Friday Ephemera

Corrupting the Proles

Germaine Greer shares her thoughts on the impending demise of Big Brother:

Let’s hope the final series has the Man himself dragged out of his hiding place, arraigned by the housemates who are the worse for the experience, and sentenced to condign punishment for perverting the nation’s taste. That I would watch.

Yes, of course, viewers must be the victims of unseen forces they cannot possibly comprehend. At least viewers of popular, commercial television. Viewers of, say, David Starkey programmes, not so much. But viewers of Big Brother? Their tastes have been perverted. Endemol and Channel 4 evidently took something of a risk by spending vast amounts of time and money on a programme for which no popular appetite could conceivably exist - not until the public had been suitably duped and perverted. And presumably Germaine knows this because she knows what popular taste ought to be. I’m sure there’s an irony in there somewhere.

Big Brother was one of those shows, as Friends was in its day, that young people watched in order to find out how to be themselves.

Did they, really? Is that what young people do? How does Germaine know this? Alas, she doesn’t say. She does, however, tell us:

Unfortunately what they learnt from Big Brother was that a girl who is plain or assertive is to be avoided. Any female who fails to hide the fact that she is more intelligent than the people around her is to be reviled. The feistiest girls are tossed out of the house, one by one, until only the meek are left. Of nine Big Brother winners, only three have been female, and that includes Nadia Almada (who had undergone gender reassignment only eight months before). Women get a far rougher ride from both housemates and viewers than do gay men, however waspish and over the top. Big Brother leaves us with a lasting impression that British misogyny is crueller and more pervasive than British homophobia.

This being the Guardian, nothing must divert Germaine from the obligatory victimhood hierarchy – it’s practically contractual - even if this requires some wild extrapolation. (Had the majority of winners been female, this could no doubt be construed as the result of some lascivious patriarchal gaze… and thus more damning evidence of pervasive oppression.) But wait a minute. Isn’t the Big Brother audience – and particularly the voting audience – disproportionately gay and disproportionately female? What then of the alleged homophobia and misogyny? And doesn’t the win by the plain, feisty and assertive Nadia Almada - in one of the series’ most rapturous and popular final nights – suggest something other than bigotry and hatred?

Despite Ms Greer’s own truncated appearance on Celebrity Big Brother, which she described as a “fascist prison,” and despite her grumblings about the series’ morally corrupting effects on those she considers “weaker than [herself],” the Guardian columnist saw fit to make subsequent paid appearances on Big Brother’s Little Brother and Big Brother’s Big Mouth.

Here’s Ms Greer in happier times.