So Bollywood star, Shilpa Shetty, won Celebrity Big Brother with 63 percent of the public vote, after a turbulent time in the house when she was the victim of alleged racist bullying by three other housemates – reality show contestant Jade Goody, model Danielle Lloyd, and singer Jo O’Meara. Shilpa seemed like a nice person and deserving winner. But in the aftermath of the programme, several things have disturbed me.
Big Brother presenter, Davina MacCall, felt Shilpa had won due to her lack of desire for revenge. Shilpa had a generosity about her and had been quick to forgive those who had given her a hard time – this was true. What disturbs me is that the UK public don’t extend the same forgiveness. Since the three tormentors have left the house, they have been the target of anger and hate. Their careers have been wrecked. Jade Goody, reportedly, fainted due to stress-related anxiety a few days ago. So while we may pick up the phone and vote for the face of forgiveness, we don’t forgive. It’s as if we want someone to do the forgiving for us, so that we don’t have to.
It’s a kind of faux-theological narrative. Shilpa on the sacrificial altar of the Big Brother house, enduring the suffering of racist bullying, forgiving those who don’t know what they are doing. She forgives on behalf of all those who can’t or won’t.
The Sun newspaper had a headline, Shilpa Wins for All of Us. We are now cleansed. Each vote for Shilpa has pronounced us Not Guilty. As for the three evildoers, well, they can burn in Hell. And The Sun, fresh now from its campaign against the terrible racists, can get back to the business of telling us how those awful asylum seekers are using up our taxes, and how the UK will fast become an Islamic state if all good materialists don’t stand up to defend our 'traditions'. But don’t worry, we voted for Shilpa, with The Sun's fervent backing, and that now makes The Sun, and us, OK.
I'm not defending the behaviour of the three women, nor am I saying they shouldn't account for their actions, nor that their apologies weren't due. Indeed, I disliked all three of them. But let's not get carried away. Imagine how many people's lives would be in ruin if they were sacked from their jobs and hauled out for public humiliation because they had at one point in their lives made a racist comment. How many Sun journalists would hang onto their jobs?