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Scott Pierce: CBS shouldn't edit out 'Big Brother' bigotry

Published July 5, 2013 9:44 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In the midst of the controversies over Paula Deen and Alec Baldwin using anti-black and anti-gay slurs, CBS is being taken to task for hiding the bigotry at the "Big Brother" house this season.

And the network's detractors have a point.

Andy Dehnart of realityblurred.com chronicles the contestants' appalling behavior in a story headlined "Big Brother already a cesspool of racist, homophobic, and misogynistic comments." He's not exaggerating.

Seven of the 16 contestants this season have used slurs against blacks, gays and women. Contestant Spencer Clawson praised the torture under the guise of medical experiments conducted by the Nazis.

If you're watching just the TV show, you haven't seen any of this. CBS and the producers have edited it all out.

But CBS also provides a 24/7 live Internet feed from inside the "Big Brother" house. And the contestants are spewing hate and bigotry without thinking about how they sound — and secure in the knowledge that CBS and the producers won't put any of it on the show.

(After a schedule change next week, "Big Brother" will be seen Wednesdays at 7 p.m., Thursdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. on Channel 2.)

But those obsessed fans watching the live feed are seeing these contestants as they really are. And they're beginning to raise a stink about it, with protests and online petitions.

Certainly, no one is arguing that we should hear n-words on TV. But to ignore the bigots is to distort the reality of a reality show.

On TV, Aaryn Gries can seem like a sweet college student. On the live feed, she tells the Asian contestant, "Go cook some [expletive] rice." She also warns a white contestant to talk quietly because "you might not be able to see" a black contestant in the dark, and she tosses out gay slurs.

By not exposing this behavior, CBS is tacitly endorsing it (despite a weak apology to viewers of the live feed). "Big Brother" viewers choose a weekly "MVP," who nominates another contestant for elimination, and they could vote for racists without knowing it.

What makes this harder to believe is that shows like "Survivor" have dealt with racists. In early 2012, viewers saw Colton Cumbie display his bigotry against a black contestant. It was appalling; it was part of what happened; it made Cumbie a public pariah.

Are the "Big Brother" producers less talented? Or are they deliberately misleading viewers?

Maybe the producers and the network need to vet their contestants a bit better. Maybe they should worry about the possibility that they could end up awarding $500,000 to a guy who applauds the Nazis for experimenting on Jews.

It would be in CBS' best interest to show these contestants as they really are.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.






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