How African is the Big Brother Africa Show?

3 Jun

By Nwanatifu Nwaco

Every year for the past ten years, my friends have by means of cable television, hangout discussion and now Facebook been ardent faithfuls for the BBA show hosted in South Africa.Over these years, I have observed the shows evolution and the impact its themes have on viewers. Bit by bit, I have grown to form a unique kind of opinion about this reality show. In my personal opinion and within a socio-anthropological mindset, this show while this show has the positive side of raising issues of fidelity in a relationship, gender and sexual orientation dialogue, urban versus rural perceptions and attitudes the breaking the conservative stance of many Africans about explicit sexual exposure and content in the media.

DSTV’s BBA is probably one of the most watched on TV event after football all over Africa, coupled by the fact that its participants come from several African countries, this gives it somewhat of a multicultural and pan-African platform and audience that even the general assembly of the African Union or heads of state cannot muster when in camera sessions. Moreover, the fact that viewers can vote on or out the shows contestants as they reflect and match the characters to their own personal fantasies and value judgments. This gives BBA some sought of democratic legitimacy as a people driven show.

In the same way as it breaks many cultural and sexual taboos on a continent labelled as deeply spiritual and socially conservative, it is nonetheless without its own share of criticisms. First of all, the show celebrates patriarchy in its choice of name, exploits the sentimentality of the name ‘Africa’ and promotes the stereotypical perception and feeds the obnoxious narrative of Africa and Africans as being identified and objectified as exotic. It is overtly divisive based on the argument that it’s preference of participants is for ‘Anglophone’ African countries, even though my fellow bilingual Cameroonians and other Francophone  African countries constitute a very huge viewership of the show and have made frantic pleas for membership to the BBA mansion, these pleas have not been considered by the organisers.

What comes into immediate highlight here is the questionable moral boldness behaviour of the contestants, for those who believe African socio-cultural values and morality have a right to be independently defined, not derived from exterior definitions and framing of what and how African perception is. The hundreds thousands cash prize offered to the BBA winner means sane adults for the love of cash are willing to unlearn and deculturalize themselves and live a soft-porn life in camera for the world’s amusement for three months as housemates. With a catchy name and a continental audience, the BBA network sweeps in more profits in advertisements and rebroadcast rights than what it pays to participants as cash prize.

Also, by making the housemates to live in state of the art furnished apartments with the contestants exhibiting all categories of materialist extravagance and asocial habits of smoking, binge drinking and eating, Sexual Adventurism (here)  and voyeurism or its endless economically unproductive talking is totally out of touch with the developmental discuss currently going on in all spheres of activity on the African Continent. At best it paints only a picture of wishful thinking but not the reality of the African continents standard family situation and worse still it creates unworthy to emulate role models for the African youths who constitute its largest audience.

The numerous cliches in the show,  if they were to be fully analysed, would require an end of study course thesis for better understanding. Overall, the concept idea behind this show is not a bad one if I must compliment, I just wish the organisers could use this platform and ratings to prop up many under-exposed and reported efforts and acts to make Africa’s identity of diversity more independent of foreign inspired codes of ethics, morality and sexuality. Else the show is just another marketing stunt with which features Africans.

In your thoughts and perception, how African is the BBA show and how could the producers reform it? 

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