Big Brother. Realism and Genre.

This research essay has drawn upon academic research and online sources to discover broad social questions of society, that may be drawn from the Reality TV’s game show Big Brother. The academic origins of media analysis have been from anthropology, linguistics and historians of the media; the research has considered an open narrative analysis of British culture. Specifically Roland Barthes a post Marxist influenced Semiotician, Noam Chomsky a linguist and media critic, Tzvetan Todorov a Bulgarian philosopher who explains genre and human happiness, as well as Annette Hill through her study of  contextual culture, by explaining accordingly audience, origins to the institutions; furthermore some coincidences are noted from other similar profit based ideas on TV.  Moreover with this idea I considered three ‘broad social questions’ of our society and who it chooses to represent then control in entertainment. Firstly the technology available evolved, then British society as apposed to the rest of the world’s society, finally the vote of the people compared to Big Brother voting consequently how this factor may be something bigger than just entertainment in Britain using descriptive analyse in effect of ‘big brother’.

The name ‘Big Brother’ have origins from George Orwell’s idea of Big brother watching over society ‘1984’, a book with ‘utopian’ (Sir Thomas Moore, 1616) ideas of control. In the book ‘1984’ it’s society raises issues about relationships and controlling the workers. Holland has been experimenting with integration of people. Amsterdam especially a man made land from sea originally was connected to Britain 8,000 years ago until the rise in tides, which begins of this idea of reality TV as unnatural. But Britain has always compared it’s self to us or them, an island separate from the rest of Europe.

Anthropologists noticed ordinary lives document back as far as the 9th century from the Arabs who created light-rooms for entertainment. They were without any script and free from any narrative, just a room that framed nature. Nature created its own natural lighting required to exaggerate experience. In the 18th century Dumfries a similar discovery from a similar period revealed the first ideas in the dark-room of ‘camera obscura to camera Lucida’ (1993,Barthes, Of Mythologies). The dark and the light of the real world described coherently as ‘transparency’. From outside looking in the second dimensional view is improved by providing a middle ‘media’(B&S, 3rded, Intro).

The codes and conventions of Barthes supported by Polysemy in Semiotics used initially to understand reading the ‘media texts’ as a format of realism, this essay’s information however suggests ‘an audience desire connection with the real world in a controllable environment’ (B&S,c5, p117).

The case study of John Dovey (2001,135) is referred to explaining an audience as the public sphere for the creation of a community of ordinary people who by explaining the various technical practices will soon adopt there own interpretations through there own eyes. Specifically like online forums. He also speaks of a ‘window on the world’ but to explain this idea in more detail the apparatus available today is considered. (et.al,B&S,ch3,p62).

Today’s introduction of technology consists more of hidden cameras or surveillance video footage focused on ordinary lives. Wherever creating a 3D illusion but this must not be confused with the secretive camera’s of ‘The Truman Show’ movie (Jim Carrey, 2005). More interested in surveillance that has elements of promoting a lack of privacy and more set toward control by re-branding a new identity through the eye of a lens.  HD television improve our visual experience of viewing by filming from various angles otherwise repeating this should not be confused with the lighting and filming. Format of music may well change the surround settings, that I suppose could be argued it contributes  to the ‘deep focus’ upon any unscripted reality appose to the cinematographic opposite ‘shallow focus’(Hill,2002), Barthes accepts these as codes(et-al,B&S,ch2,p33.).

Terrestrial television here in United Kingdom has provided great statistical data thanks to BARB (Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board) this data has relevance to the media’s commercial market, that attracted sponsors like Car Phone Warehouse. 

Factors such as these have contributed to profits from text messaging and the ‘access’ activity that are made from reducing salaries and creating cheap news and like the cinema it also profits from advertising. Advertising is based upon artistic franchises that cost money so for Channel 4 to justify the cost it must show an audience. Adverts support the reality TV for entertainment as well as profit. This synergy (VOD) of working together supportively adds to the illusion of reality through products, fashion, toiletries, music and banks to inter-act with. (B&S,chp6, p165.)

