Reflections On Why We Watch While Putting It Into Perspective
I began watching BB1 in a strange way. Arriving at my gym in California one night, I got on the treadmill next to someone who knew a girl who was going to be on some weird reality show coming on "any minute now." Our treadmills were directly under the tv sets so it was made clear to me I couldn't change the channel. As kids, my siblings and I would touch the tv right before a certain show was to come on and yell out "officially saved" -- which we all honored as a sacred bond in the days where our home had one tv instead of one tv per room which is currently the norm. Clearly, I understood this stranger had exercised "officially saved" and I would honor it... so it was to be Big Brother - whatever that was.
Now, ten years and eleven seasons later, I am the one eager to "officially save" the tv set whenever BB is set to air. And while the show has evolved (and devolved in some ways), the hook which first tugged on me in the gym remains as strong as ever as I tune in and watch the dysfunction unravel. I even make a note in my IPhone calendar as to the start day of BB each summer and go online to check out the house, the guests, and what last year's favorites might be doing as the season approaches. Some people go to Europe for the summer, I go to Fantasy Land... Big Brotherville, where the crazies are locked up all summer and I get to keep a close eye on them.
Things have definitely changed. Less heated arguments over sensitive topics such as race and religion, no animals to take care of to assist in giving house guests permanent nicknames (i.e. Chicken George), and actual knives have been replaced with plastic knives while real people have now been replaced with more plastic as well. The show sports more Hollywood want-a-bes these days and the arguments often involve a pint of beer and less than an ounce of common sense. And I listen to the complaints about the house guests and how the show isn't as good, etc etc but I continue to watch with a dedication I find hard to articulate -- until now.
You see, after eleven seasons, I have it all figured out. Like a soap opera some get addicted to, I am addicted to watching train wrecks in the form of insecure people, over-inflated egos (and muscles), and how easy it is to get people to believe what is said rather than what is done. I can't say I would get into the house and act like Ronnie who knew everything about the game. I haven't figured out how to play, I haven't figured out how to win, and I haven't figured out how to survive in the BB house... I have just figured out how to watch and why I watch and that is enough for me. As my father used to quote: "People are, indeed, funnier than monkeys." And I am sincerely entertained which is more than what happens when I watch most television. But I am more than entertain watching BB -- I actually think it can be educational (although PBS may dispute that claim)!
I think watching BB has made me a smarter person about people in general because, let's face it, the game is really a game about people and people can be appallingly unpredictable. What I have figured out about people is the same thing I have figured out about myself: we really don't know each other and certainly ourselves, as well as we would like to think. We can spend all day long figuring out the other guy and how a cast of characters acts locked up together but often the people who really know the game (Ronnie, Jen, etc) don't know themselves well enough to join a group of egos and stupidity. In the end, most of the guests do themselves in -- just like what happens to us in real life. We do ourselves in... because we can't keep a secret, we have the need to share a tidbit of news best left unsaid, we jump to conclusions by over-reacting, we don't give others the luxury of just being in a bad mood, and we just shoot off our mouths when, as our grandmas said, "if we can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all." Besides, in the comfy life styles we lead, it only takes a little slop and a cold shower to send even the most respectable person over the edge... for me it would be no pencils and papers... pretty sad, isn't it?
I think the same thing about BB that I often think about politics. The people who would really be good at it -- I mean cruise through on auto-pilot and take the half million like candy from a baby -- aren't the ones who would ever apply. The most well-adjusted and secure of people are busy leading well-adjusted and secure lives. They might have time to catch an episode or two of the show but they could never imagine actually being on it. So. let's face it, the barrel of fish the casting folks are shooting in to get these guests might not be the same barrel of fish you hang out with... and if they are, perhaps you are living a real life BB without the cash prize at the end of the summer.
So lower your expectations. Remind yourself it isn't rocket science (shhh, don't tell Brendon and Rachel) and it isn't life-altering and life-molding. It is a harmless show about the worst in ourselves that happened to be on at the right time for you that got you through your own particular workout. And that my friend is what has been "previously on Big Brother" for ten years now!