Following a successful format in 2011 tagged Amplified, Big Brother, Africa’s biggest reality television show, introduces another controversial twist to the upcoming 2012 edition
First it was amplified. Now Big Brother Africa, BBA, has introduced another twist in the controversial but continentally popular reality TV show. Not only have the organisers introduced a brand-new cash prize of $300,000, this season will take a new format as entrants must compete in pairs to be eligible. In other words, anyone who wants to enter Season Seven must partner with another person and enter as a pair. Both partners are expected to come from the same countries.
In this context, a pair means any of the entrants can decide to come into the house with another person: best friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, mum, dad, brother, sister, boss, husband, wife, neighbour or whoever. You must just make sure that you enter as a pair. Now, this is a delicious invitation to more controversies. To start with, only a few may want to come into the Big Brother House with their real girlfriends. Besides that, this idea may also provide an opening for gays on the continent to openly express their sexual preferences.
Although it is clear that the BBA organisers designed this new format to achieve one major aim, which is to increase the viewership of the reality show as a result of heated debates this new format will expectedly generate in living rooms across Africa. However, there is always a downside to every twist and turn as some viewers believe that this may also increase the level of immorality in the House (depending on whoever each entrants decide to pair up with), trigger more backstabbing and backlashes as pairs may want to outdo each other in their quest for the prize money.
However, going by the recent happenings in the studios of Big Brother Brazil where an average of eight million TV audience watched with mixed emotions as Daniel Echaniz, 31-year-old contestant, was reported to have apparently forced himself on Monique Amin, a 23-year-old student, who had passed out drunk after a wild booze party on January 15, many are already raising eyebrows that the new paring format in BBA 2012 may trigger similar or related scenarios.
Now in its 12th series, Big Brother Brazil keeps raking up millions in advertising profits as well as viewership with over 154 million votes cast in last year’s final. Night cameras had filmed Echaniz get into the bed where Amin was sleeping before appearing to be having sex with her under the covers. Throughout the incident, the woman appeared unconscious. The next morning when Amin was asked about the incident, she appeared to know little of what had happened. The camera showed the two in bed, the leopard print sheets moving as Amin laid inert.
Pedro Bial, presenter of the show, said that since Sunday morning, the board had been evaluating the behaviour of Echaniz, who is suspected of having infringed the rules of the programme. “Big Brother examined his behaviour without jumping to conclusions and with the utmost care, the images showed a breach of the rules of this programme,” Bial said. After careful evaluation, producers of the programme found that the behaviour of the accused contestant on the night of the party was seriously inadequate and if found guilty of rape, Echaniz would serve between six and 10 years’ jail terms.
Although some critics may want to argue that such could only happen in Latin America or Europe, the rapid age of globalisation – the good, bad and ugly – has easily found its way into living rooms across the continent and in recent times has also crept into its most popular reality television show.
In last year’s BBA tagged Amplified, Bhoke Egina, one of the housemates, was involved in a sex romp with Ernest Wasake, another housemate just before their eviction from the House. “What’s the big deal? People were just making a lot of noise about the whole issue as if we were having sex on the street. BBA Amplified House is for adults and whoever cannot “suck it” up should not even be watching,” Bhoke had reportedly written on her Facebook page after being severely bashed by people for having sex with Ernest.
Like Amplified, every other BBA, after a “relatively clean” Season One, had witnessed scandals and controversies beyond sexual issues. Housemates have been serially involved in regular binge drinking, wild parties and other anti-social behaviours while holed up in the House for 91 days. In BBA season two, the trio of Nigerian Ofunneka Molokwu, Tanzania’s Richard Bezuidenhou and Angola’s Tatiana Durão was enmeshed in the now labelled “fingergate” sex controversy after another night of party. Millions across the continent watched in disbelief as Richard carried out his sexual fantasies on the obviously drunkenly numb women.
For many critics, the format of BBA encourages such acts that may be displeasing to many while for another school of thought, introducing controversy, especially sex, is a tonic for the ratings of any reality television show. For now, Nigeria and the rest of Africa wait with mixed expectation as Africa’s most criticised reality TV show gets set to make another sensational hit on millions across the continent.
Additional reports by DAVID LAWAL