'Big Brother 15' Racism Proves Series Is the Best Psychological Experiment on Television
In the past couple days, we've learned the ugliest thing about Big Brother is not an unflattering elf suit, or Jen's official photo on Big Brother 8 . No, it's this season's rampant racism, which is more disturbing than the image of Chenbot transforming into a liquid metal puddle in a murderous rampage.
Thanks to fans tuning into the live feed — and Reality Blurred — we learned that Big Brother 15's contestants were unleashing derogatory language against minority members of the house, saying that the Asian-American Helen should "go make some rice," that houseguests should "be careful what you say in the dark" around the African-American Candice, and that the homosexual Andy and all the women are "f*gs" and "c**nts."
It's astounding what Big Brother 15's houseguests are willing to say in front of cameras so early in the competition — despite the fact that millions of eyes are currently watching them, and that viewers have more power than ever, it seems the contestants have no qualms about the repercussions of using derogatory language. Perhaps it's because they know their words are not likely to air — though CBS has not responded to Bustle.com's request for comment, the network censored Big Brother 13's Jeff Schroeder's homophobic rant about Harry Potter's Dumbledore — or perhaps it's because, quite simply, no one in the house is challenging them.
Indeed, as Reality Blurred pointed out, GinaMarie said the n-word when referring to the insurance she gets in her income bracket, and got no pushback from Nick and Andy. Spencer gave a hat tip to Adolf Hitler and Nazi doctors, and no one made a peep. And Aaryn, GinaMarie, and Kaitlin only fueled one another's prejudice, almost upping the ante on who could appear worse in progressive human beings' eyes. In fact, only pizza boy McCrae stepped up to Amanda for calling Andy "f*ggoty Ann," but it was too little too late. This won't be known as the best season of Big Brother. It will be known as the most detestable season.
Because it seems our houseguests are more invested in taking home $500,000 than defending those that should be defended. And psychologists around the world should take note and immediately tune into the CBS live feed: Big Brother 15 is the greatest example of Groupthink currently on television — our 16 houseguests have a desire, and, in order to win, a need to get along with one another. When a handful of those contestants are so brazen about their racism, our houseguests grin and bear it, or throw their own prejudiced hat into the ring. Without an outside world to keep the houseguests in check — or without a few houseguests willing to risk eviction by standing up for what's right — the Big Brother house feels invulnerable, and able to ignore the consequences of their action or inaction. And, interestingly enough, that invulnerability leads to another symptom of Groupthink: Stereotyping.
Psychologically, it's fascinating how textbook Big Brother's Groupthink-fueled racism is. Caused by insulation? Check. Exacerbated by an atmosphere in which decision-making is key? Check. Leading to self-censorship? Check. But, unfortunately, there's no textbook way to solve the language permeating this year's Big Brother. How could contestants on a competitive series shift to thoughts of how to improve the well-being of their cohorts when simultaneously trying to vote them off? And though a quality leader helps combat the worst of Groupthink, it's easy to imagine language will only deteriorate should Howard, Helen, Candice, or Andy pick up Head of Household.
So it seems viewers are attempting to take action into their own hands. Whereas some — including myself and Big Brother 12 contestant Ragan Fox — are attempting to encourage CBS to simply air the footage to give viewers a look inside the very ugly side of reality, others are petitioning to get Aaryn Gries, the worst offender on the series, booted from the show.
It seems unlikely that petitioners will succeed — 1,500 signatures for a series watched by millions won't move the needle — but at least there's a lot to learn from this season of Big Brother. For one, the series truly continues to be the best psychological experiment on television. And secondly, this season is full of terrible, terrible people.