Thursday, January 18, 2007

Yes, but why are you watching Big Brother?

Of all the silly, irrelevant non-issues ever to have gained public attention, this one has to take the fruitcake.

Never mind that the GoI should have better things to do than waste its time getting indignant about UK television shows [1]. Never mind that saying something nasty to a person of a particular race doesn't automatically imply racism. Never mind that this Shetty woman is obviously acting (who knew she had this much talent?) and that the whole thing is a carefully planned piece of fiction in the first place. Never mind that the woman is on the show voluntarily and could always leave if she's feeling unhappy. Never mind that anyone who signs on to be on reality television is, by definition, a loser who will do anything for publicity, so expecting civilised behaviour from these people is a contradiction in terms. Never mind that it's idiotic to fight a TV show by giving it more publicity and that the producers of the show are probably sitting around this very minute trying to figure out how they can make this controversy last, because their viewer numbers have never looked this good.

It's Television. TELEVISION. This means a) it's NOT real and b) it's supposed to be idiotic and to shock you in the crassest, most obvious way possible. That's what television (especially reality TV) is about. Can you imagine a reality show where everyone sat around and behaved graciously and politely to each other and played tiddly-winks? Who would watch a show like that? In fact, who would watch a reality show where the participants weren't pathetic human beings whom you could compare yourself to and feel superior? Isn't that the whole point of the genre? Complaining that they're not behaving decently is like griping about how the Rambo films have too much violence.

Here's my suggestion: If you find Big Brother offensive, turn off your television sets and read a good book instead. Not only will this mean you'll have a more meaningful experience, leaving reality TV shows to the brain dead troglodytes they're meant for, it's also the most effective way to make the producers of the show sit up and listen.


[1] What's next, I wonder? Are we going to demand that George Clooney be put on trial because of that scene in Syriana where a couple of Indian immigrant workers get beaten up by the police? Are we going to threaten the US with nuclear strikes the next time a US film critic describes Aishwarya Rai as wooden and talentless, since that is clearly a racist slur?

Update 1: Reading through the discussions of this 'issue' in the media and on the blogosphere, it seems to me that what we're seeing is a demonstration of the addictive power of television, which I've blogged about before. In that post, I point to a considerable body of research which demonstrates that television watching is highly addictive, despite the fact that television delivers little or no real enjoyment and may, in fact, be associated with malaise. These studies argue that the reason people continue to watch television is because it creates the illusion of engagement with the real world - that people become unable to distinguish between what is real and what's on television.

That, I think, is exactly what's at play here - here are a bunch of well-meaning people who find what they're watching deeply unpleasant but can't seem to find the will-power to turn it off. And because they're afraid to admit to their dependence, and because they no longer see or acknowledge the difference between a fictional portrayal and a real event, they insist on making the whole thing an issue. It's a fascinating pathology.

(Self-deprecating Personal Note: While I find reality television itself unspeakably dull and annoying, I find the reality of people's engagement with television great fun to watch. There's an irony in there somewhere.)

Update 2: I'm also intrigued by the phrase 'racist bullying'. What has one got to do with the other? Are we to assume that bullying is okay as long as it's not racist? Go ahead and beat up the kid who's smaller than you and steal his lunch money, but for god's sake, make sure he's the same race as you first? Or would it be okay if they were racist but were more civil about it? I wish people would stop confounding the two things.

Update 3: It's been brought to my attention that Ms. Shetty may not, in fact, have known what she was letting herself in for and may not be able to exit the show now because of contractual obligations. Personally, I don't think she's that dumb, but I suppose it's possible. I'm not aware, however, of any evidence that suggests that Ms. Shetty has tried to exit the show and no reason to believe that she wants to or is being constrained from doing so. For the record, though, if she does in fact, feel trapped, and wants to get out, I see some merit in helping her do so, or in having her sue Channel Four for emotional harm caused by incomplete disclosure. Just spare me the crocodile tears.


ggop said...

Finally! I'm going to just cut paste this mail next time I get the Guardian link forwarded to me !!!

bongopondit said...

George Clooney be put on trial because of that scene in Syriana where a couple of Indian immigrant workers get beaten up by the police?

I thought they were Pakistanis.....

Falstaff said...

ggop: Thanks

bongopundit: Were they? I honestly don't remember. From a race perspective it doesn't really matter, does it?

Anonymous said...

Umm, I wonder why THEN, almost everyone's grandmother in desi blogosphere is blogging about it as well :). Of course mass blogging about why people should not be fussing over Big Brother is actually doing the same hehe :)

My take: If you don't see anything wrong with it, oh well, dont write about it LOL!


