Photo Credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS
When your entire life is being broadcast to the world 24-7, your true colors tend to show. That's what's happening to the new cast of Big Brother -- and those colors are ugly indeed. Those who are watching the live feed of Big Brother 15 have witnessed a shocking torrent of racism, sexist and homophobia. And it's not just a token obnoxious cast member, like The Real World's Puck (are we showing our age?). It's seven people. That's 7 out of 16. Basically, the house is the college dorm from hell.
Here's a sample of the hateful comments being thrown around, as documented by a couple diligent bloggers:
Racist comments: Two white housemates have used the N-word. The black cast members, Candice and Howard, have been subject to derogatory comments about smelling bad and misprouncing words, along with jokes about their skin color. When Asian cast member Helen started crying, she was told by white cast member Aaryn to "shut up" and "go make some f**king rice." White contestant GinaMarie joked that they should make Helen's "eyes straight."
Sexist comments: Cast members Jeremy and Spencer call the women "bitches" and "c**ts." Jeremy bragged about touching Kaitlin's vagina, saying, "I like to feel around see what’s she’s working with... see if it’s a nice meat wallet." (We need a shower after typing that.)
Homophobic comments: Cast member Andy has been called "Kermit the fag" by Spencer and "Faggoty Ann" by Amanda. The word "queer" has also been tossed around by straight cast members. Kaitlin said that gay people are "untrustworthy."
Pro-Hitler comments: No, we're not joking. Spencer, at one point, praised Hitler's speaking ability and said that his horrific Nazi medical experiments were ultimately beneficial. Also, Aaryn said that she wanted to waterboard Candice.
That's just a small sample, and that's within the first week of everyone being in the house. The amount of hate, fear and rage is shocking, not to mention the fact that producers approved of all these people. Now, obviously, they're facing a backlash.
So far, CBS is trying to distance itself from the controversy. In a press statement that reads like a DVD disclaimer, the network said they do "not condone" the cast's "offensive" comments. "Any views or opinions expressed in personal commentary by a houseguest appearing on Big Brother... are those of the individual(s) speaking and do not represent the views or opinions of CBS or the producers of the program," the statement concludes.
As of now, none of the shocking comments have made it onto the prime time Big Brother broadcasts. This has raised another controversial question: should CBS be showcasing this side of Big Brother? Is it more or less exploitative to edit out the slurs? A popular blog post by professor and former contestant Ragan Fox urges the network to show the contestants at their worst.
"Big Brother, I LOVE you, but, if you really want to provide a groundbreaking twist, SHOW CBS VIEWERS HOW SOME STRAIGHT, WHITE PEOPLE talk about gays, Asian Americans, and African Americans," Fox urges. "It would be irresponsible to punt on this issue. What makes Aaryn’s homophobia and racism especially insidious is that it comes packaged in a bright-eyed, pageant-like exterior. I mean, how can somebody so sweet looking spew so much venom? Viewers would have to SEE it to BELIEVE it."
He's got an interesting point. By casting good-looking people with strong personalities, the network is hoping we'll latch on to the Big Brother contestants. It would be pretty subversive if half of them turned out to be secretly awful. And then there's the fact that there are only three minorities and one gay person in the cast to begin with. The network is already treating these cast members like "the others," so in way, the straight white cast members are just following suit. Lots of uncomfortable stuff coming to the surface here!
Already, two of the cast members are experiencing repercussions for their behavior. GinaMarie has been fired from her job as a pageant coordinator, with the company saying, "We are actually thankful that this show let us see GinaMarie for who she truly is. We would never want her to be a role model to our future contestants." And Aaryn has been dropped by her modeling agency, which says they "do not condone" her "prejudices and other beliefs."
However, neither GinaMarie nor Aaryn knows that they've lost their jobs -- because they're still in the Big Brother house, cut off from the outside world. That's what's unique about this whole situation. As the rest of us are dissecting and condemning their behavior, they're totally oblivious. We're looking forward to seeing their reactions when they're finally forced to come face-to-face with their own awfulness.