Broadcast television is a powerful force in society today. It has been used to inspire, to teach and on many an occasion, to push forth an idea. When used properly, this modern version of the Bully Pulpit can be used to inspire greatness and change for the better. There is an inherent problem, however, with the Bully Pulpit- it is used to present the side of the argument that the person using it wishes to present.
Sunday night’s episode of Big Brother demonstrated this fully, both positively and negatively. Were you to only watch the show tonight, you would have seen the incident with Willie as the following:
– Willie and his team are placed in the Have-Not Room following the Coaches’ Competition;
– Britney separates her other two players from Willie, and berates him further;
– Willie slow-burns in his reaction, sitting until he decides to confront the HoH room;
– Joe walks through the kitchen towards the bathroom, Willie makes a lewd comment and Joe responds;
– Willie confronts Joe in the bathroom, gets in his face and eventually head-butts him once;
– The Houseguests are separated and Willie is sent to the DR, where he is escorted out, and;
– The Houseguests are collected in the Living Room where they are told of Willie’s Departure.
During the time from his absence to the informing of the remaining Houseguests, which we are not given time references, the HGs are seen with varying responses. Britney is shown crying, other people are shown saying they won’t deal with Willie being in the House, and generally reactions are kept to a minimum before moving to the house meeting. This is the official presentation from CBS and Fly In the Wall Entertainment.
It is also a partial falsehood.
Clearly, Willie took his own actions that led to his dismissal- no one is questioning this, nor are they justifying his actions. It is also clear that britney’s berating of her player did little to help the situation- and Britney’s culpability in this can be examined now that we have seen the footage of her corralling her other players to separate from Willie. It was clear that Willie was being separated from her more “stable” players.
However, Big Brother is not in a vacuum of “television only” presentation.
There is an eleven minute span of footage that was presented on the Live Feeds, footage that presents a separate side of the story that includes information that TV-only viewers will not be aware of normally. In that footage, the following also occurred:
– Willie is seen several times trying to get into the Diary Room to try and talk to them, and is denied entry by Production;
– Joe is seen talking about how if the remaining HGs wanted to get rid of Willie, that may have been the right time as he was clearly upset, and;
– in Live Feeds following the incident, multiple Houseguests including Janelle herself confirmed that Janelle verbally went after Willie further than what was shown on television.
Additionally, for the 20 hours before this incident Britney is shown berating Willie about his game and how he harmed the game of her other players with his HoH actions.
The main action that is particularly questionable in this case is Production not showing their own part in this action by refusing Willie the ability to go into the DR, cool down and speak to someone that could bring him back to a calmer place. By keeping him in this kettle, they helped stoke the situation that led to an assault in their set. Additionally, by not showing Joe’s background willingness to instigate some sort of action they portray him in a far more innocent light than may be deserved.
Now, it is a valid argument that Production has the right to craft the storyline of their show for television in a manner that they see fit, as the television storyline does not affect the actual outcome of the game itself. That is true, as the Houseguests playing the game do not see this footage until after the show at the earliest. It is also valid to argue that the show presented is made possible only through what the Houseguests do in the game. In other words, they perform the actions that lead to the storyline. However, when dealing with a situation that leads to a Houseguest being removed as a punitive action, it is important to present all of the information that is relevant. This action affects the reputation and (arguably) the livelihood of the former player once they leave, and by presenting such a one-sided version of events they do Willie a disservice. Additionally, this somewhat insults the Live Feed fans who are clearly aware of more information about the incident than what was presented on television.
Willie Hantz ultimately took the actions that led to his departure, and removing him from the game was unquestionably the right call- but by showing the viewing public this version of events, Production has whitewashed their role in the incident and reduced Joe’s actions to that of “innocent bystander.” This is unfair to the already-diminished reputation of Willie, and a slight to the fans who purchase the Live Feeds and know more of the story than Production is portraying.