Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Big Brother, a Bollywood Cinderella and the Three Witches of Elstree*

Never mind Iraq, the London papers tonight have bigger fish to fry !
(* Elstree in Hertfordshire is the location of the Celebrity BB studios)

As is often the way, I seem to be watching a programme or TV series as it approaches the end of its natural life.

I am beginning to wonder if my watching of Celebrity Big Brother for the first time is coinciding with its death knell.

First three of the most interesting contestants walked out at various points.

Now London (and maybe the country) seems gripped (well at least mildly !) by discussing whether three of the remaining contestants are guilty of racism. With such associations it is unclear if Channel 4 would dare run the show again.

The three "accused" are:

Jade Goody- pig-like manufactured celebrity from an earlier Big Brother with an IQ equal to a boiled cabbage

Danielle Lloyd- air head Miss. Great Britain. While slightly better looking than Miss. Goody, I cannot see how she managed to win the title- unless of course she influenced the judges. As a nation we do possess a few slightly more appealling women than Miss. Lloyd

Jo O'meara- has-been singer from folded teen-band S-Club 7. Otherwise apparently a reasonable personality she has been duped into a dubious alliance with the first two.




Together, this trio has formed a gang- the Witches of Elstree. Their unifying purpose seems to be bullying and insulting Bollywood superstar actress, Shilpa Shetty. She has become the heroine of this story. A heroism that is born out of adversity.

The "witches" and their associates have variously called her "a dog", ignorantly said Indian people eat with their hands and are thin due to eating undercooked chicken (Shilpa was responsible for cooking at the time) and generally ganged up and treated her with unpleasantness.

Goody's Mother, when she herself was in the house, referred to Shilpa dismissively as "the Indian" and claimed to be unable to pronounce her name (a la Marjorie from Fat Fighters in Little Britain).

Recently I was writing about a Ballerina who faced the sack over her membership of an extreme political party. Ironically, she had not chosen to express any views publicly but had been "outed" by a Guardian investigation.

Here, in contrast, is a broadcaster, partially supported by public funds broadcasting the unplesant views of 3 ignorant women night after night. Whether they are racist or not is a matter for debate but in my opinion they have come pretty close on ocassion. Jade Goody and her mother are the worst examples as all their recently found millions are based on TV publicity. Goody is gaining further publicity and probably money on the back of her unpleasantness. It is good to hear that an anti-bullying charity today dropped Goody as its representative. Here Channel 4 is not choosing to punish Goody, Lloyd and O'meara for their unpleasantness and vitriole so in a way they are tacitly condoning their behaviour.

It exposes the hypocricies and contradictions in the media, as the unpleasantness of the witches after all makes good entertainment for some.

Of course Shilpa's treatment is not unique. Good looking foreign women can easily become targets for the more everyday looking domestic population. Even in the humdrum world of an accountancy office I witnessed normally pleasant English women turn against a half-Nigerian trainee. Her main "crime" appeared to be that she had done some modelling before turning to the world of accountancy. Some women seem to be threatened by superior competitors in a way men are generally unpeturbed by "finer specimens" . There is an element of that with Goody, Lloyd and O'meara. As a top actress in a land of a billion people there is no real doubt that in terms of achievement Shilpa is superior to the three witches.

In terms of racism I am less clear. The three witches are acting in a completely ignorant way and throwing at Shilpa Shetty anything they can find. Amongst what comes to hand race and culture are easy targets. I doubt however that these witches are calculating with their racism.

Shilpa in contrast is generally coping with dignity and stoicism. The remaining contestants including Dirk and Jermaine can only watch and wonder !

Of course its all a storm in a teacup or a storm in a Big Brother House. This has no real relevance but it is a mirror to a less pleasant aspect of our nation that reacts with ignorance against that which is perceived as being foreign and superior. Foreign and inferior can easily be accepted but when foreigness is put together with superiority, our three witches from Elstree demonstrate the unpleasantness that can come out.

Shilpa Shetty. The dignified heroine of this tale.

No doubt Bollywood's Cinderalla will go to the Ball.

(Announcement in Strong Geordie accent "To complain about Celebrity Big Brother go to


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