Tag Archives: Shilpa Shetty

Another Big Brother, Another Racism Row

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Barely a week into the new series of Big Brother, the show has shot into the headlines again (and pulled in an extra million viewers) thanks to Emily, one of the contestants using “the N-Word� during a conversation with fellow contestants Charley and Nicky.

Thanks in no small part to the Shilpa Shetty controversy earlier in the year, although I suspect in part driven by the fact that at 3am Charley and Nicky were still discussing the incident – more concerned that Emily would be punished it seems – the producers took the decision to eject Emily and woke her up and removed her from the house in the early hours of Thursday morning.

There are a number of interesting observations about what has happened. Firstly Narinder, a housemate from Big Brother 2 is currently writing a book about the series interviewing former housemates about their experiences. She appeared this morning on BBC Breakfast to discuss this incident and said that every previous housemate from a racial minority, including herself, have had some sort of incident, but the majority have not been shown. She even highlighted that as part of the fight that occurred during Big Brother 5 that eventually required security guards to enter the house Emma used the same word as an insult towards Victor.

Her opinion was both that Channel 4 was both right to show the incident in full, and that they were right to eject Emily as a result, more-so having seen the incident on the highlights show. I think what is most shocking about what happens is that Emily really doesn’t understand quite how offensive the word is. When Nicky asks her where she is from (Bristol), Emily says that she and her friends use it all the time. Nicky, who was brought up in Watford says that the word would never be used where she came from. Emily also tries to justify it by stating that the word is used in many songs – which it is. Also worth considering is that Nicky is about ten years older than Emily. Whether it is something regional, or to do with the people Emily knows, or whether the use of the term in music has resulted in some groups not understanding the offence caused by the term I don’t know. Suffice to say that by not just editing it out this time, Channel 4 has certainly highlighted that the use of the word is offensive.

Having said that, whilst Emily has been ejected because her use of a word would be offensive to the viewing public, the Times BB Blog highlighted that people have expressed possibly offensive views without using offensive language. Certainly if they disciplined anyone who expressed an opinion that was either naive or offensive to one group in the same way as Emily was disciplined then there wouldn’t be many contestants left. However the question is what impression does that give to people watching about the relative importance of words as opposed to beliefs?

The Ultimate Car Crash TV – Beaten by a Car Crash

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So the most controversial series of Big Brother ever, the ultimate in car crash TV, was beaten in the ratings by a real life car crash – the return of Top Gear, complete with exclusive footage of the crash that nearly took the life of Richard Hammond.

Thanks to the wonders of Sky+, we watched both, Top Gear as it went out, and Celebrity Big Brother tonight – spooling through the adverts of course. 😀

Anyway, Top Gear first. Not surprisingly they made a big song and dance about having the Hamster back – quite literally. Clarkson and May opened the show alone, and then having done their opening spiel, introduced Hammond who came down a sort of slightly cheap effort at a glittering celeb style staircase – as Clarkson said, they didn’t really want to spend too much on it! After that Hammond thanked everybody involved in the aftermath of the accident, and people for all their good wishes, and the show proceeded very much as any normal episode. We had Clarkson taking the new Jaguar around the track, and all three of the presenters attempting to complete some roadworks in record time, and the star in a reasonably priced car was Jamie Oliver. Then we got to the main event. If you’ve read the Richard Hammond article in the most recent edition of the Top Gear Magazine this was effectively the same thing but with pictures. So we saw Richard Hammond do one of his pieces to camera where he rather prophetically says that using the afterburner could lead to the biggest accident you’ve ever seen in your life… We saw his earlier runs, and then the actual run that went wrong. There has been concern over whether the footage should be shown at all – Richard Hammond himself addresses it on his Top Gear Blog. He quite rightly says that although it is sensitive, the footage should be shown, precisely to show that things do go wrong, and that even with all the safety equipment and every care being taken, things do go wrong. As he says:

I figure that if just one individual scorching round the back roads in their hot hatch remembers seeing me upside down at 230mph and thinks that yes, if things can go that badly wrong in Top Gear’s TV fantasy world then they could in the real world, and they lift off because there might just be a tractor coming round that blind corner at the worst possible moment, then it’s all been worth it.

Not really much I can add to that. The whole segment, along with other clips is available online on the BBC2 Broadband Service, or an edited version on the BBC News Site.

So over to the other side, and the final of Celebrity Big Brother. Really there were no surprises – indeed I actually pretty well predicted the final order on Friday night. Danielle and Jack came out first. Although they came out together, officially Jack was in sixth, with Danielle in fifth. They were greeted by pretty unanimous booing, and as with Jo and Jade got the now familiar selection of clips, were speechless, and denied being racist. Ian was out next to a warm reception from the crowd – as Davina said, the first evictee not to be booed. Dirk was up next, again to a good reception – with parts of the crowd singing the A-Team theme. Then it came down to the final two, with Jermaine Jackson coming in second to a great response, complete with a Jackson Five sing-along.