Revealed said...

Who plays tiddlywinks? (Other than people who lived in the Victorian era that is!)
At the risk of sounding totally blah, does any1 really care? If you can get into a hissy fit over Gandhi on Youtube, I feel this is but a small step for man.

Anonymous said...

yes, i am watching big brother because of shilpashetty.

raghu ram prasad said...

yes ia m watching big brother because of shilpashetty

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

....and the irony is it wasn't even a "proper" racist slur :| I mean if there is going to be so much hullabaloo atleast one would have expected it to be Gibb's-worthy.
But then again these things only reinforce why our ancestors should have never come down from the trees...

Nowadays there is brouhaha over every damn thing..."real life" just isnt what it used to be..but then on a positive note if not for thigns like these there would be nothing to rant about :P

km said...

I'd love to pitch a reality show called "Chuddies In A Bunch". It will be about a billion people and how they all go apeshit over a reality show.

(That Anonymous dude - S - makes a very good point, though.)

Falstaff said...

S: Ah, but I do see something wrong with it. Not with the show itself but with the reaction it's getting. Which is what I'm blogging about.

Honestly though, I tried very hard to ignore the whole thing. But when it got to the point when every second blog I clicked on was talking about it and it started showing up in news reports and almost everything I read seemed to be acting like it was a serious issue, I couldn't stop myself from commenting. Not all of us have your forbearance. Plus you can't expect me to pass up a God-given opportunity to crow about how idiotic television is.

Actually, come to think of it, you don't have much forbearance either do you? After all, you are commenting on this post. See how easy it is to fall into the trap?

revealed: No one I guess, though personally I think playing tiddly-winks would be a lot more engaging than watching television. Maybe more people should try it.

raghu ram: Good for you! I'm a big supporter of the masochist community.

the man who wasn't there: Yes, yes, rant fodder a-plenty. And I agree, if you were going to make racist statements you could at least do it properly. But then, not everyone can be a former senator from Virginia. Now if only Ms. Shetty were a soccer fan and knew that the proper response to insults, racial or otherwise, is the headbutt.

km: :-). Nah - there's no place for such stark realism on television.

Sunil said...


Oh Grace, Not again. How often Ive been made to read such stuff.

If we are actually discussing reactions, then this is no better than 100 people who havent seen the show burning anger and boredom on the streets.
Also, what exactly is being said here: Television is bad for health? Or Reality Shows aint real people. Even if it is murder. Coz its a reality show. Can it get any more farcical?

And, To answer your question I like fiesty women. Therefore I watch. Is there a problem with that too?

And Ive commented because I disagree with a heap of syntax n arguments u have used if tehre is one in the first place.

Sunil said...

Sorry, Had missed the foot note.
Yes we might and im sure , we can a expect your thoughts about it here, if it happens. Would it be along these lines-Why watch american movies, read a book instead people.

Anonymous said...

Now if only Ms. Shetty were a soccer fan and knew that the proper response to insults, racial or otherwise, is the headbutt.

Well, technically it was not a racial slur that Zidane headbutted that ass for. And its football. Ummm, and I know you don't care, but I couldn't resist the pointless commenting.

Falstaff said...

Sunil: I can assure you that no one, least of all me, wants to do anything as cruel as 'make you' read the written word, what with its awful heaps of things like grammar, syntax and general coherence. In fact, if you read the post carefully, you'll see that I fully acknowledge that Reality TV has its intended audience - and you clearly fit the bill. But enough of this exertion - back to the feisty women then.

szerelem: technically, the insults offered to Ms. Shetty aren't either - which is the beauty of it.

About football, my apologies. It's just that I've been living in this uncouth land where if you say football people think of this quaint little sport where big men in even bigger helmets all get together on a field and grope each other in what they call a...cuddle?, wait...a muddle?, that's not it either - oh well, something like that. I'm afraid I might be going a bit native. Forgive me.

Anonymous said...

Of all the silly, irrelevant non-issues ever to have gained public attention, this one has to take the fruitcake.

Agreed. And personally, I'm not a big fan of fritcake neither.

Anonymous said...

You dont have to assure me. I know you cant. I dont go by people crowing around...''oh its telly , why not read 'good' poetry instead?
But why are we talking about it here?
And now since we have read your post with utmost care, it has dawned that the point of the post is-- you ''fully'' acknowledge reality tv has an audience.
And that audience is worthy to be looked down upon. huh you watch reality tv , you loser?

