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A media text that I find quite irritating is the reality television programme “Big Brother”. This programme has become something of a phenomenon since it began in the Netherlands in 1999, spreading throughout various countries – normally a series or two each year. The show is based around a number of contestants who are isolated from the outside world in a “Big Brother House” one by one being eliminated until there is an ultimate winner. The show relies on its vast audience to vote for whom they would like to be eliminated from the house each week.
It is this huge response that the producers receive each year that keeps the show running, however over the years, this huge following has resulted in each contestant only applying for the show because of the quick rise to fame that follows after the show ends, and according to the Learning and Skills Council; “one in seven UK teenagers hope to gain fame by appearing on reality television”. The media have also become obsessed with the programme, and it is not unusual to see these contestants on the front pages of magazines, revealing shocking stories of their past.
The fascination and ultimate obsession that the public has with these ordinary contestants has caused many unnecessary disagreements both on and off the show, which have dominated newspaper headlines when there may be something of greater importance to account. The idea of Big Brother did originate from Dutchman John De Mol, however the show’s name comes from George Orwell’s novel “Nineteen-Eighty-Four”, in which there is a character named Big Brother who oversees all of dystopian Oceania. The contestants that are sent into the house are often chosen from a sociological perspective, where tension can arise quite easily between people, i.
e. placing a loud extroverted person with quite a withdrawn individual in the same room would cause a lot of arguments due to clash of personality. These clashes of personality have cause many “incidents” over each series of the show, often escalating each year. One example of this would be the fifth series of ‘Celebrity Big Brother” (a spin off show of “Big Brother” containing contestants of a small celebrity status) which took place in January 2007, where a row sparked by racial comments towards Asian contestant Shilpa Shetty was heard around the world.
Channel 4 stated that they received a record number of complaints citing racial bullying, and blamed producers for not intervening with the situation. The current prime minister Gordon Brown was hounded by the media to give his views on the incident, which one may find incredibly absurd, as it seems we live in a world where a television programme has more priority than important political affairs.
The reaction in Shetty’s native country, India, was also incredibly shocking as citizens took to the streets of India and burned effigies of the show’s organisers. After this huge and rather outrageous reaction, many protested that “Big Brother” should be axed from Channel 4 and a new series should not return, however this is not happen and “Big Brother” returned in the summer for an eighth series.
The continuation of the show has much relevance to the “key concepts”, involving the institutions that produce shows such as “Big Brother” and the audiences that consume them. The reaction that the media and audiences gave to the producers on the racial bullying that appeared on “Big Brother” may not have been incredibly positive, however it still caused an enormous controversial uproar in the media world, which acted as good publicity for the “Big Brother” brand.
This is proven with the rating figures that followed with “Big Brother 8” which were some of the highest the show had ever received, and there is a simple reason for this – audiences are addicted to the “taboo” effect that the show can bring into the household, along with an incredible fascination with watching and analysing ordinary people in an extraordinary environment. What is normally kept behind closed doors in everyday life is available for all to see on national television, and audiences take full advantage of the fact that it is possible to peek into another’s personal space.
The media (magazines, newspapers etc. ) observe this fascination and fuel it with articles that ridicule certain contestants to pass them up to the public for furthermore analysing and examination. However, the scrutiny of certain individuals on the show does not seem fair in my opinion, but the show has become so widespread it is now a known fact that any person that enters the house is aware that the media will ridicule their lifestyle.
Screenwriter Sheryl Longin stated “the difference to the brain between watching reality television and scripted drama is like the difference to our vision between High Definition television and 1970’s quality video”. In my opinion this is incredibly unfortunate as television is being dominated by these reality television shows due to our obsession with.