Let’s talk about Dan. The self-proclaimed super-conservative, Catholic School teacher, the man who thought that America wasn’t ready for a female president. Dan began the season as my arbitrary enemy. More than anyone in the Big Brother house, I expected to despise Dan unrelentingly. His biography and pre-interviews had me lathered up and ready to hate him. Then, something strange happened. The first couple episodes came and went, and Dan didn’t do anything offensive. He actually seemed like an easy-going guy, someone you could hang out with. But, I thought, give it time – the perceived evilness would eventually show itself. He will falter, and the monster will emerge. I’ve been waiting, but it still has not happened. I like Dan. I like Dan more than anyone else left in the house. This was unexpected and, now, I feel weird.
Dan has proven, once more, that belief systems different from your own only matter when a person tries to shove their opinions in your face. Dan hasn’t tried to convert anyone, he hasn’t bludgeoned his fellow Big Brother houseguests with his beliefs, and has shown to be very open to those different from him (for instance, his interest and acceptance of Steven and his lifestyle). Unfortunately, this is a rare trait for a Big Brother houseguest. Over the past few seasons, especially, there have been numerous contestants who have used religion as a weapon, a part of their strategy. No matter what you believe in, that’s offensive. People like Amber and Jameka and Natalie were so assertive and overt about their faith and its place in the Big Brother house that it became eminently off-putting. Dan hasn’t been afraid to be open about his religion, but it’s been as matter-of-fact as humanly possible, like combing his hair or brushing his teeth.
Big Brother, if you take away all the nonsense and vacuous houseguests, can hold lessons for all of us. The show yanks people out of their respective comfort zones, and makes them interact with people they normally wouldn’t. Socially, it proves that sharing beliefs isn’t as important when forming a bond with others as some would like to believe. I know I have friends with vastly different political leanings and religious beliefs than me. Sometimes you argue, but those beliefs are ultimately meaningless when forming a friendship. Yet, when pre-judging contestants on a reality show I, like countless others, assume that I won’t like people if they happen to have world views that clash with mine. I admit that It’s a naïve way to look at people, but I wonder if the superficial nature of reality shows and the way they portray its subjects has something to do with it.
Big Brother is unique in that we get to have our initial impressions of the houseguests, but are then given weeks and weeks to let those impressions change. Fans spend so much time with these houseguests that it becomes impossible to judge a person solely based on their opinions. On other reality shows, you are treated (because of time constraints) to a slew of one-note personalities. There’s The Gay Guy and The Blonde Bimbo and The Conservative Jerk and The Smug Liberal and The Irredeemable Moron. On Big Brother, these people cannot be pigeon-holed. The audience gets a three-dimensional view. Sometimes this improves their stock (Dan, Keesha, Renny) and sometimes it hurts (Jerry, April).
-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image Courtesy of BigBrotherCaps.com)