One of the things that sets Big Brother apart from other reality series is that the show is filmed as it airs and fans can view the “live feeds,” which allow them a mostly uncensored look into what’s going on in the house each week. Not only does that give them some indication of what they’re going to see in the episodes that air that week, but they’re also seeing a lot of what doesn’t air. In the case of Season 15, that includes more than a few racist and homophobic slurs from some of the houseguests, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the fans or the press.
Some of the worst of the offenses can be seen in this video, in which houseguests GinaMarie, Aaryn and Kaitlin are relaxing on a hammock. The worst of the conversation seems to be between GinaMarie and Aaryn, who are talking about some of the other houseguests, one of whom is Asian, two are African American and one is gay. They jokingly talk about how one houseguest should “go cook some rice,” and how the “two blacks stick together,” among other nasty remarks. Their behavior is not only unfunny, but it’s baffling when we consider that they know there are cameras and microphones on them. So either they’ve forgotten that part or they really don’t see how ugly and unnecessary their comments are.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that the live feeds have caught people making hateful or – at the very least – insensitive remarks. Big Brother 8‘s Amber was caught on video saying some pretty negative things about Jewish people (and New Yorkers). But the racism seems to be particularly noticeable this season, and it’s gotten some attention, including an open letter from Big Brother 12‘s Ragan Fox, who encourages CBS to air the footage.
So far, Big Brother hasn’t shown any of the racism or anti-homosexual remarks in the episodes that have aired, but according to Deadline, CBS issued the following statement in response to the backlash:
‘Big Brother’ is a reality show about watching a group of people who have no privacy 24/7 — and seeing every moment of their lives. At times, the Houseguests reveal prejudices and other beliefs that we do not condone. We certainly find the statements made by several of the Houseguests on the live Internet feed to be offensive. Any views or opinions expressed in personal commentary by a Houseguest appearing on ‘Big Brother,’ either on any live feed from the House or during the broadcast, are those of the individual(s) speaking and do not represent the views or opinions of CBS or the producers of the program.
I love the live feeds because we get the unedited view. We get to see the true nature of these people regardless of how the show edits them. Of course, the feeds only show so much. We don’t see the raw diary room sessions, and we don’t see what the feeds aren’t showing us. We also don’t see the competitions. So the feeds don’t show everything, but by comparison to three hour-long episodes a week, they show a lot.
I kind of understand CBS’ approach on this, with their boiler-plate statement. It’s their attempt to distance themselves from the comments made and the views of some of their reality show contestants, while also expressing vague disapproval of them and they can leave it at that. Airing the comments would only cause more controversy, which probably wouldn’t be in CBS’ best interest. The thing is, Big Brother is as much a social experiment as it is a game show. These people are stuck inside, cut off from the outside world. GinaMarie has no idea that she’s been fired from her job for some of the things she said. Nor does Aaryn know that she’s reportedly been dropped by her modeling agency for her own comments. That’s for them to deal with when they come out of the house. But wouldn’t it be interesting if Big Brother revealed these conversations in part or in full in the episodes, instead of the more predictable focus on Aaryn and David’s showmance (yawn.)? It’d be interesting, but it seems unlikely. And CBS’ dry statement indicates that the network is going to try the simple approach on this and probably hope that it blows over, and that their contestants cool it on the hate chatter.