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Big Brother distracts from the real Big Brother

To be honest I have never understood what the fascination people have with so-call ‘reality TV’ programmes like Big Brother. I have forced myself to watch a couple times and ended up despairing for the future of western civilization. Suddenly my taste for explosion filled action movies and lycra clad starlets with guns does not seem so low-brow after all.

Oooo! Very exciting!

No doubt some of our faithful commenters will put me right on this area of complete disconnection between me and an entire baffling area of popular culture.

But maybe this Disneyfication of the entirely unfunny term ‘Big Brother’ that George Orwell coined will soon be coming to an end.

Then maybe we can start getting more people frowning with concern rather than smiling vacuously at the sound of the words ‘Big Brother’. Why bother watching the TV to see a bunch of self-absorbed cretins in a room back-stabbing each other when you can be in your very own rolling endless episode of ‘Big Brother’ by just walking down almost any CCTV filled high street in Britain?

Here is some real reality TV, staring… you.


20 comments to Big Brother distracts from the real Big Brother

  • David Mercer

    Seems to be that Labour took 1984 not as a warning, but as a good idea!

  • S. Weasel

    A plug here for New York’s Surveillance Camera Players. I don’t know ultimately how effective this sort of thing may be, but the combination of ridicule and publicity has to be worth something.

  • Liberty Belle

    It struck me from the start that perhaps de-fanging the term Big Brother may not be a bad idea from the far left/thought fascist point of view. How many of the people who watch Big Brother have read Orwell? Would you guess, oh, none? Would you expect them to sneer dismissively if you tried to protest that the real Big Brother is a horrifying concept? Would you expect to be vilified as a “highbrow” and “out a touch” and told not to be such a stick in the mud and try and enjoy a larff?

    Big Brother has been colonised. I don’t think it was unintentional. Next, watch out for the multi-culti zany reality television of Room 101!

    Reality television is actually intended to divert attention from the reality that is creeping in on little cat feet…

  • G Cooper

    I share Perry de Havilland’s puzzlement at the ‘Big Brother’ TV phenomenon

    As for the real ‘BB’ – what I wish to know is has anyone ever attempted to calculate the cost/benefits (if any) of these disgusting devices?

    As far as I can make out they are simply there as a sop to public opinion, which has been conned into believing that because they are there and because there are increasing numbers of them, that must be because they work.

    In reality, I have seen little evidence that they achieve anything at all, save to remind us that the omnipresent state is watching us.

  • Guy Herbert

    Too late, Liberty Belle, there’s already a comedy chat show called Room 101 on British TV.

  • Liberty Belle

    Arrrrggghh! Guy Herbert, you say “comedy”. Is it?

  • A few years ago I watched some TV programs in which Clive James showed the highlights of some bizarre Japanese game shows in which people were forced to suffer dreadful indignities of various kinds on television. Last year, I watched Uri Gellar eat a large maggot live on British television. At that point, I concluded that the spirit of those Japanese gameshows had reached the rest of the world.

  • Liberty Belle

    Michael Jennings – Ugh! How depressing! I’d have preferred to watch the maggot eat Uri Geller.

  • Guy Herbert

    Occasionally, Mlle Belle, occasionally.

    Format as follows: Regular presenter asks guest (usually a stand-up comic) to nominate things to be placed into Room 101, and explain why they are so terrible. It’s a set up for the old comedy standard of complaining about people and things, so generally the objects of criticism are not actually really horrid, merely mildly irksome or unfashionable parts of popular culture.

    What’s mildly interesting is that, having subverted the name of Orwell’s metaphor for terror, the producers go on to offer, in effect, their own weird authoritarian fable. The guest “wins” by convincing the capricious presenter (who may from time to time put to the audience vote) that an item is more bad than good on some vague populist scale of value. If he does, it is then dropped into Room 101 never to be seen again. If not the guest must take it (that is, the prop representing it) home with him. So Room 101 cease to be a threat: it rather protects us by being a place where all the things judged unacceptable are to be locked away.

  • I think Big Brother and its ilk just show the dirth of imagination amoungst TV types. I mean they really don’t have to do much to get high ratings. I never seen the attraction either, to be its just boring television.

