The Blogospheres on Big Brother, Shilpa Shetty, Bullying and Racism

shilpa_big_brother.jpgThe racism allegations surrounding a popular reality television show in the UK – Big Brother appears to occupy a lot of real estate in the blogosphere. Big Brother airs on Channel4, which is a public-service television station, broadcast in the United Kingdom Well, regardless of whether the remarks made in the Big Brother house were racist or not, they've got the Indian and the UK blogospheres talking about racism in all its contexts and people discussing their own experiences as Indians or Brits. The person seen as the victim is Shilpa Shetty, an Indian actor. A thriving discussion at Sepia Mutiny with all kinds of opinions being voiced about “Bigot Brother”. A very active discussion is on at Pickled Politics. From one of the comments

Fact is: there has been racism on television. The Asian community (for once) united to condemn it.
Give me hysteria over apathy any day.

Bloggers are discussing if it's racism or just plain bullying. While many bloggers had in half-seriousness asked why this actor was choosing to appear on this show in the first place, the discussions now are mostly about Channel 4's take on the issue, and the behaviour of the housemates towards Shilpa Shetty.

On the allegations of racism.While they’re definitely being ignorant, stupid and mean, the fact that the person on the receiving end of all this is brown adds a racial undertone to the entire thing. As someone on the news said today ‘If they were making fun of a French girl’s accent they wouldn’t call that racist would they?’

Bollywood Press on the amount of press Shilpa Shetty is getting. Classically Liberal remarks that the Indian Government appears to have no other important issues to take care of. Broadcastallense has some views on the show which has sparked protests from people who have never seen it.

At the end of the day, it's unlikely Channel Four will do much about the whole thing other than make a few cliched ‘statements’. They've got exactly what they wanted.

Bock the Robber has a take on the supposed class clash at the Big Brother house. Some others approach with a certain caution and even a little cynicism.

Being a victim of racism is turning out to be a win-win situation for Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty. No publicity is bad publicity. Who would have thought that a story on UK's Celebrity Big Brother would hog headlines even in international media.

Guy Fawkes’ Blog on Gordon Brown's response. Theadagetimes remarks on how Gordon Brown's visit to India has been shadowed by the controversy and how Channel4 seems to have benefited from the increased viewership.

In large sections of the media, Brown’s comments on Shetty were given more prominence than his speech on globalisation and economic issues in Bangalore on Wednesday.

Diretribe reminds us that one can only expect so much from reality television. remarks how people assume that racism can be excused as ignorance or stupidity.

People are trying to excuse these comments on the grounds that they display stupidity and a lack of education, rather than some form of actual racism. Oh well, that's alright then. Let's tolerate racist remarks on the basis that they're coming from idiots as opposed intelligent racists!

And while Channel4 definitely seems to have increased viewership, some bloggers are urging others not to encourage the show by switching the telly off.

I am no longer going to watch Celebrity Big Brother, or its spin-offs, or Channel 4, or its subsidiaries. I urge you not to watch the shows and not to vote for contestants of Celebrity Big Brother, because if you do you’re supporting a policy of tolerance for stupidity, bullying, and, at the least, inadvertent racism.

L'Amour et le crâne wonders why racism is being excused under the garb of silly-girl-bitching. Rationally Speaking on racism and violent anti-racism as witnessed by the protests in India.

A whopping 19,300 viewers have filed complains with the broadcaster, which means that way too many people have too much time on their hands, or simply have their priorities a bit off, considering everything else that is happening in the world (including in India itself, of course).

World of India! comments on how Indians are racist themselves. Sonia Faleiro does a piece on the celebs at the Big Brother.

And Thought Experiments sums it up thus

The Big Brother Racism story reveals another terrible truth about our world – it can no longer be satirised. The simple facts of the case are so wildly implausible, so deliriously stupid, that satirists can only stand back in awe and admiration. Some very coarse individuals on a TV game show that involves being imprisoned inside a house express, in terms of laughable ignorance, a degree of racial prejudice against another inmate. Professionally outraged people become professional outraged and Gordon Brown's visit to India is turned into a ludicrous pantomime in which people burn effigies of somebody or other connected with Big Brother, newspaper headlines crow about the racism of the British and Brown himself has to keep grinding out the platitudes about what a terrible thing racism is – yadda-yadda-yadda.
remarks that while the intent maybe to bully, its form takes a racist colour.

The issue isn't just that Shetty is being subjected to intimidation – that much is obvious. The issue at stake here is that for whatever reasons that might have caused the coven to develop a dislike for Shilpa, they are choosing to act on that by picking on things that are blatantly racist. To refuse to identify her by her name, to generalise about Indians as a whole on the basis of their interactions with her, to tell her to “f*****g go back home”, and to “go back to the slums” is nothing if not racist. The motivations behind making those statements may or may not be racist – that is not what I question at this point. However, the manner in which the feelings of the coven are verbalised is definitely racist, and as a consequence totally unacceptable.


  • jennifer

    These girls are just bullies; big brother has always been this sort of show.
    Last year was no different but it didn’t cause the same trouble because the people were all English.
    The treatment of shilpa is disgusting however I feel it is a clash of personalities and class more than race. You must all remember jade goody is an ignorant low class person. She is the exact opposite of shilpa who can speak 5 languages, is classy, well mannered and beautiful.
    Anyone this beautiful and talented would not get on with Jade. Jade is a joke in England and should not be allowed to sour our good relations with India.

