Celebrity Big Brother’s Big Sister Act
In their latest gimmick, Channel 5 confirmed that the most recent series of Celebrity Big Brother would begin with a female-only household, in celebration of 100 years of women having the vote. Call me old-fashioned, but it seems rather at odds to mark a milestone in the pursuit of equality by reintroducing segregation!
A century since the ‘Representation of the People Act’ (1918) afforded 40% of the female population at the time the opportunity to vote, Channel 5 claims ‘this time the girls have the power’. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that womankind had patiently waited the last hundred years for the omnipotent voice of Big Brother to gift us power; do women really have any authority in this situation? Anyone familiar with the show’s format will know that the housemates are rendered powerless guinea pigs, to be prodded and provoked for the viewers’ entertainment.
Indeed the advertising announcements made by the channel claim that the inmates will undergo ‘experiments which will test their - and our - assumptions, challenge gender stereotypes and reveal fascinating truths about what it is to be a woman - and man - in the 21st century’. Unfortunately, the very nature of a test designed to ‘challenge gender stereotypes’ inevitably goes some way toward reinforcing those very assumptions. Compiled with editing that will no doubt prioritise entertainment value above honest representation of characters, for me, the scientific credibility of this series still leaves something to be desired.
Beyond the show’s cast, the crowd of fans who wait eagerly in the rain outside the house on opening night is also to be comprised solely of women. Is this really a celebration of female advancement, women’s suffrage, and “girl power”, or is it just a chance to encourage some girl-on-girl cruelty? After all, celebs entering the house are only too often met with a sea of ‘boo’s.
To break up the homogeneity of female cast and female fans, any concerned prospective viewers can rest assured that men will still be introduced into the Big Brother house later in the series. Just as interest in female interaction begins to wane, the channel will chuck a few men in to return to “normality”. Indeed, the announcement published on Digital Spy has the subtitle: ‘However male stars will still enter the house’. This can be read as either a statement of subtle mockery, undermining the shallow feminist premise, or perhaps intended as a “phew, don’t worry guys”! As this sub-headline suggests, the programme’s lunge toward making a statement is rendered half-hearted at best. The advert that promises ‘the year of the woman’ in fact fails to allow the female housemates more than a week or so to prove themselves; they are set up to fail as an invasion is plotted from the outset.
Sure, Channel 5 gets some kudos from me for at least recognising the suffrage movement and attempting to honour it. But, let’s face it, this tenuous connection to the feminist cause is ultimately a cheap ploy for publicity. As Merriam-Webster dubbed ‘feminism’ their Word of the Year for 2017, it seems that Channel 5 are clinging to the trending bandwagon, whilst throwing a group of women together and hoping for a viewership-vaulting bitch fight.
Title image sourced via Channel 5