Everything that our society somehow tries to hide — such as racism, homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, and other structural problems — ends up being exposed in an open and, curiously, unintentional way on programs such as reality shows. It is ironic to think that this type of program, which the main and basically only goal is to entertain, is responsible for raising extremely important debates on social media and consequently on our lives.
Reality shows are always composed of people from different backgrounds and realities, something that provides the understanding from the spectators about how they treat otherness in common situations. But it was not so long ago that the public realized that some situations from the reality shows were actually a reflection of events from real life. Suddenly certain attitudes and speeches started to generate concern among viewers, as they could see these actions being done by acquaintances, family members, and even themselves.
I could list a thousand examples of participants from countless reality shows saying or doing really awful things, but here I am going to highlight 4 moments from "Big Brother Brasil" — the most popular reality show in Brazil — over the years that really showed us the importance of this type of program and their impact on how we live our lives and how we can improve as a society by watching our mistakes on live television.
- Marcos, the reflection of male chauvinism in BBB17.
In 2017, during the "Big Brother Brasil" edition of that year, one of the participants stood out for his misogynistic and aggressive attitudes. Marcos Harter, who was 38 years old, engaged in a relationship with another participant, Emily Araujo, who was only 20 years old. He used to put her against the wall, yelling at her and pointing his finger at her face. As the program went on, his aggressive attitudes became a lot more common, and he ended up being expelled from the TV show. The psychological pressure and the absurdly misogynistic speeches seemed out of the ordinary, but in reality, it just showed the situation that thousands of women are in — which is something very scary.
In the "Big Brother" of 2021, participants Lucas Penteado and Gilberto Nogueira had the first kiss between two men in the program — the only kiss outside the heteronormative standards took place in the 2014 edition between the participants Clara and Vanessa. Despite being a breakthrough, the act of love was extremely judged by other participants. They started questioning Lucas about his sexuality, accusing him of lying about his feelings just to take advantage. This accusation and the way they treated him culminated in Lucas’s withdrawal from the program. Unfortunately, some other biphobic speeches have happened in different situations during the program so far. This type of discourse happens more often than we seem to know, and it is a subject that we should discuss more.
- The countless racist attitudes throughout the program's editions
This specific topic could have 10 pages only exposing a lot of racist speeches/attitudes of different participants from "Big Brother Brasil" over the years. No matter how many times black people try to explain the correct terms or what things people should or should not say — even though it is not their job to do it — the same mistakes are made every time. For the last few years, participants have been saying mean things about black people´s hair and religion. Among a lot of examples, in 2019, Paula von Sperling Viana, who ended up winning that year’s edition, said she was afraid of her confinement colleague, Rodrigo França, because of his religion. The fact that she won the program after saying this and a lot of other hurtful things, really says a lot about how our society treats this kind of subject. These cruel quotes represent years of structural racism. Time is passing, but there are still many attitudes and thoughts that hurt the history of a race. It is time to face the problems once and for all and fix them.
- The extreme lack of information on important issues
One of the biggest curses of our society is the misinformation and the denialism it generates. This aspect of our society is very clear when we see some positions taken by certain participants during the program. In this year's edition (2021), Sarah Andrade lost public favoritism after some controversial comments about the pandemic, underestimating the seriousness of the situation. Her speeches were absurd, but oddly enough, many people agree with what she said.
Unfortunately, all these horrible attitudes, speeches, and actions are not from another reality. They are more than present in our lives and getting rid of these problems is not as easy as eliminating a participant from a program. There is a need for debates and for people to be educated on issues previously considered taboo. When we see all this happening right in front of us on a national network, we start questioning ourselves and others around us and although it is not enough, it is a great start for a big change.
The article above was edited by Anna Bastos.
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