Big surprise on Big Brother

Gary Barling
Big Brother is a television show. It involves putting a bunch of people in a house and giving them no contact with the outside world for a few months. I dislike the show. But I think having a person with a physical disability on it is a great idea. The show is watched by many people in the community. So it may improve people's understanding of the life of a person with a disability. It could do this by showing all the everyday activities that a person with a disability must do.
Posted by: 
Gary Barling on 06/09/2012
The 2012 Big Brother logo.
big brother

It could educate people about disability.

Like Winston Smith in George Orwell's classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, I hate Big Brother. Although I am talking about a TV show rather than the gloomy totalitarian society depicted in the book.

It's great that many people like the TV show for its entertainment value, but I have an idea on how it could also be used to provide some much needed education about people with disabilities. It could be done in a subtle way that does not lecture and beat people over the head to make them feel sorry or guilty for a person with a disability. But rather, that makes obvious what is involved in the daily life of someone living with a disability.

Big Brother

The similarity between the TV show and the book begins and ends with the concept that Big Brother can see everything you do and punish you accordingly. The TV show sticks a bunch of different people, or contestants, into a house for a few months without allowing any connection to the real world. Generally, there is boredom and frayed tempers, rather than camaraderie. The producers are fond of bringing out surprises each year. I don't watch the show. Well okay, I watched the first hour or so this year.

Disability surprise

Imagine if a person with a disability was put into the Big Brother house. By this I mean someone with a significant physical disability who needs extensive support. That support being help and accommodation so they can be there as a contestant just like everyone else.

I am not suggesting this person might be a nicer person or more likely to win. The person with a disability chosen would most likely be as irreverent and as much an extrovert as other contestants usually are. It wouldn't surprise me to know that people with disabilities have applied to take part in the show.

It would be a great opportunity to give the show some educational purpose. Viewers could learn and gain a much better understanding about disability. This format would be an addition to the show's debatable entertainment value. It would show that people with disabilities can be given equal chances even in opportunities such as these. It would also demonstrate the social inclusion we often talk about, which requires real effort.

Showing contestant's experiences

By broadly showing the daily functions of the person with the disability, the viewer could witness the:

  • excessive time and hard work it takes for a person to prepare for the day
  • requirement for a carer to assist in a range of activities
  • adapted or different facilities needed to accommodate a person with a disability
  • thought needed and extra assistance to include the contestant in competitive activities
  • procedures needed to go to bed and the extra rest and sleep often required, in sharp contrast to the regular misbehaviour of the contestants that becomes big news for the show's viewers.

Reaching an audience

The focus on a person with a disability for the show's audience, which includes all kinds of people, would be terrific.

The show does predominantly target a younger audience. It is this audience demographic that would most benefit from exposure to a person with a disability. Young viewers would get much better insight than they receive from any brief encounters in the community, undergraduate textbooks, brief lessons in social studies, and educational stints spent in a wheelchair for an hour or a day.

Channel 9, Channel Ten, or whoever, consider this idea patented. Nonetheless, I won't be holding my breath.

Readers comments (1)

I believe there was already a contestant in the UK who was an amputee. His name was Steve Gill, a double amputee, with only one eye.

There is a great range of disability focused shows on ABC2 - usually on a Wednesday night - that have far more impact and whose subjects are more interesting and intelligent than those on Big Brother. Look them up on iView to watch at your own convenience.

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