Amid racist comments, some ask if 'Big Brother 15' cast represents America

Sonya Sorich

It's been an intense summer for reality TV fans.

First, there was the shock of learning "Big Brother" is still on the air. Then, we experienced the painful sensation of wishing "Big Brother" wasn't still on the air.

You've probably seen the headlines. Some of this season's "Big Brother" cast members made racist comments that aired on the show's live feeds, which are separate from the edited episodes that air three nights a week on CBS.

Viewers got a window into the racist comments during Sunday's episode on the network. It prompted this headline from TVLine: "'Big Brother' 'outs' two racist houseguests to viewers -- was it enough?"

Two of the offenders lost their "real-life" jobs as a result of the controversy, and as of Monday afternoon a third cast member was on the verge of losing his.

Some viewers have urged CBS to expel the players who made racist comments. Others suggest the approach would be too extreme. In the comments section of the aforementioned TVLine piece, one reader wrote, "At the end of the day, this is still a game show. Should we get to see an honest portrayal of these people? Of course but it shouldn't take focus from the actual game."

Offensive comments shown on the live feeds weren't confined to racism. Some contestants also made homophobic and/or misogynistic remarks, according to TVLine. It's not the first time those attitudes have entered the reality TV world. "Fishbowl" shows in particular often develop tension by casting people with varied cultural backgrounds.

Before it focused on scantily clad hot tub parties, MTV's "Real World" often featured a token small-town cast member each season. The formula was simple. That cast member would enter the house with a narrow realm of acceptance, then make friends with people who would eventually expand his or her cultural horizons.

The offensive comments from this season of "Big Brother" don't exactly follow that pattern. For the most part, the comments are hard to watch because they come with no apparent regret.

Update: On Tuesday's episode of "Big Brother After Dark" on TVGN, one of the offenders addressed the comments in a conversation with fellow cast member Howard, who is black. Aaryn said, "I have never meant any comment in any derogatory way...If anyone thinks I'm racist, that is ridiculous." Aaryn was dropped from her modeling agency due to her offensive comments on "Big Brother."

A commenter on MJ's Big Blog, a pop culture website, recently wrote this in response to the "Big Brother" controversy: "This cast is so representative of what America is like these days and it's really sad."

We live in a country where interpretations of certain words sometimes vary based on geography. When it comes to political correctness, some words occupy a murky territory that attracts debate. Other terms are irrefutably offensive.

Those issues will inevitably surface when you put strangers in a house with cameras.

Does the "Big Brother" cast represent America? I hope not. Because if that's the case, we need to reexamine our own reality instead of wasting our time on reality TV.

Sonya Sorich
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer