Do it to Jodie!
I have been putting off writing about Celebrity Big Brother, but can't hold back anymore. I never really enjoy the Celeb series. The fact it's January and Davina MacCall appears outside the house, in the dark wearing a huge black coat and shivering like a stalker, makes it all appear a little sad. There is very little daylight and I'm sure this contributes to the overall weird mood of the programme. There are a lot of things about Big Brother that I absolutely can't stand, and as the years have progressed, the programme makers have become nastier and more spiteful, the contestants more aggressive, unstable and shameless and the unwashed crowds who gather for evictions more vicious, booing every contestant inasmuch the same way as people who gathered to watch public executions were treated. Big Brother is our public execution for a society that has banned capital punishment. It's a social and psychological execution instead.
Meanwhile, the tabloids breathlessly report every minor skirmish and it all leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. Last year Germaine Greer called Big Brother a bully and walked off. She was right. Big Brother's prime mission is to break each contestant - humiliating them, then standing back and laughing as they suffer psychological damage on television. Orwell's terrifying vision is coming more and more true as each year passes and the programme wallows in its own putrefaction. I confidentally expect that eventually there will be a "challenge" where contestants have to put their head in a box full of rats, replicating exactly the last chapter of Orwell's dystopic novel 1984. Expect someone to scream "Do it to Julia! Don't do it to me! Do it to Julia!" And we will have come full circle. Not that you'd expect any of the people who work on Big Brother to read anything other than Heat.
This year's celebrities are the oddest yet (and considering last year had Jackie Stallone and John Macirrick, that's saying something). Pete Burns is probably the most bizarre. I had one of his albums when I was younger and really like the song "You Spin me Right Round". Since then, Pete has had a lot of plastic surgery (although take a close look at his hands). When I saw him, I instantly thought of the drag queen Miss Thang in the Jamie4U blog I write. He's got that brash, witty streak that working-class drag queens have perfected, coupled with an off-centre morality and self-obsession. Some of his one-liners are hilarious and perfectly timed, but he's the sort of person you're glad you're watching on tv and isn't sitting in your front room. Calling Rula Lenska a dried up husk, and referring to the Big Brother house as a bad LSD-induced trip to Ikea stand out. I've had friends like him and while they're great fun, they can be a little wearing and you have to develop a thick skin because they'll latch on to any weakness you have and pick, pick, pick away, just to see what happens. In this way, he is a perfect Big Brother contestant and a perfect match for Big Brother too.
George Galloway was the last contestant to enter the house and is probably seen as the show's biggest coup. As a controversial politician who fought an extremely nasty election contest last year and then made one of the most crowing victory speeches ever, he's already got plenty of enemies. Numerous people have protested about his presence in the Big Brother house, rather than representing his constituency. Although I don't like him, I guess as long as he's officially on his holidays, he can spend them where he wants. The producers seem to like showing him sitting on the sofas with a big round cactus positioned exactly behind his head, so he looks like he has a spiky mohican hair-cut. They have also got him imitating a cat - in a way it's heartening to see their lack of Respect for a politician who is so clearly in awe of himself, smokes cigars like Churchill and has named his own political party Respect, but at the same time there's something wrong about it that I can't exactly put my finger on.
Along with Pete Burns and Michael Barrymore, Mr Galloway has waged war on Jodie Marsh, a page 3 model with skin so orange she looks like she's suffering from radiation sickness, and a (home-made?) nose that resembles a poorly constructed ski-run. The common way of thinking seems to be to hate Jodie, although I just feel sorry for her (she is favourite for eviction tonight). Michael Barrymore disturbs me though. He has dead eyes, which only really came to life when he was doing a cringe-inducing Hitler impersonation. The other contestants have yet to make much of an impression, beyons being 2-dimensional sketches of eccentricity. Rula Lenska (big red hair, chanting), Dennis Rodman (inarticulate and surly), Faria Alam (unglamorous and bitter).
Into this mix is thrown Chantelle (nickname Paris Travel-lodge), the perfect ingenue - an Essex girl who, apart from a bit of modelling work is about as famous as I am. Chantelle's "secret mission" (a transparent Big Brother device created in order to manufacture intrigue, paranoia and conflict) was to convince the other celebrities that she was the real deal. Although almost everyone had their suspicions, during a challenge where the celebs had to rate how famous they were, the good manners of two amiable young singers, Maggot and Preston, won out and they placed themselves below her. Jimmy Saville (a mass of repressed complexes who makes Michael Barrymore look uncomplicated and sanguine) is also expected to enter the house over the weekend. I doubt this will result in the same buzz that Jackie Stallone created, but you never know.
It's immoral. It's cruel. And I think we watch it because we're glad it's happening to them rather than us. Or else, we have to face up to the fact that it's supremely entertaining. And that's something which isn't always easy to admit to.