Big Brother’s Guinea Fowls By Olatunji Ololade

Where is nothing to distinguish the Big Brother Africa (BBA) house from a henhouse except that the inmates seem human and at once endowed with the intelligence quotient (IQ) of the guinea fowl – if I may insult the poor animal by comparing it with them.

However, despite the guinea fowl’s predilection to brutishness, it is not so completely enslaved and brazen like the BBA house ‘inmate.’ Big brother, while showing them up as disposable lab rats, treats BBA contestants as ‘housemates’ but reality instructs that every participant in the Big Brother ‘experiment’ is captive to inordinate greed, poverty of the intellect and soul, lust for unearned riches and acclaim, and the ever domineering, voyeuristic and faceless “big brother.”

Participants in the BBA show like their counterparts world over, elevate narcissism and absurdity to unimaginable degrees. Inmates take their bath naked knowing videos and images of their bath are being broadcasted to the world via digital satellite television. They indulge in unprotected and presumably consequence-free sex, disgraceful bickering, rivalry, and frittering away of precious time.

This further emphasizes the kindred spirit they share with the guinea fowl although the latter seem surprisingly elevated in character than the average BBA inmate. Guinea fowls hardly bicker because they are known to evolve and adhere religiously to a pecking order. The guinea fowl is a proud creature; unlike the BBA inmate, it rarely mates in the open. You will seldom, if ever, see it breed. When it does, it’s super-quick and can be easily mistaken for a swift little scuffle.

Wonder what the guinea fowl would think of BBA inmates. Take Beverly Osu for instance, the character who claimed to have done Nigeria proud at the recently concluded BBA’s “The Chase” sloth-fest; Beverly in a recent interview claims thus: “I made Nigeria proud.”

Beverly generated buzz by her actions in the BBA house. In 91 days, she managed to treat the world to her best kept secrets, and of course, a steamy and controversial sexual encounter she had with Angelo Collins, a South African inmate. Steamy pictures and videos of the two smooching in a bathtub are still been viewed and downloaded on the world wide web as you read.

Although she claims she never had sex with the South African, Beverly maintains that she has no regrets for her conduct in the house. She quips, “All of us take our baths naked. So I shouldn’t be different because I went for a reality show. I shouldn’t be different from every other person, because I didn’t bring out my videos, Big Brother did so I should not be judged, and I represented Nigeria well.”

You could be forgiven for thinking the argument was made by an obtuse person, for the digestion and understanding of equally dim-witted folk. Beverly’s argument reveals among other things, how the mind and intellect of many a contemporary youth works. The contemporary Nigerian youth represents an abnegation of late Italian poet, Dante Alighieri’s caution: “Consider your origins: you were not made to live as brutes, but to follow virtue and knowledge.

True, only brutes (animals) enjoy the exclusive preserve of ignorance and shamelessness in matters pertaining to sexual instincts, violence and other base impulses that relegate the brute to the bottom of nature and creation’s pecking order. However, current realities reveal an increasing permissiveness and blurring of lines between the human and the animal, the virtuous and debauched.

While it’s disconcerting that her mother sees nothing wrong with her conduct, it would be amusing to know how Beverly would justify the morality and benefits of going nude and engaging in a sexual act before the camera and millions of viewers across the world, to her children and grand children, when eventually they get to see the video.

Notoriety is the tool that Beverly, like her predecessors from Nigeria, sought to exploit in a desperate bid to win the much coveted $300, 000 BBA winner-takes-all prize. Notoriety is the resource by which she sought to attain wealth and acclaim. And even though she failed, Beverly predictably emerges from the show as a celebrity of sort.

No sooner than she was booted out than Nigerian newspapers swooped on her, splashing syndicated interviews of the BBA evictee across one or two pages, each story struggling to garner for her, unquestionable acclaim and soft-landing. She reportedly hopes to exploit the situation to her advantage: “Before I left, I had a show called ‘Beverly Says’ and I’m back to push it. If you guys watched Big Brother, you would be very sure that I can act, so I’d go into movies, but then, I have to finish school because I’m in my 200 level,” she was quoted in a recent interview.

Beverly’s statement, particularly her reference to her acting ability, no doubt reveals that BBA, contrary to its claims of being a social experiment that thrives on truth and mirroring reality, is actually a scripted TV show in which every participant puts up an act before the camera, as conditioned by the contest provisions and their frenzied lust for the outrageous prize money.

Beverly like many contemporary celebrity hopefuls seeks to float upon “hype,” which is really the ubiquitous journalist turned publicist’s gas – and which is maniacally deployed oftentimes, to set afloat an image and personality that doesn’t quite exist. Hype, like Epstein aptly notes, is what gives us a new class or hierarchical categorization of celebrities.

Beverly, despite the widespread condemnations trailing her conduct in the BBA house, helps perpetuate the myth that accidental celebrity or fame junkies are glaring indicators that there are always acceptable shortcuts to riches and the fulfillment of our wildest fantasies. And this relative reality is propelled by the public’s morbid fascination with celebrity worship. Where the object of interest excites inadequate controversies and passion for adulation, the public has learnt to recreate the object of their fascination into the ideal celebrity icon or superstar of their dreams.

This no doubt substantiates Dostoevsky’ s wisdom: “So long as man remains free,” Dostoyevsky writes in The Brothers Karamazov, “he strives for nothing so incessantly and painfully as to find someone to worship.”

Is a character like Beverly really worthy of the good and bad press she currently enjoys? Is she even worthy of being the subject of discourse on this page? If so, this is bad news.

The camera has created a culture of celebrity and the internet is establishing a culture of connectivity. The convergence of both technologies perpetuates contemporary man’s insatiable lusts for unearned acclaim and affluence. These facilities are effectively deployed by Endemol, the brain behind the BB concept, in desensitizing millions of viewers and participants towards perverse sex in its social re-conditioning and re-validation exercise.

Big brother blurs the line that distinguishes the average human from an animal. Thus we become real to ourselves by obsessing about and wishing on the unreal. The great social abnormality and terror today, is anonymity. If Lionel Trilling was right; if the property that grounded the self in romanticism was sincerity, and in modernism was authenticity, then in postmodernism it is visibility. But what manner of visibility would drive a Nigerian youth like Beverly to the brink of impropriety?

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