Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Racism on Big Brother...Again

UK media watchdog, Ofcom, has received 3,500 complaints about racist bullying of celebrity contestant, Shilpa Shetty. News outlets, here in Britain, started covering the story when the number of complaints was only 200. Shilpa, a Bollywood actress, has had a rough time at the hands of a group of fellow housemates, Jade Goody, Jade's mother Jackiey, Jade's boyfriend, Jack, Danielle Lloyd, and Jo O'Meara. One of the first issues was Jackiey repeatedly pronouncing Shilpa's name incorrectly. Eventually, Jackiey started referring to her as, "the Indian." Jack got into the act, saying that Shilpa, who uses bleach to lighten facial hair, actually uses the bleach because she wants to be "white." Danielle has had a series of conflicts with Shilpa and recently referred to her as a "dog." When Shilpa made a curry for the housemates, Jade said she hoped she didn't get sick from the curry. On last night's show, Jo O'Meara, formerly of the pop group, S Club, said that Indians are thin because they get ill, due to undercooking their food.
What the perpetrators have in common is that they all seem to come from a low class background. Other "white" housemates have had no problem with Shilpa and treated her graciously. Historically, it has often been the case that racial hostility is greatest amongst the lower classes. This might be because people from poorer upbringing are often less well educated, may not have traveled to foreign countries as much, and may see immigrants as competitors for employment opportunities and services. Some viewers are starting to fault housemates Ian and Cleo, because they have repeatedly witnesses the hostility from the group, but haven't done much to reign it in.
This is not the first time that claims of racism have been leveled at the Channel 4 program. During the summer of 2005, the regular "Big Brother" series ended up with a racial divide in the house. Again coming from contestants of a lower class background, it was stated that a fellow contestant from Zimbabwae should go back to Africa. She was also called a hyena and her hair was the butt of jokes. At the time, many denied that there was a hint of racism in the comments. This time there seems to be a much stronger consensus that racist bullying is occurring. Possibly, that's because the victim, this time, is popular with a lot of the public and is seen as wholly innocent.
Even if we conclude that racist bullying is occurring, is complaining to a "government" watchdog an appropriate response? The nature of the "Big Brother" format is to put people in a closed environment, isolated from the outside world, and watch what happens. An intervention would blow the whole thing. Shilpa is managing to deal with it. She receives comfort and support from Jermaine Jackson and Dirk Benedict. The producers haven't scripted the behavior viewers are witnessing. If some members of the audience can't handle it, they should exercise their ability to change the channel, or turn the TV off. We, as humans, must learn to solve our own problems, rather than turning to the "government" gang every time we aren't happy.
Dirk Benedict to win!


Blogger plurabella said...

Sorry, cannot see Shilpa as innocent. If I had to suffer her patronising, smug, bossy-boots, control freaking, passive aggressive behaviour; oh and let's not forget the manipulation and the "man"ipulation, I'd have followed Donny over the wall.

Personally I think that there was a divide in the house, and Shilpa and some of the other older contestants were in one group and the younger ones in the other. That of course was fine until the numbers began being whittled down. Now she claims that they don't like her. Well, she didn't really give them a chance. So they don't like her.

A large part of this is to do with a sense of class, and Shilpa sees herself as a certain class and looks down on those she sees as being not in her class, and I think that it is pretty obvious who they are.

And all arguments have emerged from that factor.

Dirk or Cleo to win.

7:55 PM  
Blogger JosephintheBracknell said...

She's pretty, though.

4:22 PM  

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