(Image via Twitter)
I’m not usually a fan of reality TV, but summer after summer, I get hooked on Big Brother. To be honest, the main reason I still watch this show is because Julie Chen is a majestic angel sent from above. But I also have to admit that I love the competitions, drama, and strategies that play out over the course of three months. And while I truly believe that this season has been the smartest and most entertaining in terms of decision making and gameplay, I’m not blind to the fact that there is a lot more that goes on in the Big Brother house. Unless you’re addicted to the live feeds (which I am not because I hate spoilers), the only perspective you see of each houseguest is what the editors decide. We see plenty of conversations about alliances, who and who not to trust, making big game moves, and overall strategy. But what about the rest of the footage that falls to the cutting room floor? The show is called Big Brother — there are cameras constantly watching and listening to you. And as we’ve been seeing from the behavior of this season’s houseguests, it seems they don’t always remember that.
My mind immediately jumps to past houseguests who have exposed themselves through negative and disrespectful comments. In Season 15, Aaryn’s continuous racist remarks led to an uproar from viewers and the loss of her job, but it was left up to gameplay for her to experience the consequences of being evicted. This is the same thing that happened with Frank this season.
During one episode, the editors made the decision to devote an entire package to showing clips of Frank disrespecting houseguests and making them uncomfortable- especially the women. He used offensive language to describe them, made comments about their weight and bodies, and continued to slap their butts after they told him multiple times to stop. And I was livid.
I was obviously unsettled by the actions that Frank tried to play off as “joking around”, but what really got to me was the reaction from Da’vonne.
Da’ has been my absolute favorite this season. She has learned from the mistakes she made in past seasons, and I truly believe that she was evicted because she was a good enough player to win the whole thing. And it absolutely broke my heart to see her reactions to Frank’s harassment. We saw her sit and cry in the diary room, the only place where she could truly be safe from him. And that really pissed me off. Da’ was clearly stating how uncomfortable she felt around Frank because of the way he was speaking to her and touching her, and there was no action from Big Brother’s production team. She was not only forced to continue living in a house with this man, but she was so dedicated to her independent game that she decided to put on a front and tell Frank it was okay.
When Da’ decided to speak up, she said, “I don’t want my daughter to look back at these episodes and be like, ‘Oh, it’s OK for a man to call a woman a slut? It’s OK for a man to smack a woman on her ass?” And because there were no consequences coming from Big Brother, Da’ was forced to pretend everything was fine to save her game. She didn’t want to make any waves in the house with Frank, so she pretended to disregard his disrespect for the cameras and move on.
In episode 98 of YouTuber Tyler Oakley’s podcast Psychobabble, he makes an important comparison to the way Big Brother has handled misbehavior in the past. He brings up Chima from Season 11 and the outburst that included her throwing her mandatory mic in the pool, which led to production stepping in and reprimanding her. “That’s for disrespecting property,” Oakley stated. “I can’t fathom why they didn’t go a step further for disrespecting actual humans.”
And once Frank was finally voted out of the house, I felt a little more at ease for the women in the house. But that was until we saw Paulie’s true colors.
Paulie’s showmance with Zakiyah didn’t necessarily get a ton of air time, but once Natalie started noticing some off-putting behavior from him, she decided to go straight to Zakiyah about it. By telling Zakiyah everything she had been noticing about Paulie – flirtatious gestures, suggestions of kissing, and comments about her body – Natalie exhibited true friendship and loyalty. Natalie was simply helping out a fellow woman in the house and trying to prevent her from getting hurt; based on her quiet gameplay so far, there was no reason for anyone to assume Natalie was being anything less than genuine. Except, apparently, Paulie.
Big Brother definitely portrays its fair share of people failing to take responsibility for their actions, but Paulie’s defense in this situation took things way too far. Rather than trying to make excuses about his comments – which would have been annoying, but definitely less troubling – he attacked Natalie with accusations and hurtful comments. He tried to make it seem like Natalie was over exaggerating and lying, claiming that she is “as fake as the things on [her] chest.” I heard this and my jaw dropped. I couldn’t help but think that Paulie, like Frank, was jeopardizing the women’s right to feel safe in the house. After the confrontation, he arrogantly clapped his hands and said he felt nothing in response. And then he has the audacity to say the girls in the jury house lacked class…
What message is this behavior and lack of consequence sending to Big Brother viewers? There hasn’t been a female winner of this game since Rachel in Season 13. There are many factors that play into this statistic, but what’s troubling is the bullying the male houseguests are committing in order to get to the end. Paulie shared that he doesn’t regret anything that happened in the house – including the lengths he went to gain and maintain his power. And this does not excuse the men who are still in the house; they all have their own questionable behaviors. But when money is on the line and people claim they will do just about anything to win, there need to be more boundaries set. The fact that neither of these houseguests received any form of punishment for their disrespectful actions just makes me angry. This should not be accepted in terms of dramatic edits and a juicy story. Changes need to be made.
Conclusion? Paul said it best: