which all kind of relates to the question of art vs (populist) entertainment; people keep talking about reality TV and saying things like ‘that isn’t what telly should be about’ but really, what should telly be about? Surely the point of television is to put on things that people want to watch? I mean, I wouldn’t want ‘quality’ drama or comedy or documentaries to die out completely in favour of 24/7 celebrities in the jungle or whatever, but that’s just me prejudicing what I like, and I don’t think that has any intrinsic value over what anyone else likes, you know? Which reminds me of the sort of things that people keep saying to me about my book, which is being published by a very small publishing house and will presumably have extremely limited sales, and people tend to pat me comfortingly on the shoulder and imply that well, at least I have integrity and it’s not crap literature like The Da Vinci Code. (It’s almost always The Da Vinci Code that gets mentioned; not sure why, as I’ve never read it.) But I don’t actually believe there’s any intrinsic worth in creative endeavour; writing or painting or making music – they’re no less selfish pursuits than any others, I think, and any worth that they have is in the enjoyment that other people get from them. And so I can’t turn my nose up at popular music or literature or whatever; it’s seemingly impossible to agree on what makes something ‘good’, and popular appeal is one fairly objective marker, isn’t it?
Oh rambly. And now I will get no comments because everyone has been sensible and GONE TO THE PUB, which I shall do post-haste.
My entire left leg hurts, presumably because I am walking on it weirdly due to my ankle. Being naturally robust of health, I am already VERY ANNOYED by my apparent weediness. HURRY UP AND HEAL, STUPID RECALCITRANT BODY-PART.