Throughout most of the past year, CBS has faced significant criticism over the casting of their reality shows with diversity in mind. Not only that, but there’s been an equal amount of controversy over insensitive remarks made by contestants on their shows. Earlier this year, Survivor contestant Julia Carter wrote an essay recounting some of her experiences on this past season, noting an incident in which she heard the n-word from a contestant not too long after arriving on the beach. This season on Big Brother, contestants Jack and Jackson have made a number of remarks regarding multiple minority contestants.
Now, some controversy has stemmed over to reality TV production as well. At today’s TCA Summer Press Tour event, Andy Dehnart of Reality Blurred (read the full exchange here) asked CBS SVP or Programming Thom Sherman about controversies on both Survivor and Big Brother, including a moment in which houseguest Kemi Fakunle felt as though she was pressured within the Diary Room to say something in a stereotypical manner to her race. While Sherman did not comment too much on future changes in regards to Survivor and Big Brother, he did comment that the producer behind the Kemi conversation was reprimanded:
Well, in the case of Big Brother, a producer—we learned that a producer, in an attempt to get a soundbite from one of the houseguests overstepped. That producer was reprimanded, received unconscious bias training—as did all the producers on the show—and we don’t believe that an incident like that will happen again.”
Let’s make this even clearer: It’s an incident that can’t happen again. We understand that there’s no way to control what comes out of a houseguest’s mouth once they are in the Big Brother house, but the Diary Room should be a safe haven. Long has Big Brother had a history there of pressuring contestants to say things that feel scripted our outside of their typical patterns of behavior. People should be able to be themselves without resorting to stereotypes. That’s why it’s almost as important that a show like this has a more diverse cast for a production standpoint as it is for the people in the house — if there are conscious or unconscious prejudices, more diversity forces everyone involved to confront them and recognize their own flaws. Hopefully, on the other side of that comes change.
We want to hope that those who are capable of change will look at the patterns from CBS reality shows over the past year and recognize that these are games that, while intense, should still feel comfortable for everyone to take part in — regardless of who they are and where they come from.
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Be sure to visit the link here, and let us know in the comments what you think can be done on the other side of these controversies.