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Peter Childs

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780748620432

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748620432.001.0001

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TV Show: Big Brother after the Big Other

TV Show: Big Brother after the Big Other

Approach: Performativity Theory

(p.60) Chapter 6 TV Show: Big Brother after the Big Other

Peter Childs

Edinburgh University Press

Big Brother was the first of the high-profile ‘Reality Television’ shows. Pioneered in Holland, it was imported to Britain by the production company Endemol. From the first, the programme was presented as a sociological experiment, in the vein of Stanley Milgram’s socio-psychological 1960s research to measure the willingness of participants to obey instructions conflicting with personal conscience if directed by an authority figure. However, as the show’s popularity increased the pretext of studying how people behave and interact in a house under ‘laboratory conditions’ diminished while criticisms of the programme’s repetitiveness encouraged changes in the show that raised its level of artificiality. Like the televised input of experimental psychologists such as Oxford University’s Dr Peter Collett, interest in people’s social psychology had all but disappeared after a couple of series and been entirely replaced by a fascination with game-show elements allied to the promise of sex and conflict. Big Brother has thus been considered part of a growing phenomenon known as the ‘television of cruelty’, with some contestants diagnosed as suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after appearing.

Keywords:   Performativity Theory, Big Brother, reality TV

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