Oh (Big) Brother!


The biggest thing you learn at uni is cynicism. You go from being a fresh-faced and hopeful teenager with plans to save the world from environmental destruction and a crazy idea that we could all get along if we just tried harder to a jaded second-year student, all grizzled and world weary.

It’s a pity, because you actually can make a difference in so many ways. Unfortunately, it’s much easier to point out the shortcomings of things. You know the kind of conversations you overhear at campus coffee shops: there’s no point voting because Labor and Liberal are the same; most of the music on radio is too commercial; there’s no point recycling it only makes a tiny difference; reality TV is banal crap just a bunch of pretty show ponies prancing around.



Why is this? I think it’s because we’re the post-ironic generation. We’re experts at consuming the media, we know when a politician is staying on message and are adept at peeling back corporate spin. We also know that celebrity has been commodified. There’s a new factory assembly line not the old Fordist one, but one pumping out new products like the Spice Girls, Big Brother Housemates, Bardot and Australian Idol crooners. INXS can’t even find a new singer without a reality TV show.

Celebrity has been demystified. We know you don’t need anything special to be one. We live in the age of democratised celebrity.

But instead of decrying it, why not use it to make a difference? If you want people on Big Brother to talk about something other than farting, turkey slapping and breast implants then go on the show and talk about them. If people from the hand-wringing Lefty community or the Bible-thumping Hillsong set don’t try out for the show they can hardly whinge when their worldview is not reflected on it.

Uni types can happily sit around reading The Australian, watching SBS News or listening to ABC Radio but that’s not what most people are consuming. Writing a snappy letter to the editor or calling Triple J’s Hack is not getting you anywhere either. Not when most people are reading New Weekly, listening to commercial radio and watching Channel Ten News.

You’ve got to go mainstream with your messages, and what better way than Big Brother?

That’s the logic I was using when I went on the show that and because I’m a massive show pony. And if more people did it then instead of a house of gorgeous drongos, you might actually get a house with (God forbid!) a passionate Christian or two, a hardcore Marxist, a vegan tree-hugger, or some other original thinkers.

Thanks to Sharyn Raggett

You might think producers of the show don’t want big free-thinking personalities, but I can tell you they must how else can the show stay interesting when there’s only four or five people left? And having brains is never a handicap to being interesting as long as you’re multi-faceted and personable.

Look at the precedents for this idea. A few years ago a fella called Merlin created a storm of controversy after leaving the show with a gag over his mouth and a sign that read ‘Free Th[e]Refugees,’ putting the asylum-seeker issue front and centre in the national debate and politicising an entire generation of teenagers. And from this year’s show, a farmer called David is in the process of changing National Party policy to recognise same sex couples.

The punters love it. In the last two years, people have been frantically voted off the show for being homophobic, and for sexually assaulting others. And what’s more, the events in the Big Brother House have precipitated healthy debates in the community.

If you’re clever and have a good strategy, put yourself through Big Brother boot camp. It’s not vain to think you can go toe to toe with 300 producers, cameramen, spin-doctors and network executives and win.

If you pit your cynicism against theirs, they haven’t got a chance.

Big Brother 2007 auditions are at:

Melbourne: The Sidney Myer Music Bowl, December 2-4

Sydney: The Hordern Pavilion, Moore Park, Sydney, November 20-22

Darwin: Darwin Turf Club, Fanny Bay, November 27

Perth: The Claremont Showgrounds, November 29

Adelaide: Allan Scott Park, Morphettville, December 6

Brisbane: The University of Queensland, St Lucia, November 25

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.