I haven’t written about entertainment TV for a long time. Odd really considering that the category I tick most when preparing blog posts is ‘Arts, Culture and Entertainment’. I watch quite a bit of it too (I blame my partner) and enjoy it. Big Brother included. So, I’m using Big Brother and a recent evictee from the house as a way of dipping my toe back in the water.
This year’s series of Celebrity Big Brother has been particularly absorbing. Once the usual cries of “they’re not proper celebrities – certainly not celebrities I recognise” have died down (what is ‘a proper celebrity’ anyway?) and the dodgy opening night outfits have been abandoned, the programme turns into what it also has been: a free ticket for daily people watching. I still love it for that.
Perez Hilton – celebrity blogger – has been particularly interesting to observe. I began by admiring his pluck. I identified with him because of him referring to himself as a blogger, his appearance on the show appeared as an endorsement of a medium which is often derided, an endorsement that gave Perez a triumphant narrative.
He seemed warm and outgoing, at first. His bubbly persona in part explained his celebrity blogging success. I filled in the blanks. Here was someone who had identified what his core skills were, had worked hard at infiltrating anywhere and everywhere there was a celebrity worth blogging about and translated that into a successful online product. Hats off to the guy. No, I wasn’t jealous of him, I felt a smidgen of vindication. Oh and that considerable weight loss was a massive achievement too.
But some way down the line me and Perez grew further and further apart. His arguments with Katie Hopkins became boring and repetitive (Katie Hopkins never really emerged the victor either – her childish taunting revealed an equally dark side) and once he’d started pretending to hump everything in the Big Brother garden, it quickly became apparent he was trying to manipulate the public in order to get out of the show and retain his fee. It was at that point our relationship had broken down. Perez darling, you’re giving us bloggers a bad name.
When he did finally achieve his goal of leaving the Big Brother house (last night) he did something far worse. He appeared happy to leave the house without saying ‘goodbye’ to his housemates. Once in the studio in his post-eviction interview, he repeatedly tried to dominate the interview, trying to pre-empt, avoid and generally steam-roller questions with answers which appeared to come from a rather dark place inside of him. Of course, such things shouldn’t really matter in an entertainment interview. He compounded his ever-diminishing reputation by refusing to answer a question in the final 20 seconds of the broadcast saying, “Save that for the after-show Emma!” in a belligerent, patronising tone.
I expected him as a paid participant on Big Brother to pay respect to the basic conventions of the format and of TV. It disappointed me that he couldn’t let himself be seen to bury the hatchet with his colleauges on the ‘Perez Show’ when he left the house to the booing crowd. I wanted him to be a bigger person and to understand that when he crossed the threshold back into the real(er) world, that his Big Brother persona was no longer necessary. I wanted to see him make his peace; wanted to see him appreciate the thing he claimed he always wanted: freedom from the whole thing.
I would have liked to have seen him display a little more civility in his interview with Emma too. And at the end of that interview I didn’t want to see him being crass and arrogant to refuse a question on the basis that he was saving the good stuff for the later live broadcast. It gave the impression that he thought himself bigger than everyone else on the show, managing the entire process from beginning to end. The last time I spent time on a TV production, I recall being struck by the collaborative nature of the project – that extending to the talent as well as the production staff.
It makes me wonder whether anyone who agrees to go on live television thinks carefully about how they present themselves. Television amplifies the ugliness in the world, just as social media has a tendency to highlight the extremities in personality.
Arguments are fine. Differences of opinion are to be expected and, in some formats, encouraged. Being respectful of oneself and others is what makes those things acceptable in the conventions of the reality format. Paying attention to what ones legacy could be at the end of it perhaps the most important thing of all. It saddens me when I see someone on TV who doesn’t realise that.
And it strikes me that by not doing any of that, one well-known blogger has missed out on some excellent material for his blog.