Although you yourself havent seen the show--Coz- hold your breath-- its television!!!!!! but
you must write soemthing on the behaviour of the people who are equally ignorant if not better than you.
How wonderful!! Isnit?
Beat it.

Mansi said...

Dear Falstaff,

Just out of curiosity, have you seen the contentious episodes of Big Brother that created all this stir? There is a lot of hatred and malice in the way those girls talk to Shilpa, which cannot be understood by just picking up what the media highlighted (that they called Shilpa a 'dog' and a 'Paki'.)

Falstaff said...

nothings aplenty: Yes, chocolate cakes are so much better.

sunil: "it has dawned that the point of the post is-- you ''fully'' acknowledge reality tv has an audience.
And that audience is worthy to be looked down upon"

*stooping* Yes, exactly.

mansi: That's irrelevant isn't it? If the issue is that they're being racist, then would it help if they were polite about it?

My point is that they're being nasty because they're meant to be -it's a deliberate and carefully planned interaction performed by a group of semi-skilled actors, trying to raise viewership by being provocatively bitchy. It's what people are watching the show for. Is it ugly that people enjoy this kind of crap? Yes, certainly. But that's a comment on what passes for entertainment in our times and on the general idiocy and mean-spiritedness of reality television. If you don't like it, either change the channel or turn off the TV altogether. And if enough people do the same, then the show will die a natural death and you won't see this kind of ugliness playing out. If you are watching the show it's presumably because you enjoy this kind of subhuman bickering. So stop pretending that you don't. And for god's sake let's not drag the government into it.

Sunil said...


All of you who watch reality telly are twitties. And I am not a twit coz I read a book.
Why don’t you twitties read a book too? (applause )

See, so many words? Why all the never mind antiques? But wait you read right?
So I suppose you gotto type it out?


Sunil said...

Oh this is rapturous,

Listen. I want to watch a shag on telly. I mean prime time. Lets get a feminist porn aired on telly. And what am I gonna say?

They r being shagged coz they r meant to be. In fact they are professionals who r paid for that. They know what they are doing? I mean whats with all the complaining for the porn n all? Is there ever a polite porn? that’s exactly for what people are watching it for. It is ugly but people ( not the ones who read books, they are gods) watch it. Its sad I know.
And that’s the definition of entertainment these days. What society we live in ?

And if you don’t like watching a impolite feminist gangshagged either change the channel or turn off the TV altogether And if enough people do the same, then the show will die a natural death and you won't see this kind of ugly shagging on. Instead we can all read books, which automatically helps us grow wings and fly into the far distance in our the neurotic imaginations from where the real world is faint enough to be looked down upon!!
How splendidly stands the reasoning.

Falstaff said...

Sunil: Having fun? You realise, of course, that you're providing strong evidence for my assertion that people who enjoy reality TV are contemptible.

Sunil said...

Honey ,
Hi again ;)

1.Yes, total fun as real as they show on the telly.
2. I do realise. But I care a monkey. And ill tell you why, because I know your contempt is based on prejudices than reasons, which is what I wanted to comment about the post. And now it is out there.

Sun shines on all the faces. Lets not forget it. A bit more consideration about the understanding perceptions wouldn’t hurt anyone . And you will see world has room for all of us, however dimwits or prodigies we are.
Unless, and I tell you unless--- we start taking that sun shines only from our sacred arses.

Anonymous said...

The point isn't whether or not people should watch TV or read books and what our personal opinions on that matter are. The fact is that TV exists and is watched by a huge number of people. It is a powerful mass medium. The fact is there has been racist bullying going on in that show. The questions of whether entertainment media should be censored and how far 'reality' TV can go' are important ones in the context of mass media and how it affects the minds and lives of millions of people.

Racism, like homophobia or sexual discrimination, is an important issue and even an isolated incident is likely to upset people. And if thousands of people have been upset by this, there is no way that a few have the right to undermine this sentiment as 'unimportant'.

In this case, it is not even an isolated incident as the remarks have been regular and consistent over a period of time. The fact that this is TELEVISION, and according to you not meant for intelligent people, cannot detract from a larger issue of racism. By this logic, everything from sexual harassment to child pornography is permissible on TV because people shouldn't be watching it anyway.

