CBS continues to ride the wave of racism with their show Big Brother.
(Aaryn Gries and Julie Chen on Big Brother – 29 August. Source.)
The 29 August LIVE Big Brother episode that climaxed with host Julie Chen’s long-awaited interview with evicted HouseGuest Aaryn Gries, was not only the highest-rated program of the night, it was the most watched with 5.05 million viewers.
Moreover, media sources are abuzz with accounts of Chen’s interview with Gries, whose racist slurs included, “shut up and go make some rice” to Helen Kim, a Korean-American mother of two, and references to “squinty Asians.” According to Nielsen ratings, 6.25 million viewers tuned in for Big Brother after the racism storyline first made headlines a few weeks back.
(Aaryn Gries, speaking to HouseGuest Nick Uhas, who responds with laughter. Source.)
Commenting on the ratings boon when the racism storyline first broke, the blogger Remy writes:
“[W]e all want to scoff and say they are bad people, apparently, being terrible people is just what you need to bring in the big ratings. This does not bode well for the future of television, or society as a whole … [I]t is clear to see CBS is going to try to ride this wave as long as they can.”
Boy-oh-boy, has CBS been riding the wave.
Greg Braxton of the Los Angeles Times suggests that CBS has a double standard when it comes to bigotry. Braxton explains that while the network criticizes Big Brother HouseGuests for offensive comments, even distancing itself from “prejudices and other beliefs that we do not condone,” main characters in highly rated CBS programs, including 2 Broke Girls and Mike and Molly, frequently make jokes about minorities that are offensive.
As her post-eviction interview with Chen came to a close, Gries explained, amidst jeers, boos, and laughter from the LIVE studio audience:
“Being Southern, it is a stereotype and I have said some things that have been taken completely out of context and wrong. I do not mean to ever come off racist … I really feel bad that this is how it has been seen and how I’ve come across to people.”
“I hope after you watch the footage, you have a new perspective on things.”
We hope so too. But we hope for far more. We hope that, among other things, the much broader issue – white male corporate elite support of all forms of media racism, overt and covert – becomes part of the narrative. Alas, we are not optimistic. After all, racism equals big money. Profit above all else. This is how systemic racism perseveres. For more on the “elephant outside the room (and the BB house) … the CBS Corporation,” read gnakagawa’s insightful comments.
~ Guest blogger Shanise Burgher is a sociology honours student at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada. April Blackbird is a sociology honours student and politics major at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada and a First Nations activist. Dr. Kimberley A. Ducey is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, University of Winnipeg.