Sunday, February 11, 2007

Big Brother Bashers

Nothing gets the goat of Venerable* Guru Al Cad more than the politicians, pundits and puritanical-types who would ban reality TV series Big Brother.

For the benefit of anyone who’s been living in a cave for the last seven years (hey there, Osama, how’s it hanging?) Big Brother films a dozen or so volunteers living in a house 24/7 for several months, or until they’re ‘evicted’. During their stay, the housemates are pretty much isolated from the outside world. The show’s producers take it in turns to be ‘Big Brother’, giving the housemates tasks designed to show them and us different facets of their personalities, and ensuring that they follow the strict rules of conduct. At the end of the series, there’s one winner who receives a large cash prize.

Sounds innocuous enough. And it is. But not to the bigoted puritans who decry the show.

Put a bunch of mainly twenty-something, mainly single guys and gals of widely differing backgrounds together for a long time and stuff is going to happen. Which, of course, is the idea. What stuff that is depends on what kind of people they are — and ultimately the nature of the society they’re from.

To loathe Big Brother is akin to loathing the youth of your own society. That’s right John Howard. Yup, I’m talking to you too, Nine News. And yes, even environment good guy Sunrise.

If you watch the evening news and you see Michael Richards (Seinfeld’s Kramer) having a racist rant, you don’t try to ban the news. So what sort of idiot would try to ban Big Brother if one of its housemates lets themselves down?

The Australian version of the show adheres closely to the TV ratings system. Most of the shows are rated PG (Parental Guidance recommended) and are not only suitable but educational for young teenagers. They show the real consequences of many traits: being two-faced, selfish, cliquish, the various ‘-ists’, and so on.

The MA15+ notch on the ratings system is the highest on Australian terrestrial TV, so of course those shows were not going to be appropriate for under 15s. And because there doesn’t seem to be nearly enough parental control to go around, putting them on at 9.30 pm was not a good idea. But for the mature viewer, there were insights to be had and lessons to be learned. Political pressure was brought to bear on Channel 10 last year, and they axed the MA15+ shows.

It probably shouldn’t be too surprising that someone who guest speaks on a Catch the Fire Ministries’ video would want to ban Big Brother entirely, and there can be little doubt that PM John Howard still has the show in his sights. Look out for more media-fuelled controversy whipped up during the forthcoming series, and more ‘Time to Go’ rhetoric on channels 7 & 9.

Hang in there, Big Brother — it’ll soon be Time to Go, John Howard...

* and extremely modest

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