Another season of Big Brother has started and to my amazement I found myself watching the programme…and getting involved. I mean I was discussing the contestants tactics and guessing who would leave next. I thought I had made my mind up a couple of years ago that watching the programme was desperate and pointed towards my own poor condition as a human being by finding entertainment from watching people locked in a house together. It turns out I am that desperate and apparently have nothing better to do with my time because yesterday I was watching the programme.
This morning I woke up thinking about the show and its name. Big Brother (for those of you who do not know) gets its concept from the surveillance system in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four. The Dystopian Novel is set in an oppressive society where people cannot so much as even think in private. Every move, facial expression and interaction is carefully watched by ‘Big Brother’. Remind you of anything?
Firstly let me make it clear that I think the concept of the show is genius. It is interesting to watch how people behave in front of the camera and the extent people will go to for a ‘new experience’ and quick fame.
However the darker side of the show and its popularity is that it has made voyeurism ok. Previously it was unheard of to simply sit and watch people for entertainment. It was antisocial. Now…well standards are changing aren’t they and we find ourselves completely swept away watching the lives of people who have done nothing for us, probably never will and are exposing their flawed characters on television to get quick Z list fame. I for one have certainly had to do a bit of soul searching after my tv time last night.
Furthermore I read The Hunger Games about four weeks ago and distinctly remember getting this eerie feeling that the book reminded me of Big Brother. Ok so The Hunger Games is a little more on the extreme side – 24 people sent into a humanly controlled death den where the winner is the one who kills everyone. These ‘contestants’ are all aged between 12 – 18 and the whole diabolical is screened live to the nation as a form of entertainment. In Big Brother a number of contestants are put in a house together and the one who appeals to the housemates and the rest of the world by whatever means necessary (including nakedness, sleeping with multiple housemates, assassinating their own or another person’s character) wins! No physical deaths take place but the enjoyment is derived from people being made a spectacle of in front of millions. Yes the contestants in Big Brother choose to be there but what does that make us for watching other human beings demean themselves in every way?
“Everything in our background has prepared us to know and resist a prison when the gates begin to close around us . . . But what if there are no cries of anguish to be heard? Who is prepared to take arms against a sea of amusements? To whom do we complain, and when, and in what tone of voice, when serious discourse dissolves into giggles? What is the antidote to a culture’s being drained by laughter?” – Neil Postman ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business.
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