Gobsmacked. Those are the only words I have to explain my reaction to the spectacle that was Big Brother Africa’s (BBA) day 59 string of events. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Google ‘BBA fight’ and get in on all the gory action. Before then, allow me summarize. BBA: The face of domestic violence.
Reality killed the Cat.
Put some peanuts in an unbreakable transparent jar with an opening small enough for a monkey’s unclenched hand to pass through. Present the jar to a monkey. The monkey on spotting the prize will put its hand in the jar and grab some peanuts. However, the opening of the jar isn’t wide enough for its fist to pass through. For the monkey’s hand to be freed, it must release the peanuts and unclench its fist. A choice must be made between liberty and the prize. However, the lure of the peanuts is too great and it will struggle to eat its cake and have it. In many cases, the monkey knocked itself out with the jar. No monkey ever released its fist.
The above is a true scientific experiment.
Kristine Billerbick, an author I happen to like a whole lot said something hilariously profound in her book, ‘What a girl wants’. To paraphrase, she said that the TV show the Bachelor was a testament to the fact that you could take a good man and ruin him with choice. A normal, good-looking guy with average personal issues is suddenly thrust into a position where 25 women vie for his attention. Suddenly he’s going on group dates and kissing multiple women in full view of the other competitors. And do the other women throw him into the pool for being a cad? No. They finagle their way closer to him in hopes of getting a bigger piece of the cake-, which is in this case- his lips. In that kind of situation, why wouldn’t the Bachelor believe he is entitled to a harem? Why would such a man be satisfied with one woman? Though Kristine zoned in on the Bachelor, the same rings true for the Bachelorette, Baggage, Average Joe, and every show that parades another human being as a prize to be won.
For all the brilliance of scientists, they could also have the meanest, most vindictive of minds. There’s a kind of observation that yields learning and a kind that results in an evil dance of the Rumpelstiltskin variety. That is the dance of many reality show producers. Reduce your subjects to animals. Push them to their limit. Make them eat roaches and raw meat. (Yes I’m talking about you, fear factor!) Put them on a deserted island without food, clothing and shelter to see how long they will last before they consider cannibalism. Lock a person in a room with only 3 items: hard drugs, a book and a video game. Surround a family man with nothing but booze and female strippers for 7 days. What are they trying to prove? That man is capable of great evil. They forget man is also capable of great good. Or maybe they just don't care.
Big Brother (BB) is a social experiment testing how far man will go to satisfy his most basic needs in a prison cell during a 3-month sentence where the warden is ‘the voice of god’. BB, with the aid of the housemates, has legitimized the peeping tom. It’s now legal to watch people have a shower, to listen in on their prayers, to watch them sleep and scratch their butts. Oh but you must be 18! Being 18 makes it all okay.
Enter alcohol: the biggest weapon in the BB game. It numbs, it excites, and it loosens. Clothes fall away along with the wearer's inhibitions; tempers and libidos rise to the challenge. Housemates season after season have testified that they had never drunk that much in their entire lives. What part of ‘drink responsibly’ is being upheld? And when all is too fine and dandy, alcohol is withheld to punish and create a restlessness that leads to tension. Just to throw a spoke in the wheels and get a different flavor. Everyday, the housemates eat, sleep and play together and everyday they enter the diary room and stab each other in the back. But alcohol makes betrayal go down easier. It’s Lord of the flies come to life.
The producers must have turned cartwheels with the fight that broke out last week between a male and female housemate in Big Brother Africa. Sure they sent out a psychiatrist; sure they condemned the violence; sure they condemned the guy that hit the girl… but after all the eye service, their ratings were better than ever. This is what they had all been waiting for. This is what the show is about. Sex. Betrayal. Violence. Finally. It was fabulous entertainment and people couldn’t get enough. Even I admit that I watched the scene with morbid fascination.
Personally, I think the guy’s public life should be over. (The girl's too actually if you ask me) No endorsements, no TV gigs... nothing but the infamy that should come with domestic abuse. After all he struck a woman- on satellite TV to boot! In fact, I thought many of the housemates would quit the show. Hadn't things gone far enough? Naïve aren’t I? Apparently it's all in a day's work- prison style.
To make matters even more disturbing, I discovered that the community of peeping toms is divided on whether the girl deserved the beating or not. Many have openly said that the girl should have been thoroughly trashed for being such a nuisance and wish the guy had done a better job. In fact, many have said the girl brought it all on herself and the guy is the victim in the situation. I have a sinking feeling he will be welcomed as a hero in some parts of the continent.
Will the housemates ever see that they are pawns in the hands of a sadistic chess player? Or are their eyes still on the $200,000 prize? Not to worry, a little more alcohol will help them forget the horror and remember the money and the fame. The producers have proven that $200,000 is enough to reduce human beings to the monkey and the jar.
I hope they are happy.