Monday, January 22, 2007

Big Brother Watches And The World Returns The Stare

Much of the Big Brother Shilpa Shetty furor has died down now; the main culprit Jade Goody banished from the house and amends made; business now returned to normal in the reality TV universe: back to personal attacks and infighting without international overtones.

A large part of the controversy has centered around the question of was it or wasn't it racism; but more interesting than the semantics of the conflict is to observe the way the world has changed, so what was once casually accepted as par for the course, ridicule of Indian accents
mannerisms, accents, diet etc is now becoming verboten: a direct gauge of India's rising stock in world affairs.

Anyone of a visibly foreign culture who has lived in the U.K for any length of time would certainly look at Ms Shetty's initial plight with a mixture of empathy and wistfullness; empathy for the familiar abuse encountered
and wistfulness, that she has had the fortune to have never experienced this before.

The Economist wrote an ostensibly
fair piece on the affair suggesting that it was more a clash of class than culture, Ms Shetty being well bred and educated compared to her so called lower class tormentors.

The term class, however, grates on a North American Sensibility hearkening back to an earlier time of smug privilege. Far better to emphasize the gap in education than be a flag bearer for innate exclusivity , which the term class inevitably evokes.

Goody it might
be noted has amassed a fortune of 8 million pounds through her exploits with Big Brother and other spin off ventures in this age of hype. She has since apparently atoned for her transgression in move, no doubt, engineered by her marketing team contributing all of her earnings from this current episode to charity;about 3 Crore rupees.
Culturally void and without grace she may be, but certainly not stupid as some have suggested.

There have been other repercussions. Danielle Lloyd the pinup girl who joined in with Goody in the abuse of Shetty has been unceremoniously dumped by boyfriend and aging soccer star Teddy Sherringham. Sherringham now 40 and playing out the twillight of a stellar football career seeks to avoid the bad press that Lloyd now attracts and also avoid the wrath of his mostly black teamates on West Ham United Football Club. The dream of becoming a B List Posh to her faded Becks dashed now, Lloyd has paid a price for her prejudice.

Meanwhile Ms Shetty has gone from strength to strength. The giggly actress formerly known as the laughing girl or alternatively the dancing girl, now at the age of 31 when actresses in Bollywood see the downslope of their career has become the beacon of class.

The Sita who had men burning effigies of the Ravana, the white big brother, in places as far flung as Bihar in her defense now stands to reap large dividends from the experience.

Her publicist Bobby Khan a
t the height of the controversy claimed to regret the trouble his ward had been put through but it was poorly disguised. He could not have been happier. If a deeply minor personality such as Jade Goody can spin her modicum of success into 8 million pounds then Ms Shetty's financial fortunes at present look extremely bright.

Big Brother takes its name from Orwell's darkly prophetic novel 1984 of a future totalitarian world run on war and personal control. The current version of Big Brother, however, brings to mind the other great dystopian vision of the future, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World where instead of a surrender to political force the world was brought to its knees by its obsession with frivolity producing a consumerist public uninterested in anything more than distraction; it has a familiar ring.

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