Big Brother, a television reality show, started its 22nd season this past week. I must admit, I have watched it every year for the past 20 years. To me, the premise is really interesting: A group of sixteen or so people, usually strangers, are confined to a house for an extended duration. They share the kitchen, the bedrooms, and they share the one single bathroom. Each week, there are challenges and competitions, and each week someone is voted out of the house until you are left with two winners.
I’ve been a fan ever since year one, when a one-legged guy named Eddie was the big winner.
One of the naturally occurring phenomena during the show is how people get together to form secret (and sometimes not so secret) alliances, pairs or teams who want to work together to advance their own cause or agenda. I say this is natural just because it happens every year. People need/want that connection with others.
Anyone who has ever participated in summer theatre knows that the dynamics of the cast house are very similar and have a lot of the same characteristics. Add into the cast house equation that these people are actors and drama is part of their physical makeup. The cast house, then, is like Big Brother but when you are experiencing it, it is more like “Oh, Brother.” At the beginning of the season, everyone gets along fine. But the camaraderie deteriorates little by little until by the end of the performance season, well… you get the point.
I’ve experienced cast house living several times and often thought it would make a great tv show. It is such a crazy environment that it could easily be presented as entertainment. And then it was, and it did.
Interestingly, every season of Big Brother has a similar mix of contestants. There is a good racial representation, a wide variety of backgrounds and educational levels, and an equal number of males to females. There is usually a gay person or two included to spice things up. Generally, one older person is included into the mix. Sadly, that older person is frequently the first to be targeted for removal by the entire house. I would guess it’s because they take too long in the one available bathroom!
There are, of course, the very good looking, physically fit contestants – this being television and all. Their common ground will be their enthusiasm for exercise which tends to make them better at the physical competitions. They will typically gravitate to one another to form an alliance. The same goes for the women – there’s an alliance. And the men – there’s another alliance. Really, any combination of people with something in common will cause them to seek one another out to help each other make it through the season.
With this virus which shall not be named, references to “Big Brother” from the George Orwell novel 1984 are fairly widespread. But I think the true parallels of our current situation are drawn not so much to Big Brother in the Orwell novel. They are more closely relatable to Big Brother the reality show which, like it or not, we all find ourselves living through right now.
Here is our plot: We are confined, at least to some extent, to our smaller worlds. We have a world-wide audience tuning in, watching our every move. Critics are aplenty to second-guess every move and decision we make. And groups of us have formed “alliances” with agendas to promote. But we still crave the interaction, the connection with others.
There are just a few key differences from the tv show. First, there is no huge monetary payday for the “winners” of this reality show and no residuals. The best most of us can hope to come away with is $1,200 and perhaps a q-tip stuck up our nostril into our brains. Second, our lives may well depend on how we play this game. Good luck to all our contestants. And now for this commercial break.
Johnny McNally is Grimes County’s Best Dressed Businessman advocating for Grimes County and writes a bi-weekly column for the Navasota Examiner.