Hot off the heels of the Paula Deen controversy, CBS is embroiled in its own race-related scandal thanks to Big Brother 15 houseguest Aaryn Gries.
On the first two episodes of the show that’s aired on CBS, Aaryn has come across as a pretty blonde who seems nice enough, is overly confident, and has already started a showmance with fellow houseguest David. But Big Brother 15 fans who watch the live feeds have seen a different side of her.
Aaryn has been engaged in a fight with Candice (an African-American houseguest), and some of her language has definitely crossed the line. She’s made jokes about how Candice and Howard (the other African-American HG) will stick together “because of the black thing” and in a fight with Candice, Aaryn corrected her by saying “it’s asked, not aksed.” While grammatically correct, it is also a dig at the variation of the word made popular by Ebonics (or, as the official entry on Wikipedia puts it, “a metathesis in African American Vernacular English”).
Aaryn has also made jokes about how Helen, an Asian-American contestant, should “shut up and go and make some rice” or how openly gay contestant Andy will probably win MVP because “everyone loves seeing the queers.”
As a result of all this offensive language, fans have started a petition at Change.org urging CBS to eject Aaryn from the game for her hate speech.
It’s certainly a divisive issue and one that is very topical (oddly enough, the Big Brother 15 HGs were sequestered from the outside world prior to the Paula Deen story, so they are unaware of just how relevant this kind of thing is).
Personally, I’m a bit torn on the issue, but I don’t think Aaryn should be forcibly expelled by Big Brother 15 producers. Yes, the things she’s saying are heinous, but I have no doubt she will be thoroughly punished by society when she leaves the game. It’s certainly going to be hard for this 22-year-old Texas college student to find employment in the real world when a simple Google search of her will now forever link her to racist comments.
Also, it’s not as if her actions or words are being condoned. Nearly everyone in the house hates her and wants to evict her next week, so expelling her is hardly necessary.
Finally, I don’t like the precedent it sets if Aaryn is expelled from Big Brother 15 for what she says. I’m generally opposed to criminalizing thoughts because of a little thing called the First Amendment. What makes America great isn’t the fact that our Constitution protects speech we like, it’s that it protects speech we DON’T like. Obviously, there’s no Constitutional right to being a houseguest on Big Brother 15, and I haven’t read all of their official rules the contestants must be forced to sign, but I am concerned about the idea of producers stepping in and eliminating reality show contestants just because they don’t like what someone is saying.
Sure, it’s different in the case of Big Brother because the 24/7 live feeds make everything they do and say public, but I’m not concerned about little kids watching the live feeds and being corrupted. After all, fellow contestant David has already stripped completely nude and shown his manhood to the cameras, so if that didn’t traumatize anyone, I doubt a joke about Asians eating rice will do the trick.
There are also a few things that are just plain wrong with the petition itself. It says, in part, that “By CBS Television Network conceding this behavior, they are supporting the verbal violence.” Um, no. Showing something and supporting it are two completely different things.
The petition adds that Aaryn must be expelled and CBS and Big Brother must publicly condemn her, things that “are necessary for both Aaryn and the station to prove they can be trusted to report objectively on issues that impact the human rights and LGBT community.” I don’t know what dictionary they’re using, but where I come from, objectivity and condemnation are opposing ideas.
If anything, Big Brother is the ultimate lesson in objective reporting. It simply shows us what people do and say without commenting or judging or attaching any outside thought or opinion.
I guess I just miss the good, old days when it was conservative watchdog groups trying to censor the entertainment industry and not liberals.
The outraged fans who think Aaryn should be expelled from Big Brother 15 for racist comments need to calm down. In the words of Pam from HBO’s True Blood, we just need to let Aaryn and others “practice their Constitutional right to be f***ing idiots.”
(Image courtesy of CBS)