“Big Brother” Is Undeniably Racist

While the racism is clear to fans, the producers still try to cover it up in editing.

Monty Brinton/CBS

Three people of color left the Big Brother house on the same night amidst blatant racism and all sorts of other nasty behavior from the other contestants.

CBS' reality mainstay follows a group of houseguests stuck together in a house full of cameras as they compete for a monetary prize. To truly live up to the Orwellian implications of the title Big Brother, the show streams live footage of the cast 24 hours a day on the CBS All Access app. But what was once a summer guilty pleasure feels extra dirty this year, thanks to racially-charged bullying and disgusting comments from half of the show's contestants. But what's just as bad as the racism in the house is the producers' attempts to ignore it.

Racial lines were drawn from day one, when Camp Director Jackson selected Jess, a Latina woman, David, an African American, and Ovi, a Bangladeshi American, for possible banishment. Later, David, Ovi, and Kemi, a black female, were the first evicted and sent to Camp Comeback, a twist that allowed them to remain in the house to await a chance to re-enter the game. Viewers certainly noticed the race-based decisions of those in power. David went so far as to say, "Camp Comeback is looking real colorful," causing the live feeds to quickly switch off him.

Jack and Jackson, two physically fit white dudes, remain the two biggest problems. On the feeds, Aquaman-wannabe, Jack, was caught saying, "F**king Kemi makes me want to stomp a f**king mud hole through her chest." Jackson said he wanted to "cut this tumor out of us because she's a cancer on the house." What did Kemi do to deserve this treatment? She simply existed. But instead of showing footage in the episodes of Jack calling her "dogsh*t," "toxic," and a "f**king maggot," producers aired a clip of the Jacks insincerely comforting Kemi.

The show's production team is breaking a sweat trying to give Jack and Jackson glorified nice-guy edits, repeatedly refusing to acknowledge their racist overtones. The hate seems to be contagious, as many other houseguests are guilty of similar behavior. After David temporarily exited on Day 1, houseguests reamed him for being "a villain," "terrifying," "intimidating," and "disrespectful." David was only in the house for a few hours, yet the hate machine churned against him. And then there's Nick, a children's therapist, who said he wanted to spit in Kemi's face because "she's a piece of sh*t." Think this will make it on air? Don't hold your breath.

BB21 Nick wants to spit on Kemi

So, when exactly did Big Brother turn into a dumpster fire?

This isn't the first time the show has faced accusations of racism. In 2013, four season 15 houseguests were fired for similar racist behavior. When the episodes' edits reflected what was actually happening, live feed fans felt vindicated that the racism and ugliness they witnessed was finally exposed on national television. When Aaryn Gries was evicted, host Julie Chen Moonves grilled the Texan college student, reading back all the disgusting comments she dished out on the feeds. It was a savage serving of justice. But it's not likely that a similar reckoning will happen in BB21. Kemi, David, and Ovi deserve better.

Adding salt to the wound, producers tried to manipulate Kemi to act like a racist stereotype. Kemi told other houseguests, "I think I'm portrayed as a bitch. One-hundred percent. They were like, 'Oh, why don't you, like, wag your finger and be like, 'Uh uh girlfriend.' I'm like, 'I don't even talk like that,' I literally don't talk like that, so, like, what are you trying to do?"

On the feeds, Kemi was sweet, hilarious, and loyal to her friends, yet the show worked overtime to paint her as a villain to excuse the other houseguests' racist behavior and opinions. If disliking someone's cooking and putting her water bottle in the fridge are reasons for this much hate, then this is a cruel world.

The show has a long history of hiding bigoted remarks from the designated Golden Child of the season, but Twitter is tired of the BS, defending Kemi and calling out the show.

Even former houseguests are stepping up. Audrey Middleton (the show's first trans contestant), recently called the show a "completely corrupt operation," tweeting, "They protect the worst individuals on the show and undermine the edits of the minorities because they need people to keep watching. They can't exploit the Jacks because they need to be likable for the long game to retain viewership. They represent those that suit them. If you don't, they will discredit, sabotage, and exploit those who they deem lesser than to limit their voice."

If the show is a microcosm of American society, it's clear we have a long way to go towards equality. While you can't always control what people say or do inside a pressure cooker like the Big Brother house, purposely altering the narrative or changing the context of houseguest's character isn't editing magic, it's unethical deception. As the novel 1984 warns, Big Brother is always watching. But heads up, Big Brother, so are we.


Blood Orange's "Angel's Pulse" Mixtape Is a Colorful Coda to "Negro Swan"

Pulse is minimalist but carries a message, beckoning listeners to figure themselves out while he's also trying to self-reflect.

Last year Blood Orange (né Dev Hynes) released the acclaimed Negro Swan, a stream of consciousness that served as a treatise on identity politics.

He explored what it meant to be black and depressed in a heteronormative society that seemingly rejects those who are different. On his new release, the Angel's Pulse mixtape, he continues his existential journey with 30+ new minutes that complement his catalogue like a colorful, free-flowing coda.

Like on Swan, Hynes fuses elements of R&B, hip-hop, and alt-pop to create tracks that are chillwave-adjacent. On board lending their talents are Toro y Moi, Kelsey Lu, Ian Isiah, Project Pat, Gangsta Boo, Tinashe, Porches, Arca, Joba of Brockhampton, Justine Skye, and BennY RevivaL, but the production and mixing are all Hynes's unique voice and flow.

"I put as much work and care into it as I do with the albums I've released, but for some reason trained myself into not releasing things the rate at which I make them. I'm older now though, and life is unpredictable and terrifying," said Hynes in a statement.

