Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Sunday's Bubbalub (that is how it's supposed to be pronounced) was really enjoyable.

I once had a tour of the camera run in a previous non-celebrity version of the series and felt very strange standing less than a metre away from Cameron (remember him?) while he was washing up. That was a sneaky tour I was on and nothing to do with the show that was broadcast but this time I was taken into the camera run as part of the show. Dressed in a black cape so as not to be seen through the not-quite-one-way mirror they cut to me a couple of times for comments on the goings on in the house. It feels ridiculously intrusive... far more so than watching the results on TV. It's the fact that you're so close to them. If I'd coughed they'd have heard me. Even though you know that the window you're looking through looks like a mirror to them, every now and then you feel like someone is looking you in the eye and you feel like you've been caught spying on them. Very weird and oddly exciting in the shallowest of ways.

I always enjoy appearing on BBLB and a lot of that is down to Dermot who is about as professional and relaxed as you can be. Sometimes when you're on a show you look at a presenter and you can see a glassy eyed stare coming back at you. Never with Dermot. I'd suggested that I explain who my favourites were with the help of a venn diagram and the production team were very happy to oblige. I worked out who I thought belonged where the night before and I was genuinely surprised to discover that Ian 'H from Steps' Watkins emerged as one of my two potential winners even though I didn't know I liked him. I think it worked quite well. Somebody's put the clip up on youtube so you can judge for yourself.

I've already said more about the show than I normally would here and there's a reason. I can't remember the last time I did anything that got a bigger reaction. I've had phone calls and texts from friends, e-mails from strangers and even been stopped in the street to be congratulated for saying what I said. I'm not sure I'm comfortable about it though.

On the show I said that I thought Jackiey was "borderline racist." I said it in the most equivocal terms I could and with a sigh of regret in my voice because I know it's a big charge to throw at someone and I don't wish to see her torn apart for it. Jackiey wasn't there to defend herself and so Dermot did the right thing and offered something of a defence which in turn led me to explain why I thought it was the case.

I did find Jackiey referring to Shilpa constantly as "that Indian" incredibly uncomfortable viewing and I'm sure that if Jackiey wasn't such a confrontational person some of the other housemates would have felt able to take her aside and explain that they didn't like it either. I suggested that if other housemates were to refer to Jackiey as "that lesbian" there would be complaints - which I'm sure there would be - and I can't see any difference between the two examples. I don't necessarily think that Jackiey dislikes Shilpa because she's Indian, but I do think that the manner in which she expressed her dislike for Shilpa involved language that no modern workplace would (or should) tolerate.

Clearly it was bringing up the issue of racism that has prompted such a large response. I'm sure there are people out there who disagree with what I said but none of them have got in touch. But here's the thing; shows like Big Brother encourage a sort of polarisation of opinion. You love one person and hate another. Issues are (no pun intended) black and white and people are either good or bad. Which isn't how the real world operates at all. There are shades of grey all over.

A lot of the messages I got were telling me how good it was of me to 'put Dermot in his place' which makes me feel uncomfortable because that isn't how I'd like to behave. I don't normally watch things back once they've been broadcast but I did this time because I wanted to see how Dermot and I interacted. I think we got on. I think he was professional. I don't think he was uncomfortable with me saying what I said and he did what any good broadcaster should do in that situation and made sure that people were aware that it was only opinion and that there were other ways of looking at it. Clearly racism is (and should be) a highly emotive issue, and so some people who thought I was right thought Dermot was wrong to offer any kind of defence. I don't agree.

It seems a lot of people have complained to Ofcom about this year's series and today's papers and and other media are carrying stories about the issue. I genuinely feel sorry for the show here... they're in a very difficult position because they have a duty of care to everyone concerned. I don't think the behaviour of Jade, Jo and Danielle is as easily defined as racist as Jackiey's "that Indian" was.

I don't enjoy watching it and I think they are behaving like bullies. I think there are unpleasant undertones to it and when they sit together and discuss Shilpa they egg each other on, perhaps feeling closer to each other the more they can display their dislike for Shilpa. It's as if by using more and more cartoonish insults, Shilpa is made less and less real to them and they then feel less and less guilty about saying worse and worse things.

As unpleasant as I find it and as much as I sympathise with Shilpa I think it's almost impossible for Big Brother to decide to kick someone out and label them a racist. What would happen to them next in this tabloid world of polarised opinions? They'd be thrown to the wolves. Many people seem to think they deserve exactly that but I don't think anyone does. But I really don't think Shilpa deserves to be bullied the way she is either.

I think several of the housemates are intolerant and are behaving in a reprehensible manner. I hope there is some kind of intervention that can be done to remove that behaviour from the house without necessarly removing people or demonising anyone. Perhaps the focus of Big Brother discussion should be bullying. Whether it's racially motivated or not is difficult to know and perhaps impossible to prove... but is non-racially motivated bullying acceptable? I don't think so.

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