The CBS reality show Big Brother has dealt with charges of racism for years, but this season is making it obvious while furious fans are questioning why CBS refused to address the issue.
Minority contestants have struggled to gain traction in the show, often put in the Big Brother house with an overwhelming number of white players.
In fact, no African American male has ever won the show in its 21 seasons.
BB21 started this summer with alpha white guy Jackson Michie nominating the two African American houseguests, David Alexander and Kemi Fakunle.
Alexander was the first cast member to leave the game.
The following week, alpha white guy Jack Matthews nominated Fakunle again, and she was evicted.
Also gone, Ovi Kabir (his parents were born in Bangladesh) and Isabella Wang (whom Matthews had called “rice pudding” for her Asian background).
Jessica Milagros, a Puerto Rican, has also been nominated twice.
Far worse than Season 15, which had been known as the most blatant racist season in the reality shows history, the current cast is single handedly eliminating the minority players before the real game even begins.
Fakunle addressed her castmates’ conduct on Twitter after leaving the game, calling it disgusting.
“I am extremely disappointed and disgusted by the behavior I am being made aware of that occurred thus far in the Big Brother house,” she wrote. “The degrading and threatening comments made by some houseguests and laughed at by others are outrageous and hard to see. I am saddened to be associated with such a negative display of human character and am horrified that this is now a part of my life story.”
— Kemi #BB21 (@kisseskemi) July 20, 2019
While the marketing strategist thanked fans “for all of the love and support,” she asked that they stop making negative comments in an effort to defend her. “I do not want to perpetuate the same negativity that I received in the house,” she explained.
Ovi was reluctant in an interview to call all of his former housemates racist, but admitted it probably played a role in the early evictions.
“Subconsciously, yeah, I think some things came into play,” said Kabir. “Kemi, David, and I are three people from different backgrounds that don’t share the same commonalities as some of these other houseguests in there. So bonding in certain ways is more difficult for us in those things. And you find whatever you can in the house to single somebody out. And so maybe our differences were the reasons why it played in some people’s heads.”
CBS finally released an official comment this afternoon addressing the controversy surrounding the long-running reality show.
In a joint statement from the CBS and BB producers, the network said:
While the statement says that producers have spoken with specific houseguests who have repeatedly crossed the line, what it doesn’t address is their decision to omit many of the more concerning interactions from the broadcasted show.
This is a decision that fans who watch live feeds (and veterans) have been complaining about since the show started nearly five weeks ago.
Matthews, in particular, has repeatedly engaged in prejudicial and bullying verbal attacks against houseguests.
This includes him calling Puerto Rican houseguest Jessica “Consuela,” saying he wanted to “stomp a mud hole right through her chest” about Kemi, referring to “rice pudding” when speaking about now evicted Asian houseguest Bella, and bullying Kabir.
There’s now a petition with over 8,000 signatures calling for Matthews removal from the game.
Anyone who has watched Big Brother for a length of time knows there are seasons where the racism is evident.
Following the infamous Season 15, with repeated displays of racism, sexism and homophobia inside the house, CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler said she was “mortified.”
GinaMarie Zimmerman used the N-word and made a variety of racially insensitive comments about fellow houseguests and later lost her job as a pageant consultant.
Aaryn Gries, Zimmerman’s best friend in the game and cohort when it came to some of the most offensive comments uttered in the house, was let go by the modeling agency that once represented her.
But she has shown little remorse, claiming her racist comments were “taken out of context.”
And Spencer Clawson, who offered misogynistic and homophobic comments, later apologized for his “boneheaded” comments and “bad jokes.”
Big Brother host Julie Chen Moonves agreed Season 15 was blatantly racist in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
“The thing that was hardest for me to watch was when we had overt racism in the house,” said Julie. “This girl named Aaryn, we thought she was going to be America’s sweetheart, the girl next door, this blonde from Texas. In the interviews, now looking back, I think she knew how to give those beauty queen answers. But after a few weeks, that beauty fades, when the inside comes out and the inside is ugly. I mean ugliest to the bone. And she starts saying homophobic things, racist things.”
Season Five houseguest Marin Latimer, an African American from South Carolina, puts the blame on the continual racial problem on the casting of the show.
“I’ve had quite a few talks with insiders, and after the cast is set you have what you have,” Marvin told JimHeath.TV. “If they suck, there’s not much you can do as far as spicing things up. So it’s all in the casting.”
And why hasn’t the casting improved, especially after BB15 six years ago?
“They are more concerned with keeping their core audience than building a bigger audience,” said Marvin. “And with the way TV is splintered now with choices like Netflix, Amazon, DVD On Demand, the competition is triple what it was when I was on the show. I’m not a huge fan now, but they seem to be targeting that core instead of appealing to everyone.”
Now that CBS has publicly addressed the controversy, we’ll see whether or not their “concerns about inappropriate behavior and offensive comments” will be reflected in editing of the show which airs through September.
Julie Chen Moonves has thus far not commented on this seasons racism.
Following her husbands resignation late last year as CEO of CBS, there is wide speculation this is her final season as host of the show.