At some point, you would think that reality TV contestants, (whether it be on Big Brother or otherwise) would stop and realize that they really should check their social-media history before exposing themselves to the world. There are people out there who will comb through every word you’ve ever said, and you have to be accountable for it.
Ultimately, this is the position that recent Big Brother 19 houseguest Elena Davies now finds herself in after it was revealed over the past two days that she has made a series of offensive jokes regarding race, sexuality, rape, and a whole lot more over the years. There’s a pretty lengthy list of some of her comments over at the link here, and they give you a sense of some of what she’s said in the past. Sure, these aren’t the only tweets that she’s made, but these are appalling enough.
Was Elena thinking that some of these comments were funny, and that other people would “get” her sense of humor back when she made them? Sure you can argue that, and you can also say that she’s worked in radio where a certain shock-jock mentality for attention common. Yet, those are all pretty hollow excuses for comments that were inexcusable (even as humor) in 2013, let alone in 2017. She said what she said, and the best thing that she could do it is address it, own it, and move forward. She could easily say that she’s grown from that point in her life and is still trying to improve as a person; yet, she hasn’t.
Unfortunately, there is a cloud all around this Elena situation that exhibits the problems that come with emerging out of a pressure-cooker reality TV environment and what it does both to contestants and fans.
Let’s start here from the contestant angle: Elena went on the show knowing that she would be watched by millions of people and develop a certain degree of fame. Clearly, her actions now show that she wants to focus on that, and she has enough people who love her that it allows her to rationalize her misgivings and make her feel as though she’s “amazing” no matter what she says and does. It probably doesn’t help that America endorsed someone for AFP this season (in Cody) who said some terrible things in the house and then opted against apologizing for them after the fact; it suggests that being offensive is okay. It’s another prime example of this era of division where finding some middle ground isn’t all that easy. Reality TV contestants are given so many venues to fuel their egos that they think they can do little wrong and even when they do, they can just delete the comments, not address them, and more forward … not realizing that this only infuriates more the people who were rooting for them in the first place.
As someone who’s come out of reality TV in the past (luckily before Twitter was really thing), we can attest to it playing games with your head. We were a little lucky that we had some time off of Beauty and the Geek before the show premiered, but even still we remember the awkward experience of having sudden “fans” that empower you to think you don’t need any personal growth.
The other side of this
Let’s look at the fans of the show, the ones who are tweeting #ElenaExposedParty and coming for her hard on social media. These are people who spent all summer invested in her, and some of them feel hurt over what she said. Others may still like her and want to offer support; some may just want attention from her and are tweeting for that reason. Big Brother is a show that creates (at times) a wonderful community, but also unfortunately at times a contentious one. When someone does something unacceptable, an army of people often forms to crucify that person rather than trying to start a meaningful dialogue. While not every person shows a willingness to change (see Cody), others will take responsible for their misgivings if they are mature enough and realize that they did or said things they should not. Fans should try to encourage this more than they should resorting to name-calling.
What the Big Brother community needs, (provided they want to get involved in this whole Elena drama) is outreach to let her know why her Twitter history is not okay without resorting to some of the typical negative tactics (bashing people, unfortunately, has become somewhat of a hobby for people on the internet). Meanwhile, Elena needs to have the capacity to listen rather than just liking tweets in support of her and blocking anyone else.
It’s Big Brother. It’s just a game, and with that, it’s easy to say that everyone should move on. Yet, many people understandably grow close to these people after watching them over the summer, and when someone lets them down after the game it’s a scaled-down version of a player being blindsided in the house. This is life, and a social game out here is infinitely more important than one that lasts 90 or so days. Elena needs to realize that and give back to the people that supported her.
Update: Elena’s apology
You can read what Elena wrote on Twitter this afternoon, one in which she owns up to the “errors of her past.” There are going to be plenty of people out there who question whether this was enough of an apology / if she needed to apologize at all (there always is), but you need to remember this: Growth sometimes happens in stages. Good on her for coming to terms with her past in a public forum; we’ll all know how much she learned from this experience in the weeks and months to come.
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