Is Big Brother a fluke to fame?

 Ivan Mugisha: It’s earned through competition The Big Brother idea started like any other haphazard idea that turns out brilliantly enough to change the world.
 Ivan Mugisha & Rachel Garuka
Ivan Mugisha & Rachel Garuka

 Ivan Mugisha: It’s earned through competition

The Big Brother idea started like any other haphazard idea that turns out brilliantly enough to change the world.

Having come up during a brainstorming session in 1997, the maiden show was tried out on Veronica TV, a Dutch channel and before long, it swept Europe like a tornado, creating overnight celebrities and making a lot of cash for its producers.

Now, the TV reality show is everywhere, from Africa to Asia and from Europe to America, with no indication whatsoever that it’s about to slow down.

Over its successful course so far, it has developed both a cult following and a bulging dislike, especially from cultural conservatives and politicians who deem it a waste of time, unethical and a western tool to confuse young people in the developing world.

Putting personal feelings aside, I decided to talk to a few people I know who would kill to be part of the Big Brother House.

They say that those three months in the house with over 20 people from different cultures and societies has the potential to change the way someone views the world and therefore, a slight chance for them to be part of it would be instantly grabbed with three arms.

That thought ate through my mind like a red-hot blade; so people don’t just apply for Big Brother to become instant celebrities, but to rather experience an once-in-a-lifetime obsession that not everybody gets a chance to experience.

Becoming a celebrity after leaving the Big Brother house is, in my opinion, something that happens naturally, although it is not the ultimate goal for the individuals in the house.

Most of them want to be winners of jackpot, and from their background, at least those from Africa, they desperately need the money to start up a dream business and career.

Minus the few X-rated incidences, like “the Gaetano moment” Big Brother has had quite a positive impact on the society and helped inquisitive minds to further understand human reaction. For example, without Big Brother, who would have known that Nigerians and Kenyans are the loudest Africans or that beauty and brains do not connect in most cases.

Because of the news we usually watch on CNN or Aljazeera, it is easy for anyone to conclude that Palestinians and Israelis are naturally hostile to one another.

But when a person from either country is placed in the Big Brother House, the world can witness a mutual friendship, or even a love affair unraveling between the two people, potentially exposing the works of dirty politicians that cause war despite the peaceful nature of the citizens.

After learning these lessons, the success of housemates booms! They become TV anchors, radio presenters, musicians, name it.

This doesn’t sound like a fluke to me! They have earned it. They have participated in teaching the world how different societies can interact peacefully and have taught us how a person can maneuver through psychological suffering when disconnected from friends and family.

Rachel Garuka: Clearly!

When the first Big Brother Africa show aired in 2003, Africa went wild. Seeing as it was the first of its kind, the fuss was logical. It was new, exciting and seriously unlike anything we’d ever seen before. People watched it religiously and went so far as to stay awake at night just to watch the housemates sleep!

Years later, we are now onto another season of Big Brother – season 7 - also called the Star Game. Unlike the first seasons that had only 12 housemates, the number has increased significantly over the years and currently, there are 35 contestants.

It was hard enough keeping track of 12 people, but now 35! It’s really not even about how many people they send into the house. They can send the whole of Africa in there for all I care. But it is this silly impression that the contestants are legally famous the jiffy they enter the house.

You can call me bitter if you want but I just don’t get what their cling to fame is? Is it because they were on TV? Is it because people watched them pretend to be what they are truly not for a sum of USD 100,000 or more?

It’s called reality TV yet in actual sense it is so far from reality, it wouldn’t recognise reality if it passed by. I refuse to believe that anyone can be who they really are when they know the whole continent is watching them. Viewers see who they are not but are instantly famous!

Do not get me wrong – Big Brother isn’t a bad show. But people get more plastic every season. They go into the house knowing exactly what their plan is then lie to the audience that their only game will be to just be themselves! But the contestants are not to blame – it’s the public.

When Uganda’s Gaetano Kagwa and South Africa’s Abby Plaatjies in season 1 got steamy under the covers, Ugandans awarded him with a welcome not even true Ugandan heroes have ever seen. The streets were jammed from the airport to the main city, lined with hordes of fans screaming in excitement and welcoming him home.

Big Brother Africa season 2 gave viewers more than they bargained for. The contestants sure put the C back in CRAZY! I guess they figured the easiest way to fame is to be scandalous. Tanzania’s Richard Bezuidenhout found it fit to cheat on his wife with another housemate (Angolan model Tatiana Durao) live on national TV!

Towards the end, this very man engaged in what I can only call a drunken orgy, taking advantage of two women (Tatiana and Nigeria’s Ofunneka Malokwu) who had clearly had way too much to drink. Personally, I was appalled by the man’s behavior and I thought Africa was too till my fears were confirmed when he went on to win the damn show.

Africans insist on their morals and what society expects of people yet when a man goes on TV and publically cheats on his wife, they punish him by voting for him to win some serious money. If that is the kind of fame people want then we are doomed!

Fame is earned – you can tell from the people who are truly famous. You want reality TV, try things like Survivor or Fear Factor and see what reality really is- not a bunch of actors!


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