Saturday, January 20, 2007

Jade Goody's Eviction

Jade Goody was yesterday evicted from the Big Brother House with 82 percent of the public vote. That means that nearly one in five people voted to evict Shilpa Shetty.

They made up. Jade told Shilpa that she hadn’t meant to be racist and Shilpa accepted the explanation. But soon after her first apology, Jade called her “Shilpa Poppadum” behind her back, was called to account in the Diary Room, and had to make her apologies all over again. Once more Shilpa accepted the apology, but hinted to Jade that many Indian people wouldn’t have liked the comment at all. Jade spent half and hour crying in the diary room with regret at her previous behaviour, as if it had all suddenly sunk in.

Cailleach’s comment in the comments box of my previous article on this likened the bullying to what goes on in a school playground, and it strikes me that the protagonists were indeed behaving like children, and that playgrounds are full of such behaviour on a daily basis, and that newspapers don’t spend much time getting mad about it (although the same papers that criticise Jade do get mad about, for example, the number of immigrants entering the country and the money being shelled out to welcome seekers of political asylum, and...well, you get the idea).

David Aaronovitch makes some telling points in his This Trash Makes You Feel Righteous – Get Real article in The Times. I don’t agree with everything he says, and there is a hint of self-righteousness about it too (unavoidable in a debate like this, I guess), and I think Big Brother has the right to instigate debate as much as any art form, but his case makes me think. An excerpt:

"Mrs Poppadum? We’d never say that behind anyone’s back, would we? It’s not us, it’s her. She’s the racist, sling her out. The Sun headline yesterday, accompanied by six horrible pics of Jade (whom the paper monstered last time around, as well) was “Evict the face of hate”. The irony was that the page itself was the face of hate. A columnist condemned Jade’s hate speech. “She shrieks racist obscenities, her piggy eyes bulging as she struts round the house like a demented toad.” And that, presumably, is just what Our Lord would have written if He were a columnist.

"BB satisfies our taste for cruelty. But what is so odd is that to discuss real things we have to make them unreal first, and then describe them as reality. Maybe we’ll understand better when art catches up with this moment, and we all troop off, replete with salience, to see the tragic Jade Goody — the Opera."


Unknown said...

Jade Goody - The Opera? I should really, really hope not! Aaaagggh! I'd rather pull my own toenails out! Slowly.

Seriously, I think it is certainly interesting all the debate and dicussion being generated from BB, because at least it does give that chance for society to have a debate. The issues would never have come out, I suppose, if the organisers hadn't had some inkling of what they were doing putting Shilpa Shetty in there in the first place. Perhaps it is cynical, but still and all, it has been interesting following the debate - and asking myself those questions too!

Anonymous said...

It strikes me - not very originally - that there's an important difference between racism & what might be termed 'racialism'. Racism comprises a set of beliefs, systematically organised, however crudely, based on notions of the fundamental inferiority of another race & the right of those of superior ethnicity to persecute &, ultimately, to eliminate it. Racialism implies the hard-wired consciousness that all of us possess of racial, ethnic or cultural difference. No structured conviction or belief accompanies this consciousness; in theory, it's a neutral quantity & thus passive & unapplied. But, in the heat of conflict, it can become an active component alongside similarly culturally embedded attitudes, largely inchoate & formless, towards, for example, class, religion or gender preference.

Jade Goody might be termed a racialist; her mother, I suspect, might be a racist. This might be (as the French have it) buggering flies. But I feel that the distinction does have some value.

Sorry, Rob - from comment to lecture...

Hedgie said...

Even though we aren't getting to see this series here in the U. S., the story of Jade's eviction made the national news here, specifically (that I saw, at leasst) the CBS Evening News. I suspect other news outlets carried it as well.

Personally, I'm more than a bit appalled that reality tv has become news-worthy "reality" in and of itself.

Rob said...

Barbara - you think Channel 4 expected racist behaviour? Maybe...

Dick - I think you're right in your distinctions. Jade is trying to argue that the comments she made were racist, but that she herself is not really racist (in the sense of having a structured, racist agenda), and I guess there is truth in that.

You're right too, Howard, and it is sad that it takes a reality TV show for these issues to be debated.

I think many things are reported as news which are even less worthy than reality TV.

Soap operas, the private life of C-list actors, people who are famous for being seen in the company of others who are famous, the kiss-and-tell merchants who spill the beans on their more famous lovers, lottery winners, celebrity marriages and divorces, sexual intimacies, general pontificating under the banner of impartial news etc.

In some ways, Big Brother is crap, humiliating nonsense served up as entertainment. But in other ways, it raises issues of who we really are. Nothing can be hidden or disguised. Most of the time, when you watch TV, you might get the impression that nearly everyone is now politically correct, pro-gay, pro-choice, anti-racist, stylish, articulate, atheist, tolerant, artistic, cool, and to express anything else openly in real life is to invite a barrage of criticism .

But when the expression of people's beliefs is silenced, the beliefs don't change. They are simply expressed publicly in coded ways. It's difficult to get to the heart of what any public figure says these days, as he/she may not feel it acceptable to say what he/she really thinks.

But the same goes for people generally, except in private conversation with people who feel exactly the same as they do. And in Big Brother, the contestants seemed to forget their private conversations were being watched by millions, and that what they said in anger would be noted down and quoted back to them. That forgetting is interesting in itself.

But I think the reason the show has made such an impact is threefold:

1. The same newspapers that celebrate and stalk socialite celebrities take delight in destroying their own creations.

2. The unguarded racism has shown us the ugly face of ourselves, the casual conversations that belittle or degrade others on account of race or any other differentiating factor. So while reality TV has become newsworthy purely of itself (Big Brother definitely sells papers, even in normal circumstances), there was the extra factor here that people felt implicated in themselves even as they felt angry at Jade.

3. The international response from India, which made the whole issue rather hot, to say the least.