Are you feeling Jade-d?

Friday, January 19, 2007 by

This week has been polarising for those on either side of the long running Big Brother debate. As someone who has written in recent months to support the series, it is intriguing to see how easy it is to deconstruct all of this latest controversy into further proof that Big Brother remains an important and vital element of Channel 4′s public service remit. Indeed, to me, the very fact that there is conflicting opinion on whether or not Jade and her coterie’s actions constitute actual racism or not, is indication that there is a complex issue being explored here, and that there is a healthy discussion to be had on what does and doesn’t constitute racial abuse. 

Mind you, perhaps an even more healthy use of our energies might be to spend less time trying to categorize the exact nature of Jade’s brand of discrimination, and to instead take a stand against bullying in all of its forms (including accepting that a lot of bullying takes the form of subtle behaviours that are difficult to quantify but are none the less destructive – something that Big Brother has ably demonstrated over the years).

All of this stuff is very difficult to unpick, and besides, it’s beyond the scope of the kinds of things we like to talk about here. One point though that I feel I can obtain some clarity about is just how much of a nonsense it is to hear politicians trotting out this line that Big Brother is simply broadcasting racism as entertainment. Well surely if you want to take that line (which to me seems to betray a lack of any real thought about the issue) then any television drama that has ever explored racism could be accused of doing the same, as could any factual programme that has covered similar ground.

You sense that these politicians have some vague, subconscious notion that in showing the footage of the last week,Big Brother is actually somehow throwing its editorial support behind Jade. But given the public reaction, this is clearly not the case, and I would challenge anyone to cite an example of when Jade and her group’s behaviour has been framed in a positive light. Instead, it seems to me, that the production team has bravely (and probably not entirely without an eye on the viewing figures if we’re being honest) left it up to us to pass judgement on this thorny and emotional issue. Of course tonight is the night on which we deliver our verdict.


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