Hump Day: Perhaps inadvertently, reality TV show offers life lesson

Hump Day
By BriaHump Dayn Cormier
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Once again, I sit here shaking my head at the moronic “freedom of speech” arguments being put forward by people online who think they can just say anything like it’s their God-given right to slam other cultures, races and sexualities.

The latest bunch of geniuses are the houseguests on the U.S. version of Big Brother, a staple of summer television viewing for 15 years. The show gathers a dozen or so strangers in a ‘house’ located on a studio lot in the Los Angeles area. Over the summer, one houseguest is voted out each week by their roommates.

I started watching in season 10 after some co-workers raved about the show. I poo-poo’d them at first, but was hooked as soon as I tuned in for the first time.

A number of competitions are held weekly throughout the summer. There are usually two competitions held: one for Head of Household (HOH) and one for the Power of Veto. The HOH is the one who chooses two of the three nominees for eviction. (The third is nominated by that week’s MVP house guest, most valuable player, as chosen by viewer votes.) The Power of Veto winner can choose to save one nominee.

Voting is often strategic. Some­times a strong player will be sent home early because they’re seen as a threat. Sometimes the rest of the house gangs up on someone perceived to be weak and they’re sent home. While some parts of the show are pure mindless drivel, the social dynamics are often quite fascinating.

Alliances are created. They lie to each other to get ahead. There’s lots of drama, much of it unnecessary. There are also lots of laughs. From an intellectual viewpoint, it’s sometimes not the most intelligent show, but the social experiment of watching a dozen strangers thrown together to determine the last one standing is interesting.

The winner gets $500,000 while the runner-up gets $50,000. The winner is chosen by a jury of ousted houseguests, so they decide who the actual winner is between the last two people left in the house at the end of the summer so the people you schemed to evict actually have to still like or respect you enough to give you a half-million dollars. It’s a game with many facets and risks.

Houseguests have absolutely no contact with the outside world during their time on the show. The seven houseguests evicted prior to the last two remaining also have no contact with the outside world until the show is over. (They’re sequestered in the so-called Jury House until the season finale when the winner is chosen.)

With all that said, the show has been around long enough to have developed a legion of Big Brother super fans who now apply to be on the show. This year’s crop, however, seems to have forgotten that the cameras and microphones are on 24/7. (Fans can purchase access to live Internet feeds to watch the houseguests around the clock. The only things off limits are the toilet and shower. In some countries’ versions of the show, even those private areas are shown.)

This season, controversy has erupted on the show as two current houseguest, unbeknownst to them, have been fired from their day jobs because of intolerant and offensive language. Aaryn Gries, who’s quickly become known as this season’s ‘mean girl,’ lost her job with Zephyr Talent after the live feeds caught her making comments they didn’t like, specifically language aimed at an Asian-American contestant, African-American contestant and a gay contestant.

GinaMarie Zimmerman, ‘the loud one from Staten Island, New York,’ was fired from her job with the East Coast U.S.A. Pageant for being caught uttering a racial slur in a comment about welfare. Meanwhile, a third houseguest, burly red-bearded Spencer Clawson, may be seeing his career as a railroad conductor with Union Pacific circling the drain for using a sexual slur to describe an openly gay contestant.

They all claim to be fans of the show, yet they seem to have mysteriously forgotten that they’re being watched 24/7. This has got to be the dumbest bunch I’ve seen in a long time. Unless one of these three wins the $500,000 — highly unlikely — they’re going to end up being more infamous than famous.

Message boards are going crazy with anger at their language and wondering why CBS, the network that airs Big Brother, isn’t removing them from the game. So far, the network hasn’t, but they’re not hiding the fact that the contestants are making others uncomfortable. If other contestants start complaining strongly about abusive language, these three may not last much longer on the show and could be removed by production, never having the opportunity of being voted out by their roommates. It’s happened a few times before, mostly to violence-prone contestants, though.

Others on the message boards spew the same old tired right-wing “freedom of speech” garbage that they somehow think inoculates them from the consequences of their words. You can say what you want as long as you accept that there can be consequences: legal, career-wise, socially, etc. Freedom of speech is a myth.

Choose your words wisely when mouthing off. You never know who’s listening. And when you’re being watched 24/7, that includes a lot of people.

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