Friday, January 19, 2007

Bad Goody

As I think I have admitted before, I'm rather partial to a bit of CBB. Not sure why really - it's a good mind-numbing end the day, I suppose, after a hard day's intellectualisin'. So it would be a bit odd if I didn't stick my oar in to the debate over the current CBB world political crisis.

It's been absolutely clear (at least it seems clear from the heavily edited and cleverly juxtaposed CBB 'highlights' programme - always remember that the producers need to construct 'storylines' in order to keep the viewing public hooked) that Goody, O'Meara and that whatsername have been bullying Shilpa Shetty in an extremely nasty way. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that there has been a racist element to this nastiness.

It strikes me that the abuse Shetty has been suffering is not motivated primarily out of racism. The racist remarks, I think, have come in the main because the bullies couldn't think of much else to say. The girls' antagonism towards Shetty isn't rooted in Shetty's 'race' - it's just that they've seized on her Indian nationality as a kind of stick with which to beat her over something else. This doesn't mean that the abuse isn't racist of course and doesn't make it any more acceptable. The bullying, it strikes me, arises primarily out of sheer jealousy and a feeling of inferiority. People like Goody, O'Meara and whatsername simply don't like highly attractive, successful and articulate women who don't seem interested in them. They are all 'celebrities', you see, and the worst thing you can do to a 'celebrity' is fail to provide them with the requisite amount of fawning attention that they have come to expect - the effect of this refusal is considerably greater if you yourself are a 'celebrity', too. I'm not saying that Shetty is some kind of hero here - clearly she's a rather vain person from a pampered background - she's just a little too aloof and remote for the bullies. They can't quite understand her. They feel uncomfortable in her presence. The nagging thought that the 'worth' of their celebrity isn't that great becomes a little more unbearable.

I'm in two minds about the way this row is going. It is, I think, clearly a Good Thing that racism is clearly completely unacceptable to most of the Big Brother audience. One can't help remembering that the Big Brother voting audience has displayed a rather progressive strain of opinion in the past - voting a gay man (Brian) the winner a few years ago and a transexual (Nadia) the winner a couple of years back. I have even heard it said that Brian's win reflected a sea-change in public opinion about homosexuality - a gay man wouldn't have won something like that a few years before. You can't ignore the circus sideshow aspect of the programme however. It's the whole point of course. One gets the impression that Nadia was voted the winner more on account of her childish shrieking and melodrama value than for anything else. What the show wants to give you, want the audience passively demand and what the votes reward is 'entertainment value', of course, more than anything else. It's a freak show. One has to view the public 'anger' about Goody and other in this light. There is a certain pleasure to be had in focusing in on Goody as a hate figure. She's a pantomime villain now.

Apparently Endemol aren't allowing the public to attend the eviction process tonight. We know why this is - it's because a certain proportion of the crowd will turn up to take great pleasure in booing, jeering and perhaps even pelting things at Goody. Perhaps she deserves it. But it's rather sad isn't it, that this person - this circus freak par excellence - has been built up, made into a millionaire on account of her 'stupidity' (actual or not) and will, over the next few days, be mercilessly ripped apart and destroyed. What does it say about us - those of us who, to some extent, have taken, and will take, pleasure in this process? Real outrage about racism has, I think, very little to do with it. Goody's racism simply provides us with an excuse to boo and hiss and have a thoroughly good time.

As an aside - one thing which has struck me while listening to the 'conversation' of the bullying trio (yes, I know I'm a voyeur as much as anyone else) is just how much time they spend discussing whether or not someone is 'genuine'. The question of whether or not someone is 'genuine' and 'being herself' seems to be, for some reason, of paramount importance - more important than any other personal attribute, achievement or behaviour. It is incredibly odd, isn't it, that on planet celebrity - a world of smoke and mirrors, make-up, image, PR - the matter of being 'genuine' is so important. What can they mean? It seems to me that one must affect the behaviours and pose of the 'genuine' in order to thrive in this environment. Being 'genuine' has become the most important aspect of a celebrity's manufactured image.

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