Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/497/2680
Why do we watch Big Brother?
ANOTHER SUMMER, another eleven weeks of temper tantrums, arguments and intrigues in the Big Brother (BB) house. But this year the series began with a public apology for the way the show handled racist incidents in Celebrity Big Brother (CBB) earlier this year.
That apology was gross hypocrisy - argument and controversy are the show's lifeblood. In every series its producers deliberately select housemates who will clash with each other, such as selecting openly gay housemates and putting them alongside others with homophobic views.
The sort of people who desire fame and attention so badly that they subject themselves to the indignity of the show are often insecure and in many cases emotionally unbalanced.
But to turn a profit, TV executives exploit this, in the same way that circus owners would exploit physical deformities in 19th century so-called 'freak' shows.
And, tragically, that's all the programme is; a 'freak' show. BB producers aren't interested in being anything more, least of all a platform for political debate, as George Galloway discovered when he entered the CBB house.
Producers only select the most embarrassing or ridiculous moments to screen; for instance his leotard-clad robot dance, which did little to further the anti-war movement's cause.
Millionaire TV executives have no interest in anything other than profit and will happily take advantage of extremely vulnerable or deluded people to achieve this.
Shows such as Big Brother, it has been argued, democratise entertainment as viewers vote on evictions, winners and losers.
But these increasingly cruel shows are controlled by rich corporations and big business sponsors. So why are viewers happy to except and enjoy this cruelty?
Working people in Britain face increasingly long hours and insecure conditions. Long hours and low pay mean very little time outside of work and limited resources to do anything with that time.
Cutbacks and price increases in public sports facilities and leisure services mean that even if you've the energy to do something after work there is very little that's affordable or even there. An increase in passive media consumption, therefore, is understandable.
The fighting and bullying on show in these programmes reflect the 'dog eat dog' mentality that the capitalist system attempts to instil us with.
This is more explicitly the case on shows such as The Apprentice (criticised by commentators in the Financial Times for giving bosses a bad name!) but is true in all reality TV shows where contestants are pitted against each other, encouraging greed, ego and ruthless competition.
I am not an opponent of popular culture. Mainstream television programmes such as Coronation Street and Doctor Who have carried touching, well-written and intelligent plotlines recently.
But reality television represents a dumbing down of entertainment; TV on the cheap.
Multimillionaire TV executives should not think workers are idiots - we deserve better than reality television, the 'reality' of which seems to be the worst of human attributes under capitalism, magnified.
In The Socialist 26 July 2007:
Postal workers' strike
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party news and analysis
Tales from the council chambers
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
Socialist Party reviews
Workplace news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis