19 January 2007

Big Brother A Racist?

Up until a few days ago when this racism row blew up, I was quite indifferent to the fact that I had not seen a single minute of this show. Now I'm quite disappointed I've missed what all the fuss is about. I am only relying on what I have heard was said from second hand sources, so bear that in the mind with what I write below.

I think there are two types of prejudice/racism going on here. And as ever these things are complex, wrapped up as they always are, with issues of class, levels of education and culture etc.

Channel 4 is wrong to say that comments made by Jade and Jackiey Goody and Danielle Lloyd (who?), etc. are not 'overtly racist'. Calling someone a 'poppadom' and asking 'do they wash their hands' clearly have racist undertones familiar to anyone who went to school in the 80s (as I did) and probably much more recently. I have heard these sorts of comments in pubs, on the street and amongst people I know as recently as a few months ago. I think the refusal to learn Shilpa Shetty's name is probably not in itself racist but demonstrates the level of inconsiderate and ignorant behavior necessary to allow racist views to develop easily.

But there is another form of prejudice going here that is outside of the house. Edwina Currie's comments on Question Time last night sum it up.

"[Shetty] is a beautiful young lady and they are slags"

For beautiful read 'middle class' and for slag read 'working class trash'.

The subtext here is that; 'of course middle class people wouldn't behave in such a nasty prejudiced way'. Middle class people might be less overt about their racism but out of sight and behind the scenes, middle class people can be just as racist, as Simone Clark and others membership of the BNP shows.

The point I want to make is that racist prejudice cuts right across our society as a whole, we cannot blame it all on isolated individuals. Their views have not developed in isolation, they have been prolonged by prejudice passed on down generations and encouraged by our irresponsible press rags.

The Sun, Daily Mail, Express, Telegraph and others, you have a lot to answer for and your mock outrage won't change the fact that these nasty views are a product of your own making.


  1. Oh come on Neil!

    It's interesting to compare the media witch-hunt surrounding Big Brother with the racist and destructive messages broadcast (again by Channel 4 iroincally!) on Monday night's 'Dispatches - Undercover Mosque'...

  2. Must admit I didn't see the dispatches programme.

    I imagine it showed a lot of bigoted people condemning homosexuals, women, western values and slagging off Britain.

    A bit like the Daily Mail I suppose.

    I've seen similar stuff in my local baptist church and I'm sure it goes on in synagogues as well.

    By definition a lot of the 5% of the population who are deeply religious in this country and regularly attend services are going to be loony-toons. They already are obsessed with something pretty nasty and preposterous - that an imaginary god in the sky is going to destroy the world and torment those for eternity just for the crime of not believing. You would think an all powerful God wouldn't be so insecure.

  3. You're going on hearsay.. Noone called anyone a poppadom (although Jade did refer to her as Shilpa Poppadom once). And noone asked about hand washing either. During a discussion about Shilpa's home and India one of the others (I forget who) asked if they ate with their hands in India.

    Also - it was Jades mother who couldn't pronounce Shilpa. Some context here - she is an ex long term heroin addict with severe learning difficulties. She instead chose to call Shilpa by the apparently degrading nickname, Princess, which is indicative of how Jade and her mother see Shilpa's background.

    So, don;t believe the rumours until you've seen the evidence.

    As for other forms of prejudice, how about this. Shilpa ( a member of the wealthy class in India) has, among other things, called Jade "white trash", "awful", "disgusting", told her to learn to speak English, told her she needs elocution lessons, told her she uses disgraceful and disgusting language, and that she is unladylike.

    If Shilpa had been white and done all of that, she would be being condemned right now for being a total snob, and Jade held up as a working class hero, of sorts, for standing up to her. But Shilpa is Indian. And so, the conclusion is - Jade is racist, and Shilpa is innocent. This is because our entirely upper middle class media can call racism without any evidence, (unless it's their own, of course), but are unable to spot class prejudice that's right in front of their eyes.

  4. ANON: Thanks for the info. Like I said in the post I haven't watched the programme so I am going on what has been written in the media.

    It says in the Guardian that one of the contestants said something like 'you don't know where her hands have been', which sounds sublimally racist to me.

    That Shilpa has called Jade 'white trash' I did not know about. If that is the case then Shilpa sounds just as guilty of racial slurs.

    I can beleive that you are right about the media favouring the middle class person. It is a similar point I was making about Edwina Currie's remarks on QT.

  5. Danielle Lloyd said that, although again, context. I believe Shilpa did give them all food poisoning last week.

    There have been racist comments, I agree. Danielle is the culprit of that, more than anyone else. And Jade's "poppadom" comment was racist, no question. She didn't know that, and it could have been an opportunity to explain it. When she realised it could be taken as racist she was horrified.

    But the context of all of their backgrounds and behaviours has to be taken into account. Racism is not all that is going on in there.

    And I think that this is going to encourage more ignorance, tbh. Will anyone dare to mention the caste and racial purity obsession of the elite in India? To do so now would be condemned as racist.

  6. I have to say, having just watched:


    This is nothing to do class, in my opinion. My version of the sentence would read:

    "[Shetty] is an intelligent young lady and they are thick and inconsiderate"

    Also, this clip is as much Big Brother as I have ever watched and has left me in no doubt that my impression of the show is correct in every way: vapid, asinine drivel. It's a shame it's getting so much attention.

  7. I did watch a fair bit of Big Bruv and I thought the bullying aspect of what was going on was just as, if not more prominent than the racism. It was like watching a scene from a playground, regardless of class, with a few people rounding on one person and bullying her because she was different to them. One thing they all said was how much the three of them (Jade, Danielle and Jo) had in common and to that end they excluded many of the other housemates and chose Shilpa as their scapegoat, I wonder who would have been the scapegoat if she hadn't been there. But then why do we watch this shit in the first place?

  8. anon: I wouldn't criticise anyone for watching BB. In a way maybe it has highlighted something important - that racism doesn't have to include necessarily overt language, but can be subtle exclusion of someone for being different. I agree there can be a fine dividing line in what we define as racism and what is just bullying. The main thing is we recognise that this sort of behaviour should be condemned.

  9. The three women do have things in common. But Shilpa never did hang around with any of them and she was never excluded from their 'group'. From the beginning Shilpa has hung out with Jermaine and Dirk, and Carole when she was there. SS, JJ, and DB have their own group, that everyone else is excluded from. If you watch any BB they do regularly comment on the others in derogatory ways, the three of them think they are much better than everyone else.