Falstaff said...

n: Okay, let's assume for a minute that this bullying was genuinely racist (a fact I remain unconvinced of) and that this really is a censorship issue. I see no reason to censor a show that shows racist bullying. What consenting adults do is none of the government's (or other people's) business. So yes, if a group of actors signs on to participate in a show that depicts sexual harassment or pornography (at least pornography between adults - child pornography is unacceptable because informed consent is not possible), and if a group of adults knowingly chooses to watch the show, that's fine. You may have nothing but contempt for people who make and / or watch the show. That's your prerogative, and you're free as a result to a) not watch the show yourself b) encourage other people to not watch the show. But why should you have the right to censor or modify what other people want to watch?

Let's think about the parallel to porn a little more. We know that the vast majority of porn is demeaning to women. Which is why most of us choose not to watch it and, in many cases, impose strong social sanctions against people who do (by which I mean we treat them with contempt). What we don't do is insist on watching pornographic films every week but demanding that they treat women better. Nor do we hear women complaining that they acted in a porn film and - gasp! - got treated badly. Nor do we go around arguing that 'the point isn't whether people should go around watching porn or not, the fact is that porn exists and is watched by a large number of people' and we should therefore not be judgemental of those who watch it but instead focus on defining the limits of how much negative portrayal of women is acceptable. My point is that reality television shows like Big Brother are similar filth, and should be treated with the same kind of contempt.

The thing to remember, I think, is that a television show is ultimately fiction, and therefore nothing more than another consumer good. If a particular brand of cereal wasn't to your taste, you wouldn't go on buying it but insist that the government intervened to force the manufacturers to change their ingredients, would you? You'd simply switch to a different brand that gave you the taste you wanted. And if enough people felt the way you did, then the manufacturers of the offending cereal would find themselves losing money and would be forced by market forces (not by government fiat) to modify the cereal. The same logic applies here. If you don't like Big Brother, or shows like it, simply change the channel, or (even better) turn off the TV. That's all I'm advocating.

Mansi said...

I agree, Falstaff, that the issue has been blown out of proportion and is occupying unwarranted front page news space.

What's even more idiotic is that according to the Times of India, the Indian Embassy in England has issued a formal invitation to Jade Goody to come to India to "redeem herself and cleanse her soul by discovering India."

Anonymous said...

Wow! I loved your footnote about tv watching. It is strange how seriously people take reality TV. Just the use of "reality" perhaps got them all confused.

btw, can we have more posts on serious subjects please. more book reviews for example or posts on classics. leave these "topical" issues for idiots. Just a suggestion. I miss the old seriousness of this blog :)

Sunil said...

Well thank you. And now since we have started thinking lets see how we can improve upon it. But first we have to get out of our pretentious haloes.

And let me be clear on this, I do not mean to embarrass or vilify you in any way but I am shocked that such things are written and ( nodded to) in the Diaspora. It makes me feel so hollow and regretful, including this bloody debate.
And my views are against the dismissive holier than thou attitude expressed in the post and vainly fostered in the comments. I have least interest in enhancing the meaningfulness in others personal lives.

1. Lemma one
Telly is bad for health.
No argument. In fact I agree. And I am proud of you for saying that. Out aloud.

2. Lemma two: The holy suggestion--
People should read to enhance the depth of meaning in their lives instead of watching television.

I’m sure, by now you would have had second thought about saying it. I hope at least.
I mean I can just put ‘shilpa shetty and big brother’ on the title of the blog and go on to say people should get laid instead of blogging and how blogging is a loser’s vain search for dire self appreciation in the strange portals of the invisible internet mordar. But that would be daft. Even we have the flowing syntax and grammar and what not, it would be akin screaming the lungs out, hello look at me, fellas I have no knowledge of world around me. But We don’t what to be that wanker do we now?

And as we speak in some damp wink corner of the world dozens of tellys are bought, much against all our high ass collective contempt pouring all over.
And that’s the real world. Think about it .

3. Lemma three: Racism as an issue in public.
Its quite complex. And in the context its more muddled. Besides, it’s a different debate altogether.
but since you haven’t watched the show, I believe you have no right to express your views. However, if you claim that YOUR views , and I mean on racism in the show is a presumptuous blog of the assortment from media blogs et al, then I will just say that is the reflection of your personality. I refrain from commenting on personal choices.

4. Lemma four , well not exactly a lemma , just fun.

a. your view--‘ see no reason to censor a show that shows racist bullying. What consenting adults do is none of the government's (or other people's) business.’

And since we are consenting adults, we can shag on the pavements and tubes? If someone deems it fit to question we shall show our driving licences and they will leave us alone. I’m sure we would even find a group of adults knowingly watching it standing by. Huh!

