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Big Brother Racism Yet Again: A 5-Point Guide

Sanjay Sharma | Journal: Commons | General Issue [0] | Issues | Jun 2007

Yet another post about Big Brother (BB) racism, but the last one you’ll ever need to read…

  1. Was Emily Parr calling her fellow housemate a ‘nigger’ a racist expression? Yes…and stop asking such dumb questions. Regardless of whether with malicious intent , or just “speaking carelessly” as CH4 inanely put it, the term ‘nigger’ is steeped in a history of symbolic violence. Emily “nigger-is-a-friendly-term” Parr lives in a white fantasy land believing that this word can be inoffensively expressed to fellow contestants.
  2. Yet black youth and rappers use the ‘n-word’ all the time – so what’s the problem? The problem is the hyper-visibility of certain (commodified) forms of what has come to be signified as ‘black culture’. The articulation of the word ‘nigger’ is highly specific and not as widespread as is to be believed. A diet of misanthropic gangsta rap and Tarantino movies[1] (voraciously consumed by white suburbia) doesn’t mean that the force of the term’s violence has dematerialized. Emily is not of the simulated ‘ghetto youth’ she seeks to absurdly mimic.
  3. Should we congratulate CH4/Endemol for taking such decisive action in removing Emily from the BB house? Not really – what else should they do in the wake of their appalling deceit and inaction over the racist bullying of Shilpa Shetty in Celebrity BB. In previous BB series – remember the treatment of Shahbaz Chauhdary and Makosi Musambasi? – racist behaviour reared its ugly head with little action taken by CH4.
  4. Should CH4 have broadcast the incident? ‘Censoring’ what occurs on a regular basis in everyday discourse is pointless. Nevertheless, broadcasting ‘controversy’ is always going to be CH4/Endemol’s intention for cynically boosting BB audience ratings. Don’t believe for one moment that CH4 are merely offering a public ‘anti-racist’ service!
  5. Is BB to blame for fuelling racism amongst housemates, or is it merely a reflection of racism in British Society? It’s unlikely that Endemol actively plan to fuel racial confrontation. This latest incident is yet again a reflection (or rather a production) of everyday racism. But here’s the rub: the BB format is waning and as a social experiment/televisual format it has become thoroughly exhausted. BB racial flare-ups and subsequent vacuous media discourse occlude the real problem of extant racist antagonisms in British society. Someone please put BB out of its misery, and the sooner the better.

Notes

1. When an audience member in a Guardian newspaper event featuring Tarantino questioned that a white person would not “get away with” using the term ‘nigger’, Tarantino simply replied “I do” (to audience applause). [↑]


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