Finally we had Shilpa, and a really quite surprising reaction from parts of the crowd. It was really apparent that there was a vocal minority in the crowd who really didn’t like Shilpa. I think it’s perhaps the first time that a winner has had quite such a mixed reaction. In terms of the voting, she had 63% of the final vote, so it was a win by a good margin, but clearly she is a contestant that divided opinion. Indeed some people even believed it was fixed.

We then got to the interview. It is interesting to note, that in her earlier interview, Danielle had been asked how she thought Shilpa would react when she saw the same clips, to which Danielle responded that she would be forgiving. That produced a decidedly grumbly reaction from the audience – but in fact proved to be right.

Shilpa was shown all the key clips, and all the things that had been said about her behind her back, and was quite visibly shocked. However in response she was anything if not magnanimous:

I just want to forget things. Things happen and people make mistakes. We’re all human beings, we’re all fallible. Jade didn’t mean to be racist…If this created any sort of misunderstanding, I want to put things to rest – she is not a racist…I am so happy I took up this opportunity. I don’t want people to think they welcomed an Indian and she made trouble here.

Those sentiments were further reiterated at the post show press conference when Shilpa along with the other celebrities defended Jade and also backed a tearful Danielle when she appeared to face the press.

Needless to say, the pleas have fallen on somewhat deaf ears with the tabloid press – having had Jade, and then Jo, they are now concentrating on Danielle, whose relationship with Teddy Sheringham is now the subject of ‘talks‘.

So fairly obviously, Jade, Jo and Danielle have done serious damage to their careers through the events of the programme, whilst Shilpa has gone from being unknown to being probably the best known Indian celebrity in the UK. I expect to see more of Ian and Dirk in the UK over the coming months too. Perhaps the most interesting bit of information to come up is that Jermaine Jackson is actually putting together a musical about his family that will be launched in the UK – expect many more sing-along a Jackson Five to come…

Jo and Cleo Out

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So once again the voting went with the bookies – 48.4% to evict Jo, and 27.9% to evict Cleo. Jo was really no surprise anyway as the tabloids were campaigning to get her out – indeed if Danielle had been up, I have no doubt it would have been her and Jo to go instead. Having said that, Danielle did hear the crowd chanting ‘Get Jo Out’ – and I think is now even more frightened about what her reception will be. Certainly Danielle has received worse press than Jo in some respects, and also has the possibility that things may be over with her Teddy.

Interview wise, the pattern of the interview with Jo was similar to that with Jade last week, aside from a joke about her dressing gown at the beginning (some of the Times CBB Blog readers will be disappointed that she wasn’t evicted in the dressing gown…) – indeed the news footage sequence was identical to last week. Davina went through the key moments of controversy, and not surprisingly, Jo denied being a racist. She also said that showing an edited version of the arguments made it look worse than it was, to which Davina said that the production team had watched the everything at it wasn’t much better. The other interesting moment of the interview was when Jo justified her laughing as being her normal reaction to stressful situations, at which point she briefly laughed, and commented that she’d probably start laughing from the stress now. The brought a very swift and direct response from Davina of “I wouldn’tâ€?… To some extent, in the same way as with Jade I suspect the real grilling will come from one of the tabloid newspapers on Sunday.

Cleo didn’t escape criticism either, as in the same argument she didn’t intervene, but eventually went and got Jermaine to come and help. She justified this in her interview by saying that she felt that since Jermaine commanded respect from both sides of the argument she felt he was better to intervene. She also demonstrated at the end of her interview quite how impressions can be different in the outside world than within the house by suggesting that she thought Danielle and Jack would do well – which produced a pretty well instant reaction from the audience. Davina said that it would be interesting to see how she felt when she had seen the newspaper coverage, and also heard some of the comments that have been caught on camera. I’m quite sure that Danielle and Jack will be the first two out on Sunday, the only question being who will be out first.

As to who will actually win, the bookies are favouring Shilpa, mainly as a result of the earlier events in the house. However I’d not rule out the possibility of Jermaine coming out on top. Dirk has some supporters, and certainly he is entertaining at times, and does have a pretty dry sense of humour, however I’d really be surprised if it wasn’t either Shilpa or Jermaine at the end.

Finally, it looks like Channel 4 are riding high – the director of programmes has come out and said that the race row saved the show from being dull

Jade Goes, Endemol Wins?

