Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Now all eyes are on Big Brother

Celebrity Big Brother finds itself at the centre of an international political storm as treatment of the Bollywood superstar Shilpa Shetty is condemned as racist. It is perhaps unsurprising that there is conflict within the house, the spoilt squabbling with the spoilt is perhaps not an unfair comment on the whole event; what is more interesting is that suddenly this has to be taken seriously as it becomes central to the UK's, and Gordon Brown's, image in India.
Last year's voyeur-fest saw elected politician George Galloway condemned for undermining Westminster, democracy, his RESPECT party and trust in representation. Unaware of the furore outside he was cavorting with Pete Burns and Rula Lenska in a bright red cat suit - at least the colour was right perhaps.
Prof. Stephen Coleman has argued for some form of merger in style between the houses of Big Brother and Westminster. That people only participate when they understand the workings of the institution, can identify with those whose destinies they control, and whose lives they can get inside. While plausible to some extent perhaps the behaviour of Galloway, or indeed Jade Goody, and the experiences of Shetty, suggest that such insights into the world of Westminster may well have a negative impact on our views of politicians.
What is it we see on Big Brother. People being manipulated yes, this is not something that happens in the same way, or to any close extent, within our parliament. But we do see people at their worst, perhaps them just being themselves. Exposing elected representatives to scrutiny, even via the tabloids, does not offer much to encourage democratic participation; imagine if we see them warts and all bickering, eating, apportioning tasks, the vision is ghastly. Perhaps Westminster needs to only show us the bits they want us to see. If not we may find our representatives have the same grace, subtlety and are as political correct as the doyen of reality TV herself: Miss Goody.

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