Thursday, January 18, 2007

Not racist, just stupid

Or are they functionally the same?

There's been a bit of a broo-ha-ha in the news for the last couple of days about Channel Four's Big Brother. I've never actually watched BB; the first series was interesting from the point of view of psychological experimentation, but not so much that I'd waste my time following it. Everything that has come since is about as appealing to me as root canal surgery. I've had that once, and once was enough.

But every so often, to the obvious delight of the producers of the programme, something 'in the house' (which I believe is the vernacular) pops up on national, sometimes international, news and everyone gets very excited. So it is this time.

From what I can gather, Bollywood Actress Shilpa Shetty is being picked on by a small band of housemates, mostly with snide remarks and digs about how she is different. There have been more than 30,000 complaints registered about the behaviour - a record for any show - claiming that this abuse is racially motivated, and whilst much of what has been (reported as) said is undoubtedly crassly racist in a most basic way, I don't think the culprits are aware that's what they are doing.

Now I have to admit that the cult of celebrity baffles me. The main antagonist in this affair appears to be Jade Goody, who if memory serves is only famous because she was in Big Brother before. Quite what her mother is doing in there with her, I really don't have the energy to find out. But the nature of their reaction to Shilpa is redolent of the worst school playground behaviour; a tribal mentality of picking on the 'different' kid because it's too mentally challenging to try and make friends with someone from an alien background. Comments have been made about eating with fingers, touching food and other things that are ethnically Indian, perfectly acceptable to most free-thinking people and yet provoke cries of alarm in what I hope is a minority few.

Shilpa Shetty, of whom I had never heard before last night's news, is a famous and successful Bollywood actress, loved by millions in her home country. There is no denying that she is extremely beautiful, very elegant and well-dressed. I can only think that Ms Goody and her family see such graceful, talented success and are jealous of it. Put simply, Miss Shetty makes them feel insecure. And the childish, schoolyard reaction to such jealousy is to mock. The crueller the mocking, the deeper the insecurity of the mocker.

Played out on national telly, this is distasteful at best and shows up a rather unpleasant side of the British national identity. These same people who think it's cool to drink themselves into a stupor at every opportunity, who travel to Ibitha and other foreign parts to behave like spoiled children and worse, are not so much racist when they vomit forth their unwanted opinions, as bigoted and stupid.

Miss Shetty has apparently said that she doesn't think the comments were racially motivated, so much as socially and culturally. I can't imagine Ms Goody being so dignified in her response should someone in the house have accused her of being a slapper.


Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

Ah, these shows. They love a good scandal!

January 18, 2007 9:22 pm  
Blogger Vincent said...

What I find incredulous is how Jade and her cronies' remarks are supposed to reflect badly on Big Brother's producers, Channel 4 and the nation in general. It's the same generalist thinking that leads to rascist views in the first place. The only person who should be held responsible for these comments (which do seem to fall more within the remit of verbal bullying than outright rascism) is the person who said them. However unpalatable the Big Brother show is, they're simply pointing the cameras. If it was a 'serious' documentary featuring members of the public making the same comments, no one would bat an eyelid. It might even be deemed a socially worthwhile exposé. But because Big Brother masquerades as entertainment, there seems to be a view that it should denounce such behaviour and remove it from our screens. Similarly, if my government, my country and by extension me, have to become apologists for the foul-mouthed tirades of Jade Goody...

I'm almost tempted to watch tonight's eviction (which is likely to be Jade), just in the vain hope that Davina will ask the amorphous lump: "So, Jade, your remarks in the house have seen your effigy burned in India, an early-day motion passed in Parliament, Big Brother lose a £3million sponsorship contract, an anti-bullying charity you were associated with sever ties and your best-selling perfume pulled from the shelves of a major high street chain. On a scale of one to ten, with ten being very much so and one in no way being relevant here, exactly how pig-shit thick are you?"

January 19, 2007 9:18 am  
Blogger JamesO said...

That would be worth watching, Vincent. But I don't think Davina deserves the chinning she'd probably get.

Either that or a slack-jawed 'what?' (only without the 't' being pronounced, of course).

But stop me before I start taking the piss out of the afflicted.

January 19, 2007 9:42 am  

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