  • vanisa

    This just totally disgusts me! I just cant believe when all the papparazzi get invovled, it makes breakin news and all parliament get involved and BB aint doin anything about this! Shilpa is such a beautiful woman, and this is jus totally racism! Jade is such a cow! She works part of an Anti-Bullying Scheme, and she is going to get kicked out of this when she gets evicted from the BB house. I just cant believe that Jade has to be so ignorant and call Shilpa names and swear and make horrible comments…! Danielle and Jo aint far gone… Everyone wll be so happy once all three have gone! I hope all three get evicted! This society aint good enough for them!!!

  • vanisa wrote: – “She works part of an Anti-Bullying Scheme, and she is going to get kicked out of this when she gets evicted from the BB house.”

    I believe this rumour was begun by an English Tabloid Newspaper. The Mirror or the Sun. However, it is incorrect. The charity itself have spoken out and stated that she is not involved with their work; the newspaper misreported this. Jade made a donation to the charity, she has never been involved with it’s work.

    The lie has obviously been reported by other newspapers and websites, and TV as they took their lead from the English newspaper. So she will not be kicked out of something she wasn’t involved with in the first place. I think that mispreporting of this nature comes under the heading Slander or Libel, I’m not sure which.

    Of course Sun/Mirror have a responsibility in this. But calling back a lie we tell about someone is like going into a field and cutting a duck feather pillow open on a windy day. Then wait an hour, go back and try to collect each and every feather that was in the pillow. Not an easy job, lies are like bacteria, they multiply.

  • Here’s my take!

    Totally disgruntled at the way the chosen British celebrities in Big Brother are treating Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty. Shilpa and her management have taken the high road as is their nature, but the nation is enraged at intolerance, blatant bullying and seemingly racist comments which seem to come from schoolyard behaviour, jealousy and immaturity! I doubt that Shilpa realises how ‘bitchy’ the house has become, even though she has seen the ‘divide’. It is tough to remain impartial in this type of scenario, with someone so ‘thick’ as Jade in the midst. I had never watched BB before, but this time, I am studying the case and feel that it is somewhat a social experiment – intolerance is a rife amidst multicultural Britain and it is horrifying!

    Let’s separate the WHEAT from the CHAV!

    Here is my comment to Ofcom, who have received around 15,000 such complaints! The nation is enraged – well, the ‘educated’ nation, anyway!

    Disgusting racism and ignorance towards Shilpa Shetty needs to be curbed. It shows that the multicultural ‘London’ we believe in des not really exist, behind closed doors or in front of millions of viewers.

    A lot of immaturity and intolerance is being projected for no apparent reason and someone as distinguished and famous in India as Shilpa will hopefully come through it without too much damage. She doesn’t really know what is being said behind her back, but if she is not hurt, think of how this show portrays a typical ‘Brit’ like Jade, who is a millionaire, to the world. It makes us Brits look like prejudiced people who don’t see beyond the 4 walls they live in.

    With India having such a booming economy, I doubt that most Brits still see it as a place where people live in ‘shacks’ and are unhygienic, as has been inferred by the housemates! May I also say that the housemates in this tirade against Shilpa are also the ones who are least educated and least travelled – this is not a good cross section of British Celebrity to put on such a media heavy show!

  • paul tomasi

    Class distinction is obvious. Shilpa squabbles with her housemates with dignity. Jade, who clearly comes from a less privileged class and with a narrower vocabulary expresses herself with less dignity reflecting her underclass status.

    Are Jade’s actions racially motivated? The tabloids would have us beleive this is a cultural and class indifference and not racial.

    Or could it be simply that Jade dislikes Shilpa because of her personality?

    The real question therefore is, would Jade have acted any differently towards Shilpa had she NOT been of Indian origin or of a darker skin colour?

    I think the answer to this question is ‘NO’.

  • sarah

    i am australian and quite frankly am glad i dont live in a country where such trash is allowed to air. By trash i am not referring to the show BB which i think is a wonderful social experiment but am referring to that repugnant miss piggy lookalike called Jade. Her half man-half bleached ape cohort Jo and the disgraced ex miss britain Danielle.

  • […] Since everyone desi is gung ho about Big Brother in UK and frothing at the mouth at the alleged racism, I’ll be brave enough to go to the other extreme and admit my guilty pleasure of enjoying American Idol. I am not a rabid fan although I know of another prominent blogger who is [care to guess?] I missed the last season as I didn’t have access to a TV then. But the sixth season kicked off on Tuesday and I couldn’t help tuning in. […]

  • is this a case of a little too much reality? hey, it’s not called reality tv for nothing! if you want sanitized tv, or tv that fits your own normative model of how a society should be then go play sims on your playstation 3…

    on the one hand some claim the show is racist for tolerating such behavior, on the other hand the fact that other races are on the show at all could be seen as a move to diversity and positive…i think that the show is taking a chance by showing ‘a’ truth about society…

    i haven’t seen the show…what puzzles me is that with all the sexism, homophobia, etc…shown on tv alreday, we are getting so excited over this show…?

  • but is this really racism or bullying?

    Or is it Channel 4’s attempt at highlighting the “classes” from various cultural roots that try to “cope” with each others’ whims?

    It just might be Channel 4 using BB as a means of carrying out a socio-cultural experiment in real time, live, on-air, which would otherwise cost them a fortune *winks*

  • lisa janet and co

    i dont think jade was being racis,what puzzles me is that jermaine called jackie white trash and nothing is highlighted.which in terms is racis towards white people.

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