And people would go back to their modems and type out ---
Losers !!!Both of you have my contempt and that of my brethren! Take it.
Is that how it works? Its not illegal, its only personal. Yet it doesn’t happen, Think about it , may be we are missing something big[1] And then we shall think about prerogatives.

Lemma 4a: Addendum for more fun.
Coming to the sweet fruit cakes and all actually this one should take it.

We know that the vast majority of porn is demeaning to women. Which is why most of us choose not to watch it and, in many cases, impose strong social sanctions against people who do (by which I mean we treat them with contempt).

You KNOW? Like how? The same way after years of watching doordarshan, you grew up suddenly on beautiful Tuesday night from when onwards you reserved the right to look down upon every soul and sausage that watches telly and instead go on preaching about how meaningful the books are? Eh my missionary brother?

Lemma 5: Your favourite claptrap: since reality telly is not all that real one shouldn’t respond to it. And people who do are retards.

How about using some more prerogatives here? I mean who is being more daft now? A person being a pomp against the response for a telly programme who he hasn’t watched and believes all such responses are worthy of his holy contempt because he believes all such programmes are gobbleshite and he meanwhile reads good books.
Or a person who cant comprehend English crying his larynx out blocking the traffic at the ring road.
I see no difference.

I have a friend who has a theory that anyone who talks about books to strangers on the internet is a absolute jerk off who hasn’t been laid for months. These are prejudices. We cant debate with prejudices as our reasons. It wouldn’t be a debate.

And since you are under the impression that is all a bloody twitty joke I will tell you what is real about it? The response out there, is by real mean and women, never mind however artificial and scriptmaanged the show is or however stupid the response is , in itself, it is real. The threats are real. Channel 4 whose executives desire as much publicity they can garner from the show, deciding the ban the public last night is real
And my boy, that’s what is real. Not the show but the response. And the companies queue to have a piece of that response. We all have the rights , don’t we ? Some watch reality telly, some respond. The sillyness or the highness of the response is not the contention. Those are personal preferences and more so perhaps a measure of our worth. But this is the age we live in. I and you may not like it, but nevertheless we cant deny its reality. And then of course Byron has been buried for ages now..
Discounting that would be like living inside a John Lennon song. Prerogatives? Yes of course. We can, I can and you can too. But songs are not real.

Lemma 7? television shows like Big Brother are similar filth, and should be treated with the same kind of contempt.
Precisely and that’s what it got.

Last lemma: about governments and intervention. You must note I have never commented about this before. Because I gave you more credit than that. But now with your Im beginning to think You are not joking. Do you think the government in India or Gordy down in Indian heat or tony up here would be interested to eliminate racial discrimination? Its a token handed out in the big game. Its called politics. And that’s for men and ill tell you its full of fun n stupidity and guess what contempt! Jesus I actually cant believe I typed that . Oh God not at this age.

As I have said I nothing against you. I don not want you buy it. I would be just happy if you spare a minute before typing stuff like this. Only coz, and I’m personal here--this is the third post of yours I have read , and I think you can do better than this. Hopefully.

Just preaching from ivory towers beside a modem is easy but doesn’t make us wise. The world is made of all sorts of people. Twats and Whizzies. We all have the rights to do or be whatever we want to. However stupid or classy or contemptible it looks to others. (remember Voltaire?) And that’s real life mate. Not a monitor and keyboard.

And for the most enviable relationship we have shared for the last two days, and since you are into books and all I just have a suggestion for you, in case you are interested.
Check out JS Mill’s libertarianism and essays . [1]
And if you don’t mind can I give my friend another humble tip---
don’t start an argument, with anaphora. Even secretaries and bar girls frown at that.
And thanks for allowing me to express my views
Best wishes as ever Have a Nice rest of the weekend,


PS- Yes, Yes, I know. Don’t mention it. Same here too.
You can save that typical sweet long winded straw man synchoresis of yours called response for one of your pitiable cronies hanging around.

And cheer up bugger.

Falstaff said...

mansi: :-). That is idiotic.

alok: Thanks. And will do.

sunil: You know, for someone who repeatedly describes me as pretentious and claims not to care about my opinion, you spend a LOT of time desperately trying to justify yourself. Hopefully this comment has helped you convince yourself that you're right, and you can go back to watching Big Brother with a clear conscience now.

Sunil said...

You have already cheered up.Good.
And dont flatter yourself all that much, I do believe donating for special causes. And moreover , you being so sweet special and all it would be unfair if i deprive you of my time.
Now you are dismissed, You go to your book and come back to molest the keyboard here.
good bye