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CBS warns viewers before showing Big Brother’s racially-charged fight

For the first time in its 15-season history, Big Brother began with a disclaimer that warned “Viewer discretion is advised” because of “prejudices and other beliefs that CBS does not condone.”

What followed was the most interesting episode of the season so far, and an illustration of the show at its best (power and alliance shifts) and worst (editing that continues to mislead, bullying that is tolerated by the producers). The episode ranged from brutally uncomfortable to sad comedy, such as Aaryn insisting “I’m in the minority in the house now” and GinaMarie’s hysterical crying and ranting, never mind Jeremy repeatedly talking about how beautiful his face is, even though ugly things keep coming out of it (not that viewers of the TV show would know).

Because she’d been established as the show’s villain and bigot one week ago, this episode also focused on Aaryn, who is clearly awful. Again, though, she is far from alone in that. While wallowing in self-pity with her alliance, Aaryn flipped Candice’s bed and threw her pillows on the floor. When Candice returned to her room, Aaryn used a mocking, stereotype-laced voice and said, among other things, “I wouldn’t get in your bed anyway with all them crabs,” even though she was just in Candice’s bed. GinaMarie joined in, facing off against Candice: “You want the black to come out?”

It went from juvenile to juvenile and racist, and it was ugly. It was also on television, which matters: the cockroaches need to have light shined on them.

Big Brother Network has a detailed recap of the fight, which was mostly presented as it happened, though it did excise important things, from Kaitlin’s contribution to the unbelievable fact that Candice and Howard slept on the floor of the have-not room that night. The bullies spewing bigotry had won.

During the fight, Howard literally carried Candice out of the room, illustrating and then explaining his approach to the bigotry: “just ignore it” and “just be bigger for a moment.” His response was frustrating, rational, and illustrative all at once.

Howard later took an amusing passive-aggressive approach to responding to the bigotry. During the have-not challenge, he tried to throw it to screw over GinaMarie and Aaryn; though he failed, he took advantage of his opportunity to repeatedly splash Aaryn in the face with alleged rancid milk. (Of course the challenge department selected a white fluid for the contestants to drench each other with.)

Meanwhile, Amanda also became somewhat of a hero, which is ironic considering the things she’s said that the editing has ignored. When confronting Aaryn and the others, it was clear that, at the very least, producers’ questions in the Diary Room had tipped her off to how Aaryn is being edited: “When you get of this house you’re going to have a lot of people fucking hating you.”

Aaryn then said, with a completely straight face, “I didn’t say anything racist.” Later, when Candice was inexplicably comforting an inexplicably emotional GinaMarie, Aaryn attempted an apology: “Anybody that knows me knows that just because I’m Southern and I say things that aren’t appropriate all the time, I have nothing against any other race, and if I make a comment that seems like I do, I don’t want it to be taken that way.”

Well, it has been taken that way, and should be, even if Aaryn just is making herself an easy target in a house full of bigotry bullseyes. If she and the other hate-spewers make early exits, it might be possible for Big Brother to become the show it desperately wants to be–light, fluffy, dumb enough to not require any thinking–but for now, Aaryn’s behavior has ironically changed the game.

It’s forced a major television network into broadcasting, disclaiming, and facing some of the consequences of its actions, such as casting morons full of bile and bigoted comments who generate cash from a live feed that sometimes illustrates just how manipulated its editing can be. That’s a remarkable accomplishment.

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.


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