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So not unsurprisingly, Jade has been evicted from Celebrity Big Brother. This Week, the late night current affairs programme, discussed the whole issue, and at one point the comment was made that if they were in Gordon Browns office today they would be frantically calling the number to evict Jade as all over the world it is going to be compared against his statement that Britain is not racist or intolerant. Looking at the results, Jade was evicted with 82% of the vote, a sizeable majority but not a record by any means – Grace was evicted with 87.9% of the vote and Sezer with 91.6% in the most recent series of the normal programme. Certainly after their statements those in government should perhaps worry about the fact that 18% of the audience wanted to either keep Jade in the house or remove Shilpa after the events of the week.

Having said that, Channel 4 and Endemol were nervous enough about the situation to ban the public from tonight’s programme. That’s not to say that they didn’t milk it somewhat. Rather than the usual routine for a non-crowd eviction of having Davina in the studio, they did the show pretty much as normal, out on the stage, and even added sound effects – Beth remarked at one point that she expected to see tumbleweeds blowing past anytime soon. They also didn’t play crowd noise into the house as they usually would, so the celebrities knew something was up – although many of them had already realised what was going on from the questions that they had been asked in the diary room.

Looking at the highlights shown before the eviction, it all told a very nice story, as by the end of yesterday, Jade had realised how her behaviour would have been perceived, and had made her peace with Shilpa, and had then gone and broken down in the diary room and considered walking out. Interestingly it then seems that she had decided to stick it out – quite how much she was influenced into making the decision we don’t know.

We watched part of Big Brother’s Big Mouth after the eviction, where amongst other people they spoke to Max Clifford about what will happen to Jade and her career now. He said that in his opinion she could recover, but it would be difficult. However he then followed this up with a fairly direct comment directed at Endemol, saying that he believed that they had exploited Jade. When they put her and her family in, they knew exactly what they were doing, and what they thought would happen. True, I suspect they weren’t expecting the international diplomatic incident – but certainly they were expecting fireworks, and that was what they got. Plus they got a significant boost in viewers as a result of the whole controversy. The thing is, is that I think Jade now realises it too. When in the diary room, and also on the programme tonight she was either played or quoted what had happened, she can quite clearly see how others will see her. She said several times that that wasn’t her, but sadly it is much the same way she behaved when she was on the show originally – all the producers had to do back then was give her some alcohol, and she provided a variety of press grabbing stories, and indeed that was pretty much what happened this time.

It’s also interesting to look at the points during the week when Big Brother actually called particular housemates into the diary room and quoted back their words. Notice that it was pretty well done one per day, and that despite Jade being the ring leader, they took both Danielle and Jo in first, leaving the discussions with Jade until last, and of course giving a nice little conclusion to the ‘story’, with Jade apparently realising the error of her ways, just in time to be evicted. Of course what else was said in the diary room, and how much she was told about what had happened outside is open to question.

So what have we got to come over the remaining days? Danielle and Jo had already made their peace with Shilpa prior to the eviction, even if they didn’t see it at the time, both of them like Jade can see how their words will be perceived when forced to think about it after the event, and both know that they need to redress the balance, to keep their careers. (Indeed Danielle was apparently given a list of tips by her agent before she went in – tips she forgot it seems…) The real unknown quantity is Jack, Jade’s nineteen year old boyfriend. His whole reason for being in the house was Jade, and I suspect that the original idea was that both he and Jade would make it to the final show, or at least that he would leave first – remember the rumours were that having been the most successful ex-contestant, this series was going to be an opportunity for Jade to win. The interesting thing is he hasn’t really registered on people’s radar – he’s just been in the background. The brief moments where he has spoken do register though. Although he hasn’t apparently been called into the diary room and had his words quoted back to him, he has been shown stoking up some of the bad feeling towards Shilpa in much the same way as the other three – there being one notable discussion that he had with Jade over Shilpa, where he says point blank that he hates Shilpa – there is debate over another part of the same conversation, as the word was bleeped, (Ruth Gledhill has a clip of the relevant scene with a clear opinion as to what he said) – either way it is not a nice statement at all. Whatever he said, he certainly has a big issue with Shilpa which may only get worse with him blaming her for Jade going. What with the other celebrities apparently now closing ranks, I very much think he is going to be the outsider – quite how he reacts, and how long he lasts remains to be seen. Whatever, it certainly could be a potential source of problems to come – although with his lack of celebrity if he does kick off I suspect he may end up being removed by the back door so as not to mess up the nice storyline that Endemol have managed to produce from this week.