  • Liberty Belle

    Andrew Ian Castel-Dodge – I don’t agree. “Big Brother” has nothing to do with trying to entertain people as a primary objective. Entertainment for morons under the name of Big Brother defuses the power of Orwell’s Big Brother which is still potent today. Once it’s had the life beaten out of it by people who have no connection to their past and who have never read a book, it will no longer be potent. That’s the whole idea.

  • Stephen Hodgson

    Not only is “Big Brother” appalling television but it’s also, as I believe some commenters have already pointed to, paving the way for a new understanding of the name/term “Big Brother” amongst the general public. Five years ago “Big Brother” was a reference to the totalitarian state aparatus of Orwell’s classic prophetic novel, today “Big Brother” is a more commonly associated with a revolting “reality television” programme, a programme which is designed to make the idea of being monitored by CCTV cameras 24 hours a day in some (twisted) way “appealing” or “entertaining”.

    If the name of the programme was indeed selected for the purpose of redefining people’s understanding of “Big Brother” it’s doing a great job… just come along to my school and ask someone if they know where the name of the television programme originates from… 80% of them will tell you they haven’t got a clue – “it’s just a name” etc. It’s incredibly depressing.

  • Phil Bradley

    I’m clearly out of step here, because I love reality TV. Together with documentaries and the odd game show, its the only TV I watch. Unfortunately BB isn’t broadcast where I live so I have never seen it.

    I haven’t watched a TV drama with any interest since the last episode of Babylon-5. Watching actors do stupid and implausable things bores the pants off me, but watching real people doing similarly stupid and implausable things for money and/or their 15 minutes of fame, I find endlessly fasinating.

  • Tony H

    What do you find fascinating about it, Phil? I ask because I’m curious: though I managed to watch only a few minutes of one episode (?) of BB that was enough to convince me it was indeed a new and loathsome low in “entertainment”. Life imitates art: an oft-visited theme in SF writing is that of a dystopian future in which activities presently regarded as inhuman have become the norm. Long before computer games, there was a short story (forget the author/title) about future drivers on super-highways duelling to the death with their cars; or Pohl’s Gladiator-at-Law; or Rollerball… and lots more. Nearly three decades ago, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore (possibly in Derek & Clive mode) invented a TV gameshow in which celebrities would be nailed to the wall, and the winner would be the one who screamed the loudest. Being screened on a TV near you, any year now…

  • Guy Herbert

    No; the TV programme isn’t part of a conspiracy to change the meaning of the phrase.

    Such a conspiracy would be pointless, since “Big Brother” simply hadn’t (even a decade ago) the resonance for the great majority of the population that it has for people writing here. Orwell had it perfectly: “Big Brother is watching you” has precisely the effect on the mass that Minitru would intend–comfort more than menace. See here.

    That is probably true of TV production executives too. (Remember Chris Evans used to claim never to have read a book.) Even if it isn’t (and Peter Bazalgette, arch-apologist for the form, is an urbane human being), their aim is to produce suitable prolefeed. All they are trying to do in their crass way is turn a penny. A motive we should mostly applaud, I guess.

    Pity about the consequence.

  • X

    Funny how you simpletons always mock those on the left for spinning conspiracy tales when you’re doing the same damn thing. Watch out! Big Brother is a plot against the masses!

  • The Intelligent One

    Big Brother is the brainless being watched by the brain dead. Even worse is that there is a channel where you can watch them fulltime, even sleeping. I mean some people need to get a life.

    That said given its popularity and the fact that the Sun newspaper and similar tabloids, (reading age 9) are so popular in this country is there a clearer arguement against the vote and “representative democracy”? (So called!)

  • David Hall

    Just curious;
    The image in the middle which says “This scheme is controlled by: Big Brother” – surely this isn’t serious? It’s quite disturbing when a security company or government operator names itself “Big Brother”; even though they are carrying out the role of big brother I would prefer they at least retained some illusion that they were not.
    Or maybe I wouldn’t.

  • Dave Hall: No, that was just me having a bit of fun with a photo editor… and I also altered the telephone number to that of Scotland Yard.

  • X: You are mistake… we are equal opportunity mockers and are happy to poke fun of right-wing conspiracy theorists too.

    I for one do not think the ‘Big Brother TV show’ is a conspiracy by ‘them’ to soften the Orwellian ‘Big Brother’ meme. That may indeed be the effect but I would be astonished if the statist powers-that-be are capable of such finely grained meme-war… no one is really that clever or that consistent on a government paycheck.