Hosted by Julie Chen, Season 17 of Big Brother, the reality game show, returns this summer for the enjoyment of drama-addicted viewers. The premise of the contest is that 10 strangers live together for three months, hoping to win challenges while evading weekly evictions, in an attempt to win half of a million dollars. During the contest, like in George Owell’s 1984, the house is being continuously watched and monitored. The house where the contest takes place has video cameras, live streaming to websites for viewers who are willing to pay a membership fee to watch. Every word inside the house is also recorded by many microphones. The setup of the show involves illicit romances, lies, frenemies, and distrust – everything that is wrong with America, yet so addicting to many. In a social media-connected world, viewers can use a hashtag, #BB17, to communicate with each other about the show and respond to what they are seeing.
The premiere of Season 17 was viewed by 6.81 million people, but did include a 13 percent drop in viewers aged 18-49. There are not a lot of ways to make $500,000 in three months, yet the cost to participants, who are broadcast to the world without regard for their emotions or privacy, includes being objectified, criticized and often demeaned. It may not seem like a cost to many because contestants have sought the opportunity to be on national television, yet what they do on television may have serious repercussions in their personal lives down the road.
Big Brother returns for the enjoyment of drama-addicted viewers, but this time there are three twists: a fan favorite, the BB take-over, and a secret known only by the viewers. The first episode introduced eight houseguests with two more surprise guests to come. The current houseguests include only two contestants of color, and they are James and Da’vonne. James is an adopted South Carolinian man of Asian descent with a love for everything country, the outdoors, trucks, and mudholes with a three-year-old daughter. Da’vonne, an Inglewood African-American woman, is a single mom to a seven-month-old baby, a poker dealer and second-grade teacher. It also seems that both of these contestants are the only parents in the group so far.
The rest of the contestants are Meg, Jace, Audrey, Austin, Shelli and Clay. Meg is a high energy, self-described bubbly girl from New City who lives with her gay best friend. Jace is a fearless young guy from Venice Beach who is into wild, adrenaline-inducing sports. Audrey, the first transgender contestant on the show, prides herself on being confident, a strong competitor, and all about ‘girl power’. Austin is a 6-foot-5-inch professional wrestler from Woodland Hills, California, who calls himself Judas when he wrestles. Shelli is a typical Georgian blonde with a do-it-yourself, hard-working attitude. Clay is a Texan farm boy and a former A & M football player with a corresponding body.
Big Brother returns for the enjoyment of drama-addicted viewers, despite the fact that it promotes the behavior that individuals seek to escape in their own lives. Some view the long-running show as a social experiment. The show has a following not just in America, but in many countries, and attracts those who like drama, slurs, violence and a lack of generosity and compassion. In a world where Americans work hard to survive, thrive, provide for their families and, if possible, do some good for others, the fact that this show continues to have high summer viewership yields obvious questions about the morality of the country.
Opinion by Olivia Uribe-Mutal
Edited by Jennifer Pfalz and Ankur Sinha
Deadline – ‘Big Brother’ Ratings Return Down, ‘Wife Swap’ Up, ‘MasterChef’ Steady
The Washington Post – ‘Big Brother’ is a terrible show — but here’s why I’ll never stop watching
CBS – Big Brother – Season 17, Episode 1
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