“Shilpa Poppadom”

So Jade seems to think that referring to Shilpa Shetty as Shilpa Poppadom was acceptable…

I’m absolutely speechless…

Having said that, although Shilpa has been showing a good deal of grace throughout all of what has happened, on one of the rare occasions she has actually got angry, she did give us one of the best lines of the series so far when Jade called her a fake to her face… This is the version from Big Brothers Little Brother, worth it for the cheer from the audience at the end. 🙂

Big Brother Causing a Diplomatic Incident

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So little did I think when I commented at the weekend on the attitude of of Jo, Danielle and Jade towards Shilpa in Celebrity Big Brother, that events would go quite the way they have.

As of tonight, Celebrity Big Brother has produced 21,000 complaints – still a long way short of the number who complained about Jerry Springer – The Opera, but a significant number none the less. Having said that, alongside this the programme has made an impact in politics with Tony Blair asked about it in Prime Ministers Questions, and Gordon Brown perhaps regretting his choice of time to visit India, as street protests occur in the country following a newspaper front page on the story. People are even talking about how the programme may be damaging the reputation of the UK abroad.

Having watched the relevant episodes of the programme, there hasn’t been anything that I would say has been an out and out racist comment, what has been going on has been somewhat more subtle – of course this is only what has been shown. In terms of the scenes shown on the programmes, the witches coven of Jo, Danielle and Jade have been bitching about pretty well everything that Shilpa has done, for most of the series, particularly if she does something in a way that doesn’t conform with how they would have done things. One big area of contention has been over the cooking, of which Shilpa has been doing quite a bit, particularly a roast chicken that she made at the weekend. For example there have been complaints over too many onions in one meal she cooked. The most major disagreement so far, and the one in the programme which has provoked the complaints, was over how long the chicken should have been cooked for, with Shilpa suggesting a lot lower time than some of the others. What didn’t help was that all during the cooking, people kept opening the oven to look at the chicken and argue over it, hence even though the chicken was in the oven for longer than the amount of time the coven suggested – about two hours, it still wasn’t quite done. To be frank, a lot of it is down to cultural differences – unfortunately the way the coven are dealing with it is by bitching and bullying. Of course with the issues being cultural, a number of the comments could be construed as being racist, even if the coven haven’t directly made a comment on her race directly. Ironically, the attitudes seem to be being fuelled more by the suspicion that Shilpa is another Chantelle – the ‘fake’ celebrity who won the show last year, mainly based on the fact that none of them had heard of her. Ironically, in many ways she is probably a bigger star than them, she is just relatively unknown in the UK.

So if it’s not racism, then what is it? Carole Malone has suggested that it may be a class issue. Maybe – but I think it is as much to do with age and maturity. I’ve quite often remarked that I tend to prefer the celebrity version of the show, as the contestants are generally older, certainly the way Jo, Danielle and Jade are behaving is much more akin to what occurs on the regular version of the programme. If someone older goes into the house as part of the regular programme, they often find it hard, and have trouble fitting in with the other housemates, here we have something similar, except that nearly half the house is over thirty, so rather than one person being isolated there is a virtual divide between the under thirties, and the over thirties. Jo, Danielle and Jade are all under thirty, as is Jack, Jade’s boyfriend who is the youngest at nineteen. Everybody else is over thirty, and whilst being supportive to Shilpa, seem to be trying to avoid conflict over the issue. Interestingly, Carole Malone also suggested in her interview that if someone like Cleo or Jermaine said something about the situation to the coven it might get resolved, however at this point although Cleo seems to have tried to get Jade and Shilpa to resolve things, they do generally seem to be trying to keep their heads down.

As to what will happen from now, Channel 4 seem to be sticking with the show, and whilst giving assurances to the press haven’t said anything to the celebrities about what is going on. Currently all the contestants remain totally oblivious to what has been going on outside. Perhaps the biggest test will come with the next eviction on Friday, particularly if one of the coven is voted out – whether Channel 4 will manipulate the voting perhaps by banning selected housmates from voting to ensure that happens I don’t know – I guess we’ll have to keep watching to find out. Ironically, out of all of this Channel 4 has had one of the highest number of viewers for the series so far, so I’m sure it is a possibility…

Update: So the comment rumbles on. Ruth Gledhill has put up a posting on the subject, focusing on class issues again, and there is a good list of other comment pieces on this blog. One amusing discovery though as a result is the discovery the The Times has a Big Brother Blog, under the by-line ‘We Watch So You Don’t Have To’. I’ve so far only watched about a third of the show from last night, and it certainly seems that the relationship between Jade and Shilpa worsens. Having said that, there is also apparently a realisation from Danielle thanks to some intervention from Big Brother, and a conversation about cultural differences between Danielle and Jo. Having said that things have taken a slight turn for the worst for Channel 4, with the news that Carphone Warehouse have suspended their sponsorship of the show, and alongside this Danielle and Jade will find other deals terminated by companies who do not wish to be associated with their comments. Could it be that Jade will find her career having been created by Big Brother the show will destroy it to?