THE BLOG

It's About Time 'Celebrity Big Brother' Stopped Letting Unacceptable Behaviour Go Unpunished

02/08/2016 19:00
Channel 5

Controversy is never far away where Celebrity Big Brother is concerned, and the new series has proved to be no different since its launch last week, with several housemates already sparking a backlash with their actions inside the TV compound.

However, a worrying trend has emerged in the few days the current run has been on air. It seems that you'll be more severely punished for discussing nominations than if you display any sort of unacceptable behaviour, as bosses have so far ignored two separate calls from the public for action to be taken against some of the more controversial contestants.

Many viewers, including myself, watched in disgust as Marnie Simpson flashed her breasts in the face of Loose Women panellist Saira Khan earlier this week, after the Geordie Shore star was dared to issue a prank apology to her, following an argument they'd had earlier in the day.

"I need to ask you a very serious question," Marnie said as she marched up to Saira. "Do you think we had the big confrontation because I feel like I've got better boobs than you?" she asked, before whipping down her top and shaking her bare breasts in Saira's face.

At this point, it's worth remembering that during last year's civilian series, Aaron Frew was removed from the house after exposing himself to fellow housemate Joel Williams. His ejection also came despite the fact Joel insisted he was not bothered about the incident, and it being apparent his actions were part of a playful joke that had gone too far.

In stark contrast, Marnie's behaviour was a clear attempt to embarrass, humiliate and intimidate Saira, and smacked of her attempting to show Saira she was not part of her cool little gang. Given it also took place after the pair had a confrontation, it's also hard to interpret Marnie's actions in any other way than as aggressive.

To me, if you are using your sexuality in an confrontational or unsolicited way, that boils down to sexual harassment. It's irrelevant what gender you are, or who you are doing it to, and I can pretty much guarantee the situation would have been dealt with very differently if it had been a man shoving his genitals in Saira's face.

Saira was also praised by some fans on Twitter for dealing with the issue in a calm manner. However, this isn't something we should be praising.

If someone is violated, we should not encourage them to be "calm" about it - we should be telling them to shout about it as loud as they can, to shame the perpetrators and have them held accountable. While Saira may have said she was "fine" following the incident, that still does not make what Marnie did acceptable either. All that does it make that sort of behaviour excusable, and make others afraid to speak out if they find themselves in similar situations.

Meanwhile, viewers have also been feeling let down by the (formerly-titled) showbiz legend, Christopher Biggins and 'Mob Wives' star Renee Graziano, following some disparaging remarks they made about bisexual people.

Biggins - a proud gay man himself - sparked outrage when he said in a conversation about sexuality with Renee: "I think the worst type though, I'm afraid to say, is the bisexuals. What it is, is people not wanting to admit they're gay... be honest, that's what you've got to be." Renee then added: "You can pick any one you want! But you have to pick a team."

Viewers accused Biggins and Renee of "blatant biphobia" and delegitimising bisexuality, with many taking to Twitter to question why the pair hadn't been pulled up on their comments.

It's particularly sad that a member of the LGBT community has proved bi-erasure is a real problem, but bosses also reinforced the damaging stigma that bisexual people constantly face - that being "bi" is not a "real" thing and that those who identify with the term are confused or lying to themselves. Is this what we're willing to accept from a reality TV show in 2016?

With it since being confirmed that the pair will not face any repercussions, you do have to question whether if Biggins and Renee had made the comments about gay or trans people, would the producers' decision have been the same?

What both of these examples demonstrate is that Big Brother has a responsibility to act upon the events that happen inside the house. While the show has always held a mirror up to society and the issues within it, that is not enough any more - it should be seeking to challenge problematic behaviours and opinions wherever possible. And by not punishing Marnie, Biggins or Renee - or at least explaining to them why their actions were wrong - producers are sending out a message that they condone what they have said and done.

I thought lessons had been learnt from the infamous Jade Goody race row fiasco back in 2007, but evidently things haven't changed that much over the last nine years.

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