TV Features

The Cycle is Complete: Anthony Scaramucci to Join 'Big Brother' Cast

If the Trump administration proves anything, it's that politics are pop culture. Politics aren't seeping into your favorite shows, your favorite shows are seeping into politics.

You probably remember Anthony Scaramucci, (A.K.A. the Mooch), the former White House Secretary to Donald Trump who was fired after just ten days in the position.

But soon you'll know him more intimately, as a face and voice that appears in your living room more consistently than your teenage children. It's been announced that the Mooch will be a contestant in the next series of Big Brother: Celebrity Edition.

Given Scaramucci's obvious hunger for attention and shockingly poor decision-making skills, this new gig doesn't really come as much of a surprise. While a bragging, gossip-filled late night phone call to a reporter isn't a great look for a high ranking executive branch official, it's exactly the kind of bravado and lack of self-awareness that makes for an excellent reality TV star. We can only hope he'll get drunk and share some top secret information live on CBS, because—treason or not—that's good television.

Scaramucci is actually the second ex-Trump-staffer to appear on the show, after Omarosa Manigault Newman appeared on the first season. As Rolling Stone eloquently puts it, Scaramucci will be joined by a particularly pathetic group of people: "The Mooch joins a desperate cast of has-beens and wannabes including Lindsay Lohan's 'momager,' Dina Lohan, as well as Blossom actor Joey Lawrence and infamous O.J. Simpson houseguest Kato Kaelin. Comedian Tom Green and Real Housewives' Kandi Burruss will also be on the show." The fact that a former White House Secretary is not resting on his laurels in a tenured professorship at an Ivy league, but instead joining the ranks of C-list celebrities empty enough to subject themselves to 24/7 surveillance in the hopes of winning $250,000, is a nauseating reminder of the decay of the boundaries between celebrity and politician.

Popdust asked several real Big Brother fans their thoughts on Scaramucci joining the show, and while most expressed indifference, Erin Murdoch, a long time fan of Big Brother, responded, "You either want to die all the time or you convince yourself reality TV shows aren't deeply evil, and that's the Sophie's choice of our time. Also, Mooch will so quickly be taken down by a dominant Kandi-Jonathan secret alliance. Jonathan Bennett is my pick to win even though in my heart I want Tom Green."

Scaramucci's appointment to the Big Brother house means more than just a sad little man straining for relevance. It means the cycle is complete: the network television to White House pipeline has reversed direction. Working at the White House has become a way to gain experience in order to move into a more important sector: entertainment. In an America where we embrace unstable reality TV stars as democratic leaders, maybe it really has become a genuinely good career move to sign on for a show in which cameras watch you sleep, betray strangers for approval, and wrestle in foam. If Scaramucci wins the show, we may even elect him President! Or maybe not. After all, why run for office if you already have a million Twitter followers?

Most of all, this news indicates that the only sane response to your Republican uncle saying, "Taylor Swift is a singer, she has no business getting political! There shouldn't be any politics in pop culture!" is to throw your head back and laugh a long, hollow, dead-eyed laugh. If the Trump administration proves anything, it's that politics are pop culture. Politics aren't seeping into your favorite shows, your favorite shows are seeping into politics.

In the 2016 election, Americans confirmed once and for all that we ascribe to no true religion or way of life except that which we mindlessly watch at prime time while shoveling lean cuisine into our mouths. In a society that is about the production of content for the amusement and entertainment of an audience—whether that audience is your 200 Instagram followers or CBS' coveted 18-49 demo—politics are just another facet of popular culture: treated as a thing to consume, retweet, watch on TV, and discuss. The cycle is truly complete: reality TV no longer changes to meet reality; reality changes to meet reality TV.

Brooke Ivey Johnson is a Brooklyn based writer, playwright, and human woman. To read more of her work visit her blog or follow her twitter @BrookeIJohnson.

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Billie Eilish — the 16-year-old pop phenom who's likely kept you up at night with the image of a tarantula emerging from her mouth— has risen to new heights of popularity in recent months. Her first hit was "Ocean Eyes", a pseudo-pop-ballad made for suburban dance studio routines and streaming service algorithms. Then, she collaborated with Khalid on "lovely," earning almost 300 million plays on Spotify alone. While these songs were fine, it's only been in recent months that Eilish has begun to make attention-grabbing pop. Her soft, childishly-high voice strikes a haunting note in contrast to the heavy EDM-influenced production of her songs, but the singer's vocal contributions are minimal, as the music's merit is due almost entirely to the distinctive production behind her voice.

For example, "You Should See Me in a Crown" strikes a fresh note in the ever-blurring world of repetitive electro-pop, despite Eilish's vocals sounding like a murmured, half-hearted Lana Del Ray impression. The song's saving grace is its audio production, which makes her otherwise boring vocal performance palatable, putting it against a background of crashing synths and subtle beats. In Billie Eilish's music, the real star sits behind a mixing board.

Granted, the singer herself is aesthetically interesting, with her cherubic face, permanent pout, and frequently blue hair. Her style is distinctive, seemingly in reaction to the tight, skin-baring, trends many female pop stars ascribe to. Eilish is most often seen in almost comically oversized head-to-toe sweats, which — despite making her look like a teenager hiding a pregnancy from her parents — somehow actually makes her cooler. But its an image so effective, so perfectly suited to the soft, but dark, music she sings, it's difficult to believe the entity of Billie Eilish organically occurred. Her image alone is striking enough to sell records and tickets, and her quiet, pure voice — while relatively unexceptional in its own right — is the perfect blank slate for a talented producer. Her music could have been sung by anyone who could hit the notes, and would likely still maintain the same quality.

Truthfully, Billie Eilish is a better product than she is an artist. If you look around the trendy neighborhoods of the world, the Brooklyns and the Shoreditchs, you'll see Eilish everywhere — she's quite literally plastered to the walls. Her enchanting face emerges on instagram feeds as if it appeared organically. This serves to make her seem like an underground act, hanging posters and busking on the subway, when in truth she's anything but. While the 16-year-old is undoubtedly talented, she serves as an interesting example of a label-constructed artist, an artist picked up by a major record company, shaped into a preplanned form, and successfully sold.

At the end of the day, record labels don't like to, and can't afford to, take risks. Signing an artist with some industry success under their belt is a relatively safe bet, as a fanbase has already been established. But when a 15-year-old – like Eilish – comes out of the woodwork with an album on a major label (Eilish is signed to interscope records) it's a good bet that her image and direction were chosen in a boardroom. This doesn't rule out the possibility of Eilish having some artistic say in her work, but it's likely that everything from the oversized clothes to the creepy music videos were a part of a pre-written image.

Fizzy Mag

Of course, manufactured acts are not a new idea, from the Spice Girls to Aaron Carter, record labels have always incubated talent, shaped images, and successfully sold neatly packaged products in the form of pop stars — and no one minded. What makes Billie Eilish different is that what's meant to set her apart, what's supposed to draw in fans, is an anti-establishment, grungy, underground vibe commonly attributed to artists who really did hang posters in Bushwick and busk in the subway before making their big break. Artists like Billie Eilish indicate a new trend in what mainstream music fans want: a hip-hop and rap influenced darkness that doesn't fit the traditionally light, bubble-gum genre of pop. It seems pop music is changing, from the top down, and when the transformation is complete, the genre may be unrecognizable.

Brooke Ivey Johnson is a Brooklyn based writer, playwright, and human woman. To read more of her work visit her blog or follow her twitter @BrookeIJohnson

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