I'm sorry about this; I didn't intend to write about Big Brother 9, and I doubt I'll continue to, but one event on Saturday has annoyed me to the point of it giving me a TUMMY UPSET, so, let's face it, I need to vent.
The sham marriage of Stephanie and Mario gave rise to stag and hen parties, with separate areas for each provided by Big Brother. Given that Stephanie's performance as Mario's fake girlfriend was less than convincing, there was a group who had expressed their doubt over the couple's relationship and forthcoming wedding. Fair enough, especially as Steph had confessed to Alex that she didn't even fancy Mario and that he got on her nerves. As this is BB, this same group also suspected that the relationship was a BB task (it's part of one; the relationship is a cover story for Mario and Lisa to conceal their real-life relationship from the housemates, as if they fail, they, Steph and Luke are up for eviction, and if they succeed, the other housemates are up instead). Again, this is perfectly reasonable. So, if they suspect the wedding to be a task, which Steph and Mario have to go along with to prevent being up for eviction, why, when Mario made the last-ditch attempt to avoid detection by banning anyone who didn't believe in the marriage from the stag and hen parties, did Alex, Sylvia and Dennis (the most vocal of the doubters) throw a massive sulk? Surely it doesn't matter if they go or not?
But this isn't the event which really annoyed me. Oh no. I'm just setting up the context. Alex and Sylvia didn't have the warmest reception ever going into the house, because, in a rather unfortunate quirk of casting, they are both clones of Charley Uchea from last year's BB, a mouthy, disagreeable and ignorant tosser who seemed to fulfill the stereotype perpetuated by tabloids for black women. Alex and Sylvia, rather depressingly, have done nothing to alter this, despite Sylvia having escaped Sierra Leone's civil war at the age of 10 and so was obviously included in the hope that her experience might have made her a more rounded individual than the bog-standard contestant. It hasn't. Both Alex and Sylvia have so far proved themselves to be exactly like their entry pieces suggest; mouthy, disagreeable and ignorant. Not only that, but they've formed an alliance, firstly to 'find out' Mario and Steph (not a Herculean task, to be honest, but it was interesting to see Steph confessing to Alex her revulsion towards her 'boyfriend', and then Sylvia confronting Steph in the bedroom afterwards, with Dennis, who, again, performing to stereotype, has joined the two bitchest housemates), then to take that anger out on BB when they were called to the Diary Room to put on bunny outfits for the party. Alex, a grown woman, had previously made herself hoarse by yelling to BB to let her into the Diary Room, and demanded medicine for that when she was finally let in. BB, with a smile in her voice, suggested that if Alex was that worried about her voice, she should 'quieten down'.
But I STILL haven't got to the main feature. Whilst all this was happening, the stag party was in full flow, with Mikey enjoying himself emmensely. Mikey is blind, which probably makes him a favourite to win anyway, but he's got the killer combination of being a nice person and a quirky personality to boot. Yes, he's another Pete. Alex and Sylvia decided that they weren't going to wear the bunny outfits, so Mikey dragged Dennis and Dale in to wear them instead. All went well until Mikey got in the bathtub with Mario, and managed to locate Sylvia's knickers in the bathroom. As Mikey has a self-confessed liking for women's clothing (and was quite over-excited), he decided to put them on over the outfit. He was discovered by Alex and Sylvia. They went apeshit.
And here we reach the point of this rant. The 'R' word. Alex and Sylvia had decided that Mikey had 'disrespected' them by putting on what, for him, would have been an anonymous pair of knickers. Fuck knows what it had to do with Alex, but she doesn't have a track record of minding her own business, so off she went, hoarseness notwithstanding, claiming things had just gone 'too far'. To be fair, Mikey didn't help his case by telling Sylvia to 'fuck off', enabling her to scramble to some very unstable moral high ground, but if you were blind and confronted by two screaming harpies, I expect you'd have a similar reaction. This was annoying enough, obviously, but what really got me was the conversation outside after Mikey had changed out of the costume. Sylvia (who was the only one to have any right at all to feel upset) had shut up by this point, allowing Alex to go on and on about refusing to 'patronise' Mikey by attempting to see his point of view. Alex didn't seem to realise that talking about Mikey in the third person whilst he was standing LESS THAN A METRE AWAY was perhaps the most patronising thing she could do, and her efforts to talk over his explanation were nothing short of disgraceful.
Well, woop-de-do, you might say. Par for the course on BB, surely? The thing is, BB have rather fucked things up when it comes to regulating housemates' behaviour; remember the 'zero tolerance' policy Davina went on about on Thursday, and Emily's departure last year? It appears that while racial slurs are (rightly) frowned upon, BB doesn't bother to intervene when the discrimination is more subtle. Emily's eviction wasn't about her discriminating, it was about BB picking up on the 'N' word rather like a browser filter, refusing to consider any context (Emily was being a tit, not a racist), after the mess that was Shilpagate. There's also an argument that BB shouldn't intervene at all, which I hold with, as it's been proved that interference is hugely influenced by the stupidly obvious and therefore not effective. I also think BB have contributed to the mess by casting two unpleasant black women (no unpleasant black men, you'll notice), despite the statistical odds of at least one nice black woman turning up to the auditions.
And so Alex and Sylvia demand respect. I've talked about this to two people who watched Saturday's programme with me, and their reaction was 'Why is it that those who deserve respect the least demand it the most?'. Most people I know can recall someone who demanded respect despite not showing any themselves, and it's interesting how the meaning of the word is often altered for their benefit; what they're demanding is not so much respect, rather than blind, unquestioning obedience. Presumably Alex and Sylvia have had experience of being 'disrespected', and, not being black, I can't speculate on how this affects their lives, but this doesn't give them a right to demand respect from others whilst behaving like those others aren't worthy of licking shit from their shoes. What is really scary is that Alex is a mother, and although becoming a mum at 14 is certainly not easy by any standards (I'm over twice that age and the thought still terrifies me), what is she teaching her child? That you scream until you're hoarse to get what you want? That you continue to scream when you see something that challenges you? I wouldn't mind betting that Mikey's sexuality troubles them, but they don't feel they can say that openly, therefore the wild overreaction to 'the knicker incident'. I'm guessing Alex isn't doing herself many favours in general on BB, but I'm troubled that the audience may overlook that very worrying behaviour of hers and Sylvia's in the keenness to see how the first BB plot turns out, because for me it's simply a sideshow to the real story; how a certain section of the UK's population see no problem in demanding respect without repaying the favour, and how respect has been confused with fear for some people. Considering the unusually high murder rate of young people in the UK recently (with at least some cases connected to the perpertrator perceiving a lack of 'respect'), BB probably has more to teach us than we realise. Perhaps we all need Mikey to win.