Pulse is minimalist but carries a message, beckoning listeners to figure themselves out while he's also trying to self-reflect. "What is it you notice all that way down? Our vacant sounds can help you figure it out," he sings on "Baby Florence (Figure)."

His ideas may individually seem like abstracts, but Pulse is an introspective downtempo collection that casts a much wider net, navigating pain, a broken heart, confusion, and the fear of lost connection. On "Tuesday Feeling (Choose to Stay)," he laments choosing "to ignore blues," while feeling scattered and misunderstood. "I want the lifestyle for free, I want the p**sy for free, an arm around me to grieve, a sleep without sweat and me, my self doubts in a tweet, my mood rests on coffee, try to understand me."

As with past releases, he's anxious about merely existing, yet confronts those feelings of unrest head on. On "Happiness," he asks, "How do you know when life will choose to fade away? How do you know if you've been wrong?" Fifteen years and five releases later, Hynes is still searching for meaning and answers in these tumultuous times.

Blood Orange records have always been about stepping out and owning one's differences. Musically, his mellow, moody beats and macro concepts make him a standout, yet thematically Hynes appears uncertain and wavering...and it's a relief to hear someone cop to that. On the mixtape's closer, "Today," he sings, "Loose touch and confidence never seems the same, eyesight stays clearer when selfishness became number one and chewing gum you were afraid, big mistake in stepping out...Nothing good today."

Hynes has always boldly represented himself with his originality, lush melodies, and poignant creative direction, never failing to unravel new layers of himself, both sonically and spiritually. On Pulse, Hynes proves to be the genre-spanning auteur we always knew he was. By continuing to focus on his insecurities and anxieties, he shows us that everyone—everything—is a work in progress and that recognizing imperfection is our greatest strength.

Angel's Pulse


How “The Real World” Reclaimed Relevance Through Diversity

For this new go-around, The Real World: Atlanta raised the casting age limit from 24 to 34, resulting in five cast members who add significant depth to the reboot.

Facebook Watch

It's been two years since the last iteration of MTV's The Real World disgraced our screens. Now it's back, and most surprisingly, The Real World: Atlanta doesn't suck.

Moving the series to Facebook Watch, producers hit the reset button, rebooting the franchise to enmesh it with social media and today's consumer culture. Even when the show treads on well-worn tropes à la the "religious southern virgin," it harks back to what we originally loved about it: different people from all walks of life coming together, learning from each other, and confronting the status quo.

When The Real World launched in 1992, it was a ground-breaking social experiment hailed for its documentary-style depiction of issues like abortion, substance abuse, and death. Its representation of sexuality and race served as an educational tool for a young early-'90s MTV generation. At 9 years old, Julie and Kevin's New York argument was the first time I really considered racial differences, and Pedro Zamora's activism on the San Francisco season helped explain homosexuality and the AIDS epidemic to me in ways my parents couldn't.

In recent years, the series has shapeshifted repeatedly, disintegrating into a heaping mess of producer manipulation and sadness. Stunt casting's led to unstable situations that seemed like mental warfare on its participants: Exes moved into the house as permanent roomies on Real World: Ex-Plosion, while former enemies moved in on Skeletons and Bad Blood, which were equal parts cloying and distasteful. The show became a hollow shell of its former self, an extravagant circus act that threw ethics entirely out the window. If you bailed on the series miles back, no one would blame you.

But for this new go-around, The Real World: Atlanta raised the casting age limit from 24 to 34, resulting in five cast members who add significant depth to the reboot. Four of its seven cast members are minorities, leaning into the cultural demand for more diverse representation on our TV screens. Highlights include: Yasmin, a half-Muslim pansexual art teacher and champion of body positivity; Arely, a Mexican DACA recipient and mother to a four-year-old; Dondre, a pansexual black man who's vocal about supporting Trump and the wall; and Justin, a Georgia State University grad focused on African-American equality and social justice issues.

For the first time in a long time, the cast actually has something to say, and the diversity in the house has led to storylines that largely match up with today's most pressing issues. Arely's politically-charged immigration story—she can't complete her nursing exams due to her DACA status—conflicts with Dondre's strict Republican opinions, setting off Justin, who can't fathom how a black LGBTQIA person could ever support the current president.

And then there's Meagan, the virgin from Louisiana who's the easiest target of the bunch. After admitting she's not comfortable around homosexuality because of what's written in the Bible ("The ones that are shoving it down my throat, I can't deal with...because in the Bible it says one man and one woman"), her roommates pointed out Christian teachings commonly overlooked in everyday society, even by devout Catholics. Dondre went so far to ask her, "Are you half-assing your religion?" His question sent her into a spiral.

Meagan confessed, "What they're saying makes so much sense, and I almost feel this guilt for saying that. If there are other things in the Bible that we do, why is that one thing not OK? I feel like my whole identity is being challenged."

In the most recent episode, Tovah, a social worker from Arizona, discussed her sexual assault with her roommates, admitting that she lost her virginity when she was raped at 17.

"He started texting me and harassing me, like, 'I raped you. Have a great f**ed up life,'" she told the house. "It definitely changed who I was. It's a big part of how I act around people, how I view sex, how I view relationships," she continued in a confessional.

These seven new strangers aren't afraid to open up, resulting in a season that's as back to basics as we're likely to get. Thanks to its diversified casting and focus on issues affecting Americans today, the Atlanta season is a return to form. Is it perfect? Hell no. (The words and graphics plastered over every scene is damn near infuriating, for one.) The show will never reclaim its San Francisco or Seattle glory days, but it's still a refreshing pivot that could extend the franchise's life expectancy...if it can continue avoiding off-brand twists. Come for the topical life discussions and stay for the club treks, hot tub makeouts, and drunken verbal brawls; it's still The Real World, after all.

The Real World Atlanta: Official Trailer