Bigg Boss - the name rings a bell, right?
The show where celebrities live a life like our own, in a house that’s far far away from the world, metaphorically. Based on the Dutch show Big Brother, a number of chosen contestants are made to live in a house (as housemates) where they are isolated from the rest of the world. Since the use of technology and gadgets are not allowed, the contestants, are completely on their own. Each week the participants are commanded certain tasks by a voice addressed as ‘Bigg Boss’. The housemates are usually divided into teams and are required to finish the tasks in a given time. Their performances decide their budget for the week, and certain merits and demerits for those who win and lose, respectively. Each in-house nominated member is evicted from the house through public votes. The contestants are therefore required to impress us, the mass audience, in order to survive and/or win the show.
Needless to say, the urge to impress people brings with it various complexities which often leave us having a love-hate relationship with the show.
The mass audience, people like you and I, love the idea of celebrities living our kind of lifestyle. We believe we are exposed to the ‘real’ life of our ‘reel’ celebrities, but is it really so? The curiosity to know how our stars would react in a normal lifestyle leaves us wanting for more gossips.
The show has become immensely popular over time, mostly because of the controversies and scandals it has come to create. The situations are created in a manner that the contestants are often seen losing their temper in an instant. Speaking foul language and ridiculing others, now seems to be a part of the show, which is why it is also believed to be scripted. However, every task raises a controversy or gossip to be a conversation starter in people's life.
One such incident took place in the first and the latest season of Bigg Boss (Tamil). Recently in an episode of the show, the contestants had been asked to act like those who are mentally ill. While half the housemates were to behave as doctors, the other half portrayed the mentally ill in a very offensive manner. Psychiatrists slammed the show, saying that the show sold harmful cliches on mental health through its contestants.
One of the contestants, Oviya, an absolute favorite of the audience, is believed to be bipolar, and this episode only ignited people’s beliefs. Even though Oviya appears to be emotionally disturbed, there is no reason whatsoever to stigmatize her behavior. Television is considered to be a source of information which tends to influence people’s perception strongly. The show, therefore, must aim to remain neutral or at least normalize the stigmas and myths related to mental health. If this was an attempt to promote or normalize people seeking treatment for mental health, it went wrong in various ways because such a portrayal of mental illnesses can severely distort and damage the perception of the viewers.
"We always think of mental illness in the extreme. We believe that these patients are dangerous or we make fun of them. This is how they are portrayed in the mainstream. We've been talking about mental health for the last 200 years. Nobody is immune to mental illnesses" - Dr. Sivabalan, psychiatrist
The way the show portrayed mental health can make people create wrong ideas about the issue, further inflicting the stigma. This can lead to people refraining from seeking help, even if they wish to. Such insensitivity by the participants has largely been criticized by the audience, especially the psychiatrists and psychologists. When one is constantly being watched under surveillance, one must think about the influence their behavior can inflict on the masses.
Then again, the more controversies it raises the more attention the channel gets. They say, there is nothing called as bad publicity. Even though some believe it is scripted, 'Bigg boss' has always become a topic of conversation for all age groups. The games test the control of the stars and break them open to find them react like a layman. Participants begin to lose their patience and end up showing who they really are, which often disgusts the audience and causes them to react emotionally. However, only the celebrities are not to blame.
The last season of Bigg Boss (Hindi) had commoners as participants and it was exciting to watch because people wished to see how the celebrities behaved with the common people living under the same roof. Sadly, the audience of the show was not only let down but also disgusted to the very core due to the way a selected few portrayed us, the common people, in front of the celebrities. Priyanka Jagga and Swami Om stole the show but put the audience in utter dismay. They led us, and others to believe that the show is not worth watching, especially with people like them in it.
Despite the controversies related to the show, its popularity has only grown. People share a love-hate relationship with ‘Bigg Boss’ across all culture and languages. That’s how it has always been, and that’s how it always will be. After all, fans will be fans!