Diversity In Reality TV: Is It Enough? – The Minnesota Daily



With CBS’s commitment to improving diversity within their “Big Brother” and “Survivor” shows, will they set a precedent for others in their field?

When I was six, my mom got me hooked on reality TV, especially my all-time favorite show, “Big Brother”. First aired in the summer of 2000, “Big Brother” was a staple of American reality TV and was my first exhibition. I will always cherish the memories I made watching this show with my mom three nights a week with my eyes locked on the screen. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with this show – from the drama and the competitiveness to the endless underdog stories, it was the perfect show in my mind. However, looking back now, I’m afraid that love comes from a place of ignorance. Now, with a much better understanding of the world around me and the ability to recognize flaws in the history of the show, it has become difficult for me to enjoy watching it as I once did.

CBS’s “Big Brother” and “Survivor” both have questionable histories, mostly when it comes to their casting techniques or the actors themselves. Both series have historically struggled to achieve proportional representation in terms of diversity. One of the most important controversies is easily “Survivor: Cook Islands”. It was a completely racially divided season, featuring four tribes all separated based on their ethnicity. Ironically, this season was the second most diverse season in the entire franchise, despite the overwhelming controversy surrounding this season’s format. “Big Brother 15” and “Big Brother 21” have been the subject of major controversy due to the countless racist, homophobic and other discriminatory actions that the actors have shown. The scandals and controversies surrounding these seasons were endless, and honestly, I don’t think a recent season has gone by without producing many scandals. Candidates are broadcast live 24/7, so people are watching their every move and listening to every word they say. They don’t seem to care, as a number of them have lost their jobs and slandered their names because of their completely offensive words and actions on the show.

Even without these scandals, the casting measures taken by CBS for these shows are horrendous, with a complete lack of diversity in the majority of them. In this issue is a plethora of cast members with microaggressions, and quite a few making comments that are completely race-insensitive, and even ableist. By continuing to cast people like that, it’s ruined countless seasons. Each season of “Big Brother” featured a maximum of 1-2 members of the LGBTQ + community, a handful of non-white individuals – and if we’re lucky they won’t be the prime targets of the “white majority. “alliances or groups – and very few people over 30 in many seasons. However, from this year on, everything apparently started to change. CBS has sworn that all future players in these franchises will be at least 50% black, native and of color. That commitment was honored and the cast of “Big Brother 23” this summer consisted of 8 non-white actors and 4 members of the LGBTQ + cast – making history for the series. I was extremely impressed with the diversity within the cast as a whole, and at this point the only thing that could improve this cast is for the first black winner to come this season. To my delight, the final six of this season consisted of the six blacks in the cast, guaranteeing the first black to win in franchise history. After 23 seasons, there would finally be a black winner.

While the new cast of “Survivor 41” looks promising and lives up to the show’s commitment to diversity, I’m excited to see if the new season (and the new era) lives up to the hype that its counterpart, “Big Brother”, has created for this. I think the media have a lot of work to do in terms of content diversification. While I appreciate the action taken by CBS and other producers, I think this is an area where they should always improve. Despite the improvements, I think reality TV shows can further diversify their cast when it comes to showcasing more cultural and ethnic diversity, LGBTQ + representation, and a wider range of age groups. When people watch TV, many want someone they can connect with and relate to, and without programs that are inclusive for everyone, this will never be truly achievable.


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