Thursday, June 08, 2006

"Big Brother exploiting the mentally ill?"

That's been a headline on a few rag mags and newspapers lately. Big Brother aka Endemol may be selecting housemates who exhibit mental illnesses so that they make better television with their reactions to BB manipulations. I 'm on the fence on this issue but leaning in favor of Endemol.

Big Brother is now in it's seventh year. If you go and audition for a place, you will have watched at least one of the previous series, or read a headline or two. No one ever comes out of BB saying it was a cake walk (an expression I don't understand because walking on cake would be difficult.) It's high stress, close confinement and you are cut off from the world and everyone you love and who loves you. You become a victim of your own paranoia. Your personality traits, your own insecurities are magnified to an extreme - you're bored senseless what else is there to do besides think obsessively about yourself and the thirteen other poor sods you're stuck with?

But are they targeting the mentally ill? Well, in that question is the question: what categorizes a person mentally ill? That's not an easy question to answer, I know, I've been looking into it for the past three days. (I don't recommend you do this - you'll soon be thinking you have a mental illness. When you start breaking down the definition, everyone is mental.) Wikipedia says "The most popular explanations for mental illness, currently, are biological explanations; that is, a person with a mental illness may have a difference in brain structure or function, in neurochemistry, or in genetics."

The thing that I asked when I read the article in 10-16th June issue of Closer (it was only a quid and I wanted to know about the footie wives' flat tum diets) are they really mentally ill? They report Lea has body dismorphia because she's had plastic surgery to increase her breast size to MM, possibly the largest fake boobs in the UK, Nikki once was sectioned for anorexia, Shahbaz was suicidal and Pete has Tourette's Syndrome. This is a large amount of "mentally ill" people to be selected for the BB project. Is it deliberate? And should Endemol not take advantage of them when they are obviously willing to go into the house for the three months?

Well, I don't think they're being irresponsible in their selections. They are choosing big personas, people we as viewers are going to be fascinated by either in revulsion or admiration. To say that they were "targeted "is extreme. They volunteered. They went through the interview processes and were informed what the BB experience was going to be like. They were assessed for mental stability, because as one former BB housemate said "It wouldn't be good for them (Endemol) to have someone kill themselves on TV." But I think it's a matter of exhibition - people are upset at having to see someone who has a mental illness, on TV. They'll become bad role models. Nikki could encourage some girl to not eat, Lea could give someone the idea it's ok to have gigantic breasts, people without Tourette's may think it's ok to shout "wankers" whenever they feel like it. It's ignorance of what is really out there - people who have problems.

We all have problems. We all have issues, it's what makes us human. It keeps us real. No one seems to think Grace's obsessive jealousy is a mental illness, and yet it's an exhibited trait I certainly wouldn't want anyone to think was acceptable. She's unbearably vicious and racist...but that's acceptable compared to Shahbaz's histrionics. There's nothing wrong with his brain, nor is there anything wrong with Lea's or Nikki's. The only one who has a genuine "mental illness" is Pete - and It kills me to say that because by saying someone is mentally ill stigmatizes them, and he is by far the nicest, sweetest most genuine individual you could ever see! The guy is is pure gold, he's dispelling a lot of stereotype and prejudice.

Now, everyone's going on about Sam being paranoid. She thinks people are talking about her behind her back. Well, they are talking about her behind her back - a lot. She's not paranoid, she's intuitive! It's society's incessant need to tag people. We all must have a name, title and index for us to be accepted. There are people who find complete comfort and satisfaction in having the title "depressive" because it validates them, when in all of reality - they are normal. Normal people get depressed too. Normal people often pick up on it when someone is slagging them off behind their backs. Just because you may have had a depressive episode doesn't mean you are mentally ill. If it were like that, everyone in the world would be mentally ill.

There ya go. In summation, BB aren't exploiting the mentally ill, because by definition we are all human and all humans are mentally ill. I'm paranoid this post hasn't come out right...better call the clinic! Prepare the padded room and a syringe of haldol! Strap her down, she bites!


chryscat said...

Yeah. Well, I'm OCD, bipolar, and anal retentive. But only on some things. However, you couldn't pay me enough money to subject myself to Big Brother or any other reality show where a camera is shoved up my ass on a daily basis.
Everybody's screwed up. Everybody needs therapy. But only some of us want to be on tv. Let 'em.

Maja said...

I caught the bus into the city the other day and I was suffering some major anxiety about it. I felt agoraphobic! I couldn't concentrate on doing anything because of it but I couldn't stop myself from feeling that way, despite doing a bunch of familiar things to try to make myself more comfortable (visiting the same shops, buying a juice like I always do when I go to town).

Then the next day I felt so depressed I didn't get out of bed. Later in the day I felt much better (thanks to Geezer).

I think you're right, we're all a bit mentally ill at times.

Lyvvie said...

Thinking about Big Brother's "Ass Cam" on anal retentive Chrys...that would be BB goinbg too far.

I think if you're used to doing something one way (like driving the car to town) and then have to do it another way it caused anxiety. I know I can take the bus to the next town every half an hour and it fills me with dread with the idea I could get lost, or the driver will be grumpy, or a stinky-pee lady will sit next to me nd discuss animal flatulence (yes it's happpened), especially when I used to always take the bus in the city with no worries (except of the stinky-pee lady) but once you throw yourself into it, it's fine. New things and situations send some folks into a tizz.

Right. I'm going to take that frigging bus today to show myself there's nothing to worry about. Wait...I don't actually have a reason to go there heck i'll do it anyways.

Lyvvie said...

Glad to see blogger's not being a bitch anymore - couldn't comment on anyone's blog - was very distressed over it!

Mary Horn said...

A cakewalk is a silly game we American's do at fairs or large parties. Women in town bake cakes and donate them. Numbers corresponding to each cake are placed in a circle and people purchase a spot in the circle. Sort of like buying in to a game of musical chairs. They start some music and the people walk around in the cirlce until the music ends. Whoever ends up on the predetermined number wins that cake. So, a cakewalk is quite easy, not a lot of skill to it unless you don't know how to walk.
Aren't we funny people?

Lyvvie said...

Seriously? I'm a bit disappointed, as the image of squidging cake and frosting between my toes was occupying my lazy brain for hours yesterday.

So much so, I baked banana bread last night. but I'm not tredding the bread, that's just wrong.

Sylvana said...

I don't know, Lyvvie. Here in America at least I think that if someone were to actually die on a reality show the viewership would INCREASE. Look at the most popular shows here: CSI, House, all those damn cop shows. Americans love to see death. In fact, did you read Dr Max's very funny post about this?