Bother, by Alex Murdoch - 8th July 2006
(Credit: The Courier-Mail)
Big Brother, asks entertainment reporter Alex Murdoch,
manipulate the audience as well as the contestants?
called reality television. A group of people are crammed
into a house, cut off from the outside world, surrounded
by cameras and told to interact.
are young, attractive and in some cases naive,
seemingly drawn towards the lure of fame -- or
at least their 15 minutes of it.
But at what cost? Since it's inception in the
Netherlands in September 1999, Big Brother has
spread to almost 70 countries -- leaving a string
of scandals in its wake.
In the US a male contestant pulled a knife on
a female housemate, and was immediately removed.
* In the UK police were called to stop a brawl
that broke out in the house.
* Similar incidents occurred in the US and Spain.
* In the UK a man threatened to commit suicide
if he was not allowed out of the house.
* In Thailand the Government considered shutting
down the first series when two contestants became
friendly; holding hands and cuddling.
* In Denmark a woman became pregnant on the show.
* In Portugal a couple was kicked out of the house
for having sex.
* And in Australia two men were accused of sexual
assault and thrown out of the house.
Internationally at least five people believe their
lives have been ruined by the show, with three
attempting suicide as a result. And they are not
In the shows Expedition Robinson (Sweden) and
Sylvester Stallone's The Contender -- which has
been seen on Foxtel -- contestants did commit
suicide after the shows finished taping.
In the case of the latter, promising boxer Najai
``Nitro'' Turpin took his life before the series
went to air -- with NBC later deciding not to
let a suicide stand in the way of the show.
So what is the worst-case scenario?
After watching the UK and Australian first series
versions of Big Brother, British author Ben Elton
wrote the bestseller Dead Famous.
A black comedy, the book revolves around a murder
in a compound, suspiciously like the Big Brother
house, called House Arrest.
the murder was committed at night, the killer
remains a mystery, drawing in legions of viewers.
But could such a thing happen inside Australia's
As a psychologist on the first Australian series
of Big Brother (which is produced by Endemol Southern
Star for Channel 10), Dr Bob Montgomery has first-hand
knowledge of the way the BB beast springs into
Australian Psychological Society communications
director says he was privy to many discussions
in the show's initial season and often helped
think of ways to spice things up.
``As soon as ratings flag they'll have a little
brainstorming meeting -- I used to sit in on some
-- and try to think of what they can do next to
try to grab people's interest,'' Montgomery says.
``In that way they're no different from any other
Montgomery says the universal truth of television
is that harmony simply does not rate. Viewers
don't want to see people getting along.
They want to see controversy and conflict -- ingredients
Big Brother is happy to provide. This week Australia's
BB captured attention when housemates Michael
``Ashley'' Cox, 19, and Michael ``John'' Bric,
21, were removed after ``turkey-slapping'' a female
of the incident, broadcast over the internet to
BB subscribers, shows Bric with his arm across
Camilla Halliwell, 22, while Cox slaps her across
the face with his penis.
What isn't widely known is that the footage also
shows Halliwell, who voluntarily got into bed
with the two men, asking what they were going
to do to her and saying ``You're not going to
turkey slap me are you?'' just before the incident
Is Big Brother too much bother?
Rumours suggest Halliwell had allegedly been daring
the male housemates to ``turkey-slap'' her for
Police were called to assess the evidence, but
after speaking to all three participants -- Halliwell
herself says they were only ``mucking'' around
and refused to lay charges on her former housemates
-- found the boys had no case to answer.
Critics labelled the move a media stunt to stop
the show's sliding ratings. If this was the case
it worked -- more than 1.5 million viewers tuned
in on Sunday to hear details of the alleged assault.
University of Queensland reality TV authority,
and author of the Big Bother book on Big Brother,
Dr Toni Johnson-Woods says people will do anything
to get their hands on money -- including enduring
``All they see is the glittering prizes, the gold,
the incense, the frankincense, the myrrh, they
don't see that by having the light on, you can
sometimes reveal unsavoury things about your past
or about you,'' she says.
don't realise that they're simply a puppet, with
Big Brother the puppet master.''
Funnily enough this year's prize money has fallen
from $1 million to $270,000.
Media analyst Greg Tingle,
from the Media Man,
says there is no doubt Big Brother created the
tinder box conditions -- frustrated sexuality
and enforced continued confinement, combined with
an alcoholic catalyst -- which eventually exploded
between the trio in the early hours of Saturday
(Big Brother producers) don't say go and commit
a sexual assault, but they set the scene because
sexual activity is encouraged and they had the
(now defunct) Big Brother Adults Only show,''
Ian Warner, the media director of O2 Integration,
says the incident has been blown out of proportion
and agreed it had all the hallmarks of a publicity
University of the Sunshine Coast popular culture
lecturer Dr Karen Brooks went further, by suggesting
that by only providing double beds BB made his
real intentions clear from the outset.
Last year's Big Brother runner-up Tim Brunero
says people can hardly set up a reality TV environment
and then complain because real things happen.
as a society, we then get to discuss those issues
-- so it then becomes a net positive,'' he says.