21 June 2010

Some thoughts about the last ever big brother

I haven’t really had anything positive to say about Big Brother for the last two or three series, partly because the program so little resembled what it used to be, and partly because they never seemed to use their position as being one of the most watched programs on TV to defy stereotypes anymore. However, unwillingly I have actually become really hooked on this final series, they’ve definitely stepped it up a notch, and the housemates are a brilliant mix.

For me, this series could be perfect if it continued being about unrequited love and unlikely pairings. Rachel felt herself being attracted to Nathan, Josie and John James, Mario and Ben, Shabby and Caiomhe. But I think there are two reasons why I really like this series, and that is because of how much elements of it resemble series that were brilliant. For a start, there’s a gender divide in the house (albeit a fairly queer gender divide), the girls (shabby et al) vs the boys (Ben etc) although, the gender roles seem totally reversed, it’s the boys who are gossipy and apologetic, and the girls who are confrontational and brutal. I’m really enjoying the divide and don’t know who to support, because I really (for the first time) rather like all of the main players. This divide really reminds me of (in my opinion) the very best series of big brother, which was the fifth one. There was a definite queer gender divide there as well, the “lip gloss bitches” (a gay man, two straight women and a transsexual woman) against two really bitchy and bitter faux-alpha heterosexual males. It was explosive, but there was definitely an easier to like side in that war. Luckily, liberal UK won out, when Nadia won the series, but it’s worrying that the number 2 spot went to her nemesis Jason, who had no likeable qualities (apart from perhaps that he was quite introspective and insecure), which to me showed that not everyone was ready to embrace a transgendered winner, and would rather vote for a vicious bully as a protest vote instead of her.

The other thing I like about this series is that it is challenging stereotypes once again, perhaps on a larger scale than it ever has. When I first watched this series I instantly hated Ben, aka the posh one. I hated his foppish hair, I hated his tedious accent, I hated the way he dressed and draped a jumper round his shoulders, I hated his haughty expression, but actually, he’s turned out to be really quite human, a very nice mediator, who really doesn’t want to upset anyone and has a lot of time for everyone. This is a prime example of me judging someone because they’re posh, which clearly the whole audience on the launch night did as well. Other examples of people challenging stereotypes: Corin- never in a million years would I have guessed that she had a girlfriend, and she is so humble and down to earth and likeable, whereas I assumed she’d be a bit of a vacuous and vain woman. Sunshine defies academia and manages to be exceptionally docile. John James was another pleasant surprise for me, his treatment of Rachel was, as far as I’m concerned, heroic, for a predominantly female audience to watch a pretty man tell an arrogant beautiful woman who considers herself above all other women that she was awful was absolutely brilliant TV, and a perfect moment in the last series of a program that seemed to attract women contestants like that by the hundreds.

So far, Josie is the main hero of this series, apart from being very nice, and funny and honest- she is superbly humble, and was the only person who challenged hideous Dave about his homophobic stance on marriage, using his religion to mask his prejudices (as so many do). She quizzed him about it, and later, was the only person to nominate him because of it (she said “he doesn’t believe people who love each other should be able to get married- I do.” Brilliant.) It is one of Big Brother’s largest flaws that they have (since Shilpa vs Jade) been able to quell any racial disputes, but homophobia has often been overlooked (I direct you particularly to the series that began with all girls where one girl was evicted for using a racial slur, but another girl merely got a slapped wrist for calling a gay man a “poof”).

I do think it’s been a monumentally important piece of TV history that I’m pleased to have lived through, I will be sad to see it go, but I definitely think it’s the right time. It will definitely be back in five years though- people who are offended by it always have the option of switching it off, and those are the people who are probably offended by everything channel 4 produces anyway. When they get it right, Big Brother is high art- and it’s such a pleasing thing that arguably the biggest TV phenomenon of the last decade is one with an almost exclusively female and gay audience. Good work sisters!

To conclude, my top ten favourite housemates:

10. Makosi (BB6)
Someone who tried to play the game well and actually exceeded to an extent, but in the process managed to alienate everyone who considered her a friend and come across like some kind of demonic weirdo. Brilliant housemate.

9. Narinder (BB2)
A really catty Geordie who was a hilarious side-kick to Brian in the earlier weeks. As always, she was evicted far too soon.

8. Derek (BB6)
Apart from the fact he was a Tory, Derek was incredibly likeable, possibly the only older character who ever really fit in in the house, he was charming, awkwardly eloquent, very pleasant and really stood up to bullies. Plus, he wasn’t nearly as intelligent as he thought- an all too familiar example of someone mistaking being articulate with being intelligent.

7. Lea Walker (BB7)
This was the first year where it really felt a bit too “freak show” for me, but Lea was definitely the stand out character, a foul-mouthed mother who was ageing disgracefully, who was desperately clinging to her youth, but was still a real mother figure without realising it. I liked her a bit less when Andy made us watch her porn and a bit of her fanny fell out.

6. Jade (R.I.P) (BB3)
Big Brother 3 was definitely one of the strongest, and pretty much solely because of Jade. I remember how much I hated her when she first went in, the sound of her voice grated on me so much, but it only took a week or two for it to be apparent that she was actually just a very dim, but very warm and nice person. She was so entertaining, and was vilified by the media- mostly just for being ugly, and like the good supportive country that we are (...) we decided to open our minds and our hearts to her. Obviously her second stint in big brother wasn’t quite so successful...

5. Kemal (BB6)
It’s rare that I find someone quite relatable on TV, but Kemal is probably the closest I have come to it. He was bright and funny, but people ignored all of this because of his gender-bending ways. He definitely had the funniest line in series 6, when Maxwell and Saskia were canoodling in the bed next to his and he asked them to be quiet and that they’d probably already secured a magazine deal, so Maxwell poured a glass of water over him and he said “at least someone’s getting wet tonight”.

4. Alison (BB3)
Alison was amazing, she was so enthusiastic and so funny all the time, she definitely went too early, I think it was only week 2 or something, but her jumping on the table and smashing it and her subsequent confession in the diary room was hilarious.

3. Michelle (BB5)
To be honest the fifth big brother was easily the best combination of housemates ever, I could easily have put Emma in this list. Michelle was funny and loveable but at the same time, a total bunny boiling psycho. The way she bullied Stu into a relationship was brilliant and terrifying. She was a proper ballsy northern bird too; I loved how well she and Emma got in the faces of Victor and Jason on fight night (which to this day is one of the most gripping pieces of television I’ve ever seen).

2. Anna (BB1)
Anna was the first ever big brother housemate to really interest me. I think I was in year 8, and she challenged my very ignorant perceptions of gay women. I thought she was beautiful, hilarious and I even voted for her five times on the final night! She was an absolute legend, and was truly a different league of housemate that we’d never see again.

1. NADIA! (BB5)
Nadia’s was a real journey, more so than any other we’d seen before or since, triumphing over bullies, insecurities, stigmas and lack of cigarettes. I definitely don’t think her victory was because she was a novelty, it was because she was infectious, hilarious and hard as nails. Nadia- we salute you!

1 comment:

Jon Nettleton said...

Good post, so far I love Ben and sunshine but then I tend to like posh people, the thing with Shabby and the other girl is great though. Like you said, there are few stereotypes this year, even the 'religious guy' isn't performing as you might expect him to.