Based in Hilversum, Holland, ‘Endemol’ has scripted (comedy and drama) and non-scripted (reality TV and talent shows) programmes and is the originator of the Big Brother show. Big Brother is basically twelve people, who have never met before, live together for approximately 100 days in a fenced-off compound. They are isolated from the outside world. No phones, newspapers, radios or televisions. No contact with loved ones. They’re all alone except for the millions of viewers watching. Housemates are recorded, broadcasted on television and the internet, and even sent through text messages to mobile phones about the evictions. On a regular basis, the participants are required to nominate two or more housemates. By voting, the viewers decide who leave the house. The last participant to leave the house is the winner. (Endemol,2006.)

Edemol in 2002 had 19 different countries that use the similar idea. Already Big Brother is annually creating a made lineage of previous contestants. These contestants are rewarded with work, there views are requested by understanding new contestants, unlike the British elite this luxury was not inherited. But globally this is a process of  ‘sorting out the winners from the losers’. Contestants are played upon like real life. (Ellis,2001.)

Described fully in ‘Hyperdermic model’ (Chapter6, p148) of quickly introducing to the young or naive a package in this case like a narcotic injected into there lives that they must purchase to be part of that will guarantee pleasure, but it’s life expectancy is short unlike a classic movie or an ongoing soap more an instant fix, how else could one justify observing people sleeping for hours. Simultaneously this generation of couch potatoes (I Ang, 1991, p149) is affective and we see this from statistical figures of all those actively watching ‘Big Brother’. How long will this product remain worthy of watching?

The cognitive therapeutic viewing of bizarre wallpaper Zap Happy Britain (ch6,p160) appeals to the audience anticipation by Endemol of  votes are cast also by pressing the red-button on there remote control another technological extension of realism with there on the spot spin.

“We may be in the early stages of a new social movement for which democratization of the media will be a central focus of discussion, activism and reconstruction.” – Noam Chomsky.

Activism is a term used to explain a social change that I believe contextually Big Brother intended to do, by noticing the numbers of young actively studying media. Chomsky talks about Globalization and this idea is drawn from by paying to vote the audience are far more satisfied compared to the reputations on television. But to assume that technology will improve our reality’s in Britain or to adopt America’s successful idea of Democracy as stated by Chomsky would be contrary to history’s myth of independence (1775–1783) where by the British elite were expelled from America. Other research of political attitudes gives a hint that ‘Big Brother’ may even introduce democracy in Britain, understanding European ideologies, after all the UK is part of the EU.       (B&S, C6)

From further research I noticed GMTV, Richard & Judy’s (Cactus TV) shortcomings. Trust in televisions inter-active TV is depleting. From so many viewers with mobile phones we are well aware of the profit they make from voting. Reinforcing this example laws exist about consent of using the home phone if below the age of 18 (B&S,ch6) but how can these laws be reinforced?

NVLA now known as Mediawatch UK who used to employ Mary Whitehouse is a contemporary movement voice that observes and challenges any violence on TV. They are looking for sexual and profanity matters with an emphasis of any violence. Channel 4 targets a youthful audience prior to the Watershed. Late night viewing was regulated by dubbing the sound out and replacing the sound with birds chirping replacing the real with something close.

Their views are moulded more from ‘Little Brother’(B.B.L.B.) hosted by Dermot O’leary who interviews the stars and the public, ‘Big Mouth’ is hosted by Russell Brand who from Sunday to Friday straight after the show speaks with his audience in London. Both the hosts selected West Endemol were young up and coming comedians. Also Big Brain on channel 4 hosted a more psychological profile of body language and profiling, they call it exposing the intelligence.(Big Brother, 2007) All of these shows contribute to ‘objectivity’(Barthes) of the shows genre.

