Braden evicted after tie despite producers’ pathetic sanitizing of his bigotry

Big Brother 11‘s first eviction had the right conclusion–Braden was evicted–but the rest of the episode was an exercise in the producers’ cowardice and pathetic distortion of reality for no reason at all, as they edited out his bigoted remarks, instead altering reality to make look like other houseguests were reacting to him for no reason at all.

The live show itself was dramatic, and not just because the first live HOH competition, which Ronnie won, was plagued with problems because of the show’s continual incompetence (the panels that lit up to show that someone buzzed in were invisible on screen in the sunny back yard, meaning Julie Chen misidentified the person who buzzed in at least once, leading the wrong person to answer).

But earlier, Julie was dragged into the drama for the first time, as Chima pointed out that Braden had previously called Julie “a whore”–and those in the live studio audience reported that CBS CEO Les Moonves, Julie Chen’s husband and the father of her future child, was on set when that happened.

Asked to plead their case before the live vote, Braden said, “I did say some bad things, and made a few mistakes, and I’ve made my apologies; hope you guys can all respect that and keep me around. I want to prove myself.”

Then Chima spoke, and said, “It amazes me how short some of the memory spans in here are, because my opponent here called both of my very good friends [censored] so a vote for Braden is a vote for a bigot. Anyone who aligns themself with a racist and a misogynist, you deserve to go home.”

The censors/CBS standards and practices dropped the audio in the middle, and the only word I could make out at first was “whore.” But someone in the live audience confirmed that Chima said, “He called YOU a whore, Julie, yes he did!” Rewatching her speech, which CBS posted to YouTube in its censored form, it’s clear that’s exactly what she said.

The studio audience gasped, and Julie called it “the most memorable last plea/speech we’ve ever heard.” Yet once he was evicted after Jessie broke the others’ tie vote, actual journalist Julie Chen ignored everything that was said and instead softballed Braden with bullshit questions like this one: “Give me one word to describe the Big Brother experience.” Apparently Julie’s Early Show’s interview with Braden, taped immediately afterwards, was more confrontational (more on that later, but I just watched the segment on TV and its editing was also total bullshit, completely making it look like Braden was evicted for being well-liked, and there was zero confrontation).

The most despicable part of the episode was the producers’ editing and manipulation was of the backyard fight between Braden, Lydia, and Kevin, which skipped over all of Braden’s racism (“I’m fucking white and American … you’re all beaners”) and instead made it look like Kevin and Lydia were overreacting to Braden calling her a “bitch” and a “skank,” not that those words are okay. In subsequent footage included by the editors, Lydia repeated those terms, as if that’s all she was really upset about.

Worse, the editors left in Lydia saying, “kiss my Latin ass,” and while Lydia is no saint, the effect was to make her look like the person who was bringing up race for no reason at all. And that is so pathetic, even if it isn’t surprising, considering how they edited out Jeff’s gay slurs from Tuesday’s episode.

Look: I get the argument that former executive producer Arnold Shapiro once made the argument that CBS didn’t want to broadcast those kinds of comments, which it hasn’t done during the show’s 11-season history of bigoted remarks. That’s fine, but when it directly affects what you are showing, you have to provide context–truthful context–and the series doesn’t do that.

How can they provide context without misleading us? Bleep out Braden’s angry, derogatory use of the word “beaner” to refer to Kevin (who ironically isn’t even Latino) but leave everything else in, so it’s clear what he said, or at least that what he said was bad. Or, show Kevin or someone else in the Diary Room saying, “Braden’s use of a demeaning, negative term for Latinos really offended me.” That’s not hard to do–they probably wouldn’t even have needed to prompt such a reaction–and doing otherwise is just an obvious attempt to deliberately mislead viewers.

Obviously, we’re aware of this because the live feeds reveal to us what we would otherwise not see on a reality show. Maybe other shows deliberately conceal their stars’ horrific behavior and attitudes, too. But that doesn’t excuse this show doing it, particularly when it’s such a blatant attempt to alter history.

The biggest problem with this is that most viewers aren’t feed watchers, nor are those critics and journalists who write about the show. Thus, smart people just respond to what they’ve seen on TV, and a new, unacceptable reality is born, one that justifies bad behavior by ignoring it.

Both Julie’s live questions to Braden and the episode overall proved the producers have no respect for their audience or its intelligence, and after watching it, I grew ever-annoyed with wasting my time with the shit they want to force-feed me. It’s just season after season of this nonsense, with a one-time reprieve last summer, and it’s harder to sit through each time, with such few likable people playing a poorly executed game.

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Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.