'Big Brother' and the Commercialization of Race
Last week’s Supreme Court decision, invalidating Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, was notable because it affirmed the political right’s contention that racism is dead in America–or, at most, relatively insignificant. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the 5-4 majority, and Justice Clarence Thomas, in a separate concurring opinion, echoed each other’s words in saying that “America has changed.”
Certainly America has changed since 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was passed. Racial attitudes have moderated, but they have not disappeared. Witness the Paula Deen fiasco, and the Trayvon Martin murder trial. As a further exhibit, take a look at these outtake racist slurs from the CBS show Big Brother:
Let’s go meta for a moment. On top of the obviously racist and homophobic comments of some of the contestants, commercial interests are at play. Why, for example, hasn’t CBS sent YouTube a take-down notice, asking them to pull this video clip? Because controversy is good for business, and if the controversy is based on ugly stereotypes, so be it. From a financial perspective, maybe that’s even better.
Paula Deen’s use of racial epithets was bad for her personally, but it stoked the ratings on Fox News and MSNBC for a week. Courtroom cameras in the Trayvon Martin case have buoyed CNN. There’s an online petition drive to dump Aaryn and Gina Marie, the Big Brother contestants in this video, and that will surely help the series even as CBS shifts its schedule to pump up the ratings.
Yes, America has changed since 1965. Racial politics are commercialized today in a way they weren’t 50 years ago.
Photo: The cast of Big Brother 15, courtesy CBS.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adam Leipzig is the founder and CEO of MediaU, online career acceleration. MediaU opens the doors of access for content creation, filmmaking and television. Adam, Cultural Daily’s founder and publisher, has worked with more than 10,000 creatives in film, theatre, television, music, dance, poetry, literature, performance, photography, and design. He has been a producer, distributor or supervising executive on more than 30 films that have disrupted expectations, including A Plastic Ocean, March of the Penguins, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Dead Poets Society, Titus and A Plastic Ocean. His movies have won or been nominated for 10 Academy Awards, 11 BAFTA Awards, 2 Golden Globes, 2 Emmys, 2 Directors Guild Awards, 4 Sundance Awards and 4 Independent Spirit Awards. Adam teaches at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business. Adam began his career in theatre; he was the first professional dramaturg in the United States outside of New York City, and he was one of the founders of the Los Angeles Theatre Center, where he produced more than 300 plays, music, dance, and other events. Adam is CEO of Entertainment Media Partners, a company that navigates creative entrepreneurs through the Hollywood system and beyond, and a keynote speaker. Adam is the former president of National Geographic Films and senior Walt Disney Studios executive. He has also served in senior capacities at CreativeFuture, a non-profit organization that advocates for the creative community. Adam is is the author of ‘Inside Track for Independent Filmmakers ’ and co-author of the all-in-one resource for college students and emerging filmmakers 'Filmmaking in Action: Your Guide to the Skills and Craft' (Macmillan). (Photo by Jordan Ancel)