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Racism In Celebrity Big Brother

The row about racism in the current series of Celebrity Big Brother is turning into a bit of a brouhaha: there have been 14,500 thousand complaints about racism and bullying to Ofcom, plus a further 2,000 directly to Channel 4, and Keith Vaz, MP has tabled an early day motion calling on the programme to ‘take urgent action to remind housemates that racist behaviour is unacceptable’.

I’m inclined to think that what we’re seeing is a mixture of racism, stupidity, xenophobia and class conflict, rather than simple deliberate, conscious, outright racism. It’s worth noting that we haven’t heard a racist peep from the racist contingent directed at Jermaine Jackson—he’s not perceived as ‘foreign’ because his accent is American, and the three women have felt no discomfort about the class gulf between them, because, unlike Shilpa, he doesn’t treat them like uppity servants.

Germaine Greer nails it, I think, in today’s Guardian:

The problem is that most of the housemates are too dim to convey what a pain in the ass Shilpa is without appearing to persecute her.

Not that I’m defending Jade Goody, Jo S Club and the Scouse one—the latter two in particular have made some pretty grisly comments—I just think that the issue is perhaps a little more complex than ‘OMG! They’re total racists!’.

Interesting, too, to compare this scandal to the first time Big Brother contestants, and the viewing public, faced accusations of racism. Back then, it was over Jade Goody, who is mixed race, and her ‘piggy’ nose.

Update, the next day:

Last night’s episode made great viewing.

Channel Four and Endemol covered their backs by including a segment in which Danielle Whatsit was confronted in the diary room about her opinion that Shilpa should ‘go back home’. Bizarrely, she seemed unaware that she’d been caught making a stock racist statement, instead dwelling on the unconscionable awfulness of suggesting that someone should leave the Big Brother house.

Jade’s spat with Shilpa was pretty ugly, but in the aftermath, it was clear that Jade couldn’t give a toss that her nemesis is Indian, homing in on the fact that Shilpa had said she needed elocution lessons, and that she looks down on her for being working class, and accidentally rather than deservedly famous. Jade also, with unusual eloquence, suggested that Shilpa should consider the position of her fanbase before she turns on people for being poor (formerly, in Jade’s case) and uneducated. Jo S Club’s ‘[Shilpa] can’t even speak English herself’ remark did rather make me wonder, though.

So, where does that leave us? Danielle Whatsit is a dim bulb, and a nasty little playground bitch, but unaware of how her comments will be perceived; Jade Goody is not nearly as thick as she appears, realises that a prolonged bout of bellowing will net her screentime, and has, understandably, a hefty chip on her shoulder about mockery from snooty, educated, middle-class people for her lack of education and, to quote Shilpa, ‘gutter’ ways. When it comes to the last, and least, member of the coven, I’m inclined to think that Jo S Club is just a racist little gobshite.

Posted at 1pm on 17/01/07 by Jack Mottram to the news, politics category.
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  1. Jade, Jo and Danielle are not racists, they may be bullies but not racists. They all said sorry and made up with Shilpa and Shilpa forgave them, if she can then why can’t the rest of the world?!? Cut them some slack for fuck’s sake!

    Posted by Caris Yorkston at 8pm on 26.01.07

  2. Shilpa probably found it easy to forgive them because she is not aware of what they have been saying and doing behind her back. She can feel that something isn’t right but she doesn’t know exactly what’s been going on yet because she hasn’t seen the footage. They have done and said so many things to her. I remember when Shilpa was in the shower and she asked Danielle and Jo to pass her the clean towel that was folded on her bed… Danielle picked up a dirty towel from the floor and made her use it - Shilpa said “Is this the towel from my bed?” and Danielle said yes. That is terrible.

    Posted by Caramelmami66 at 1pm on 27.01.07

  3. Who is this racism primarily directed against? Blacks?

    Posted by Political Forum at 10pm on 26.05.07

  4. none of them are too bad. i think you are all mad for carrying this on.

    Posted by rachel coll at 12pm on 17.12.07

  5. Big Brother is a waste of time, this is a load of rubbish.

    Posted by Molly Shaw at 8pm on 17.06.08

  6. And yet you searched Google for Big Brother and took the time to leave a comment, more than a year after the fact…

    Posted by Jack Mottram at 10pm on 06.07.08

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