That is to say by in discussions the shows views become a new perspective all these factors and discussions may help understand their personal views. A good example of controversy arising from the audience observing real life television was Celebrity Big brothers argument between Jane Goody and Shilpa Shetty consequently issues of racism and bullying were raised.

The cat-walk scene of evictee’s greeted by Davina McCall:  The camera and lighted entrance justify this panning around the perimeters’ of the house by the camera crew then narrative sets up expectations of a good speech about the competitors. Horizontally for the audience at home as well, the thousands cheering outside know this realism is pre-ordained and un-rehearsed. Todorov spoke about endings of characters in the story of a film westerns, Barthes through several ways of explaining the Format, that is the contextual linguistic terminology that explains the Media text or the presentation to the audience.

We see the losers rejoicing and cheering eviction, restoring the equilibrium somehow to guarantee celebrations. A happy ending.

This realism has turned over large amounts of money. Concluding that ‘Realism’ as a package on TV has been successful. Although this lack of control within what happens especially with the Jane Goody incident cost West Endemol its sponsors Car-phone Warehouse.

But more importantly of the technological advancement information whereas in life, the internet, You-Tube and forums. Finally the codes incorporated to Big Brother’s Genre is just as valid in this country as it would be in America, it’s only the audience who can also influence anything they don’t like, and traditionally they do. In conclusion this reality TV package delivers an atmosphere where you don’t have to go out and meet people but my reality is what’s real has to excite all of the senses. Not just watching. We all pay rent , or all have mortgages and bills looming overhead; it’s this realism that this era of disaffected and disempowered young middle class may reach out too. Replacing the dissatisfaction so subsequently keeps the young inside the country, an important addictive healthy option.
——————————————————————————————————-

Footnote:  Russell Brand has announced that he has quit. Edemol this week just purchased The Hammer house of Horror a new element am sure that may influence the format or comedy genre of big brother in UK. Meanwhile this week begins a new episode of big brother. The only contestants I’ve met who has been on big brother is Goldie, Bez and Ken. I have met all the comedians who host the shows and have just noticed a new advert on the web-site ‘Celebrity Big Bubble’ “Stay in and get tanked”, Marilyn Manson appears to be the winner.

Bibliography.

Ang, I.(1991) Desperately Seeking the Audience. London: Routledge

Barthes, R (1993) Mythologies. London: Vintage Big Brother(2007): http://www.bigbrother.co.uk/ (signified 12/5/2007)

Branston, G and Stafford, R (2003): The Media Student’s Book, Third Edition. London and New York: Routledge.

Chandler, D.(2002):Semiotics: The Basics. London: Routledge

Chomsky,N.(1991):Deterring Democracy. South End Press

Derrida, J.(1997): Of Grammatology: Translated by Gayatri Chackravorty Spivak.The john Hopkins University Press

Dovey, J.(2001): Reality TV, in Creber, Glen(ed.) The Television Genre Book. London: BFIDyer, R.(1977): Entertainment and Utopia. London: Routledge

Eagleton, T.(1996): Literary Theory: An Introduction. Chapter 3 – Semiotics

Ellis, J.(2001) Reality TV, in Creber, Glen(ed.) The Television Genre Book. London:BFI

Endemol(2006): http://www.endemol.com/ (signified 10/5/2007)

Goody J(22/1/2007)http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6285717.stm (signified 16/5/2007)

Hall, S.(1974) The television Discourse- encoding and de-coding Education and Culture No.25(unesco) Reprinted by A. Gray and J. McGuigan

Hawkes, T. (1977): Structuralism and semiotics. University of California Press

Hill, A.(2002): ‘Big Brother: the real audience,’ Television and Media.(eds)(1997) Studying Culture, London: Arnold

Orwell. G. (1949): 1984.London. Martin Secker & Warburg

The Truman Show(2005): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120382/  (signified 15/5/2007) 

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s