January 19, 2007
Jade Vs Shilpa: The baddie gets the boot
The latest in British reality TV is that Jade Goody(Baddie) gets the boot; and Shipla Shetty stays in the Celebrity Big Brother house. If India’s Shipa (Beti) is declared a winner, it may well be interpreted as the triumph of British fairness and tolerance over racist pit bulls.
Acres of media space have been devoted to the Jade-Shilpa ‘reality’ spat. But the spate of words and sound byte expended on, what Brendan O’Neill calls, the bizarre invasion of real life by the British reality TV, doesn’t quite explain why the fuss. If it is about race, what is new? Aren’t we familiar with the status of prejudice in Britain? Do we need reality TV to put us wise on it? Many commentators in Britain, however, would have us believe that it is not about racism;it's about class – pedigree Vs pit bull, as Carole Midgley says in The Times.
Brendan O’Neill puts the ‘international handwringing over Jade v Shilpa’ in perspective, in a Spiked commentary. Excerpts:
Everyone wants a piece of the overblown Shilpa v Jade controversy…..Whatever you might think of the saddos who enter the house for a bit of airtime, this year there are even bigger saddos outside of the house using the show as an opportunity to posture and pontificate.
As Carol Midgley wrote in The Times (London), the CBB people knew what they were doing when they stuck Jade Goody’s somewhat uncouth and rowdy family – including her loudmouth mum Jackiey Budden – into a house with sophisticated Shilpa: ‘Endemol has gone for the lowest common denominator: pit bull versus pedigree….And it isn’t the first time C4 producers have tried to ratchet up cultural tensions on the show.
In Big Brother 6 they put mouthy working-class girl Saskia in the house, who said in a pre-recorded video that she has concerns about ‘foreigners’ in Britain. ‘They all want to kill us, bomb us. I don’t want to generalise, but I do’, said the silly woman.
BB producers cynically invent conflict for entertainment purposes, and then have the gall to voice ‘crocodile concern’ (as Carol Midgley described it) when that conflict causes controversy. The current Jade v Shilpa spat is actually a product of reality TV’s cynical treatment of individuals as lab rats to be thrown together to see what happens.
Germaine Greer – one-time feminist author who, since her own appearance on CBB two years ago, is now better known as a commentator on all things reality TV-related – says the treatment of Shilpa Shetty isn’t that surprising because ‘this is a racist country. To the vast majority of couch potatoes out there, Shilpa is a “Paki bird”.’
Jade and Jo and Danielle are like the chubby girls in the class jealous of their tall, beautiful and sophisticated classmate….Shetty still has a proper career. They’re being bitchy rather than racist.
In a piece headlined ‘Beauty and the beastliness: a tale of declining British values’, Stuart Jeffries in the Guardian says ‘The Big Brother house remains one of hate, divided between ugly thick white Britain and one imperturbably dignified Indian woman.
Read the commentary at Celebrity - Big Brother: a Zzzz-list scandal. –
Additional read: Mick Hume – All the world’s a reality TV studio