Big Brother and Racist Remarks
Typically, the summer is a downtime for television with people out and about catching movies and outdoor activities. Well that is not the only hppenings this year as racist remarks have been heard on the CBS show “Big Brother.”
The whole premise of the show is actually defined by its name. The reality television show locks up people in a house for 90 days. There are cameras hidden all over the house, the pictures can be seen 24 hours a day if you’re willing to pay a fee.
The show is in its 15th season and for the most part has avoided a huge public relations crisises. However, that has changed this year as in less than a week many house guest have used racial slurs.
According to NBC News, the offenses came to light as viewers recorded the live feed and then uploaded it to YouTube. The slurs are comprised of racism, sexism and homophobia. The problem here is that no changes appear on the horizon according to a statement released by CBS.
“BIG BROTHER is a reality show about watching a group of people who have no privacy 24/7 — and seeing every moment of their lives,” the statement read. “At times, the Houseguests reveal prejudices and other beliefs that we do not condone. We certainly find the statements made by several of the Houseguests on the live internet feed to be offensive. Any views or opinions expressed in personal commentary by a Houseguest appearing on BIG BROTHER, either on any live feed from the House or during the broadcast, are those of the individual(s) speaking and do not represent the views or opinions of CBS or the producers of the program.”
The problem here is that nobody believes what CBS is saying. As a graduate public relations student I can tell you first hand that words mean nothing without action.
The real message here is that people can make racist remarks on a CBS show, as long as they are making a profit from it.
The evidence is in the fact that none of the racist remarks have made it to the air. “Big Brother” Season 12 house guest Regan Fox posted an open letter on her blog that asks that same question.
“Houseguests GinaMarie, Aaryn, and Kaitlin referred to historically marginalized players as “tokens.” Sadly, they aren’t too far off in their assessment,” Fox wrote. “Characters like Andy, Candice, Howard, and Helen are reduced to mere tokens when production fails to include micro-aggressions that they have to endure on a day-to-day basis. What’s the point of casting racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities if production’s going to edit out the racism, ethnic discrimination, and homophobia that these people encounter inside the house? Moreover, why do historically marginalized players have the exclusive burden of narrating past acts of racial, ethnic, and sexual brutalization when we see this sort of discrimination enacted INSIDE THE HOUSE?”
The answer to that is simple. Draw in more live feed subscriptions.
What is most likely to happen is this:
CBS was already under heavy scrutiny for its Super Bowl XXXVIII Janet Jackson controversy. At the very minimum CBS is going to face heavy scrutiny from the FCC. However, I believe it’s going to be much more than that.
If the House of Representatives drops the ball on immigration reform then they will be seeking a way to recover, any way possible. What better way than to grill, and scrutinize executives of a television company that has a history of unsavory actions airing on its shows. So, you can expect CBS executives to be making an appearance at Congressional Hearings.
So, what should CBS do about the racist remarks heard on one of their shows?
Cancel the show immediately. Then refund in full all the subscriptions that everyone purchased. Then have CBS Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves appear on television and issue an apology.
From there a full scale review of all their reality television shows should be conducted. The main focus should be the preventative measures that are being taken to ensure people with racist views don’t make it on the show.
Fox suggested that the comments should be aired on television. The problem with that is that they are offensive in nature and with the show airing on Tuesdays at 9:00 p.m. and Wednesday and Sunday at 8:00 p.m. they would probably draw more fines from the FCC because those times are not within the “Safe Harbor Period,” which is 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
A good example of a company doing the right thing comes from the talent agencies representing Aaryn Gries, and GinaMarie Zimmerman who are the two biggest offenders.
Gries is a model and prior to Wednesday was represented by Zephyr Talent, but that changed Wednesday as the agency announced on its Facebook page that it dropped Gries shortly after the agency learned about Gries’ comments. As for Zimmerman her employer, East Coast USA Pageant, Inc., released a statement stating that they fired her.
These aren’t the only two offenders. Other offenders are Kaitlin Barnaby, Jeremy McGuire, David Girton and Spencer Clawson and you can expect these people won’t have jobs to come back to either when they are done with the show.
With racist remarks being heard on a CBS show, the company is clearly at a crossroads. The actions that they take in the following days ahead will be crucial. The reason is, that the wrong decision could lead to disaster and could prompt huge revenue drawing organizations like the National Football League, which is comprised of many African-Americans, to pull out.