Please