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

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The British Media and virtually politicians of all parties condemned the kind of spat engineered by one white girl. Living in Britain for the last 25 years and having been a successful professional I can testify about British tolerance and the fairness which Gordon Brown so lucidly expressed in India recently. Discrimination of any kind is quickly stamped upon by law and best practices here in Britain.

Born in Mysore, educated and worked there until I was in early 30s, I can compare the above with my own experiences in Mysore. Some of us were the objects of endless discrimination in our early lives, because in some places we were born in a wrong caste - as brahmins, and in a wrong brahmin-subcaste in other places!!
Our merit ( a first class degree in engineering with distinction- among the 10 rank holders in our branch of engineering of then Mysore University) was an impediment, until we were liberated by American Professors and American Universities.

Today in India, discrimination reigns supreme -narrow casteism ( discrimination between subcastes of the same caste), broad
casteism (discrimination between major castes),languages, regions, colour ( yes, even today difficult to marry off a dark coloured girl unless she is tagged with rupees or status), the list goes on... I can give dozens of anecdotes of blatant discrimination and bullying, all that took place years ago in Myosre and are taking place today in Mysore.

In Britain, the baddie gets the comeuppance and gets the boot. In India and in Mysore the baddie gets rewarded by being a baddie!! Should I give specific examples?? No, I would not like to get you in trouble!!