Big Brother: freakshow or social experiment?

Meet the geeks, freaks, orange bodybuilders, cookie monsters and twats who make up this year’s British Big Brother.

Tim Black

Tim Black

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Last night I gazed into the abyss, and the abyss gazed into me. Not that I turned Big Brother off, however. No, from the moment Davina ‘no profile shots’ McCall got the cruelty parade off to a perfectly judged start by shouting ‘You know what, Britain’s not got talent…’, I was transfixed. This year’s UK Big Brother, it seems, has foregone any pretence at a social experiment and launched into a glorious parody of itself.

It was clear from the start that there was something different this year. As the housemates/contestants strutted past their booing fans, protected by the usual mixture of self-regard and dementia, something became achingly obvious. This year’s bunch of unfortunates is stranger than ever. That takes some doing, considering BB’s past attempts at freak-show voyeurism.

The stock-in-trade characters were still there, of course. There were a couple of uber-twats going under the names of Dale and Rex. Dale, a self-loving ex-Man Utd trainee, announced that ‘a lot of people that don’t know me think I’m arrogant’. Presumably the people that do know him just think he’s a cock. ‘If there’s any fanny in there’, he continued, ‘I’m going to nail it’. This seemed a foolish statement. Unashamed claims to be a DIY sex-pest never play well with the majority of BB’s audience.

Less charming still was his prospective partner in crotch-gripping tomfoolery, Rex. Rex, a rich-daddy’s boy, is an ‘executive chef’ at one of his father’s restaurants. What exactly an executive chef is, who knows? Fortunately, his status as dickhead-in-chief was far clearer. ‘My dream job is to be a professional bully’, he announced nonsensically.

Then there was Dennis, the obligatory ‘gay’ – that is, a homosexual man so horrifyingly caricatured one suspects he was crafted using only Queen Victoria’s nightmares. ‘Dancing is all I’ve done since I was three years old’, he said, in between pouts. In an attempt to put the ‘why?’ into fronts, there then followed a sequence of him dancing and posing in a pair of unalluring briefs.

And so on… There was ‘I’m-mad-me’ Rebecca, a wittering Vicky Pollard-a-like; a smattering of part-time models who were ‘opinionated’; and Mario and Lisa, a bodybuilding couple, who were orange. They might be BB’s first-ever couple, but they don’t seem suited for one another. Mario, we were told, ‘wants Lisa to lose weight, have bigger boobs, and quell her obsession with her looks’. A man who looks like he was drawn by a Pixar cartoonist shouldn’t throw stones.

But amidst the bog-standard poseurs and self-delusional cretins, the Big Brother producers have chucked a few bona-fide novelties into the mix. First there was Mikey, a blind comedian. He claimed to be cross-dressing, but he seemed to be wearing a poncho, which, technically speaking, is a mistake. More unprecedented still was Darnell, a black American born in Ipswich. It wasn’t his transatlantic lineage that caught the eye, but the fact that he was an albino: the whitest black man you have ever seen.

And finally there was a Kathreya, ‘Big Brother’s first Thai housemate’. Bounding into the house with a cookie jar, she was a tiny bundle of madness. In a beautiful non-sequitur we learnt that she ‘loves techno music, but hates skidmarks in the toilet’.

Such unusual characters add another layer of parody to this year’s Big Brother. Where in previous years conflicts were set up in advance – say between the anti-immigration Saskia and the self-confident son of migrants Kemal, or between a strict Christian and a boorish degenerate – this year the conflicts are too contrived to be taken seriously. Darnell, the ghostly white albino, hates tanning products. Lisa, of course, sells… tanning products. She’s sure to brown him off, goes the thinking.

Amid all the contrivances and desperados in futile search of self-validation, one lad stood out for the most anachronistic of reasons – his self-effacement. This lad was 20-year-old Luke from Wigan, a part-time pro-wrestling announcer and full-time throwback. With his bony face, crew-cut and protruding ears, he wouldn’t have looked out of place in 1944. But, amidst the preening and posturing folly, his ration-books-and-rickets look evoked a world long gone. That is, a world without Big Brother. I’ll be rooting for Luke all the way.

Tim Black is senior writer at spiked.

spiked TV columnist Patrick West is away.

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