The big bother last week was Jade Goody’s conduct on Celebrity Big Brother, and racism. Of course it’s all been blown out of proportion, but that did not stop me being one of the 8 million who tuned in Friday night for some uncomfortable car crash TV.
Jade Goody, made notorious from appearing in Big Brother, and not even winning, was sent back as a Celebrity, clearly a new twist on the Chantel stunt of last year. The saddest part is that despite the opportunities and experiences Jade’s notoriety has given her, she has grown little as a person.
I found the Big Brother footage uncomfortable viewing. I sat and squirmed while Jade tried to explain her actions as it was almost the same as a recent event when a bully tried to explain how he saw my actions as rude and how he was right to bully me.
Having said that Jade was a fascinating proof of my theory that most bullies would be horrified if they could see how they behaved. And contrary to Ken Livinstone’s arguments, I actually think it is helpful for Channel Four to show prejudice as silly and ignorant. I can’t believe anyone seeing Jade’s arguments will see anything other than how stupid and ignorant racism is. The whole fiasco was the best anti-racism message that has been broadcast for years, and will educate many people against racist attitudes.
I don’t believe the actual bullying itself constituted racism, having seen the programme I think there was a personal dislike between the main protagonists, and on Goody’s side it was clearly fuelled by class prejudice rather than racism. I don’t however believe that the label on a prejudice makes it any better or worse.
I also believe racism is overrated as a form of prejudice. Of course it is the most widespread one and has serious consequences that need tackling. However, surely a prejudice is a prejudice, and it’s the degree of the hate, discrimination and victimisation that rise from the prejudice that are the crime. We can’t and shouldn’t police thoughts, but the resultant actions be they written, verbal or physical are real problems.
Is calling intelligent people geeks and dismissing their clear explanations as technobabble any better than calling a Bollywood star “Shilpa Popodum” and making fun of her accent? No they are equally bad and wrong. Is someone who circulated the “Manchester Olympics” joke email any better than someone who circulates an email of “Paki” jokes? Certainly not.
Incidentally Duncan Borrowman has evidence Shilpa Shetty isn’t entirely squeaky clean, having supported the morally dubious Peta, albeit on a campaign that is not as dubious as much of their work. However that tenuous link to such a dubious movement has only slightly dented my image of her.