An Open Letter to Big Brother’s Production Team

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I just read Andrea Reiher’s Zap2It article in which she documents racism, misogyny, and homophobia that’s already emerged in the Big Brother 15 house. Feed watchers have watched Spencer call women “c#nts” and spit the word “fag” in Andy’s face. Similarly, Aaryn Gries (pictured above) complained that Andy would most likely get next week’s MVP because “people love the queers.” Aaryn’s also demanded Candice, an African American woman, say “asked, not axed” and suggested Helen, the season’s sole Asian American houseguest, should “go make some rice.” GinaMarie also wondered if they could make Helen’s eyes straight. And this is only WEEK 1! Imagine what will happen when they forget about the cameras.

Houseguests GinaMarie, Aaryn, and Kaitlin referred to historically marginalized players as “tokens.” Sadly, they aren’t too far off in their assessment. Characters like Andy, Candice, Howard, and Helen are reduced to mere tokens when production fails to include micro-aggressions that they have to endure on a day-to-day basis. What’s the point of casting racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities if production’s going to edit out the racism, ethnic discrimination, and homophobia that these people encounter inside the house? Moreover, why do historically marginalized players have the exclusive burden of narrating past acts of racial, ethnic, and sexual brutalization when we see this sort of discrimination enacted INSIDE THE HOUSE?

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. Capitalize on the Paula Deen controversy! Hate speech is currently a hot topic in the United States. 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.

Let’s hope the series’ “expect the unexpected” refrain holds true.

Sincerely,

Ragan

 

My latest article, “‘You are Not Allowed to Talk About Production’: Narratization on and off the Set of CBS’s Big Brother,” was recently published in Critical Studies in Media Communication. The essay is FREE TO VIEW for a limited time by clicking here.