Sadly, homophobic and racist slurs are an expected part of CBS’ summer reality staple Big Brother — or, at least, it’s expected for the fans who follow the show on the online feeds and on Big Brother After Dark. On CBS, such appalling comments usually get left on the cutting room floor and the producers’ characterizations have to be reconsidered.
You’ve probably heard already about how this season’s hunk (we know because of the Diary Room footage swooning over his looks) has casually thrown around homophobic slurs but only if you follow the internet chatter.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only appalling incident to happen on the Big Brother set. But don’t venture further if you don’t want to run into SPOILERS about last night’s episode or an event that happens later on.
From what I’ve been following of the live feed discussion, Jeff has been throwing around anti-gay slurs, often in reference to his clique-mates Russell and Jesse.
One such incident, a confrontation between Russell and Jeff where Jeff frequently calls Russell a "fag", aired as part of Tuesday night’s episode. The fight even saw Russell call Jeff out on the slur, "What do you have against gay people? If you want to call me a bitch, call me a bitch." (I’m not sure if that would be an improvement, but cheers to Russell for calling that out.)
However, Big Brother viewers who don’t want to spend more than three hours a week on the show wouldn’t realize Jeff’s use of such hateful language, as that language was all edited out.
Similarly, another incident captured from Big Brother After Dark showed Jeff using a variety of anti-gay slurs in talking about Russel and Jeff. That moment is featured on CBS’ website as a live feed highlight, but CBS’ version also edits out Jeff’s slurs.
That, unfortunately, wasn’t the only incident of bigoted speech. After Braden was nominated for eviction, he demonstrated a need for a (to paraphrase Margaret Cho) racist-to-English dictionary by calling gay housemate Kevin a "beaner" and telling him to "go back to Mexico".
Bad enough to use a racist word like that, but since Kevin’s biracial heritage doesn’t not include being Latino it also shows an extra level of ignorance for Braden.
If Braden signed up for Big Brother hoping it’d help his acting career, I don’t think it’ll have that effect after this.
These incidents stand in sharp contrast to the way houseguests on the UK Big Brother have been quickly evicted for using slurs. However, the way CBS lets that kind of language be broadcast in the uncensored formats sends a bad message.
There’s a slight difference in how CBS handles slurs and swearing — CBS will silence swear words but will leave slurs on the metaphorical cutting room floor — but it doesn’t communicate much of a message about the difference between an impolite f-word and an f-word that demeans an entire group of people.
Previously, the voice of Big Brother has stepped in to express disapproval when houseguests were on the verge of a fight or when they talked about the Big Brother producers. Words like "fag", "homo" or "beaner" don’t get the kind of criticism that comparing diary room sessions does. I guess the "integrity" of the game is the important thing.
Worse, this kind of talk comes up every season, which leaves the impression that Big Brother doesn’t try to avoid people with bigoted attitudes. I guess if it adds to the drama and gets people to talk about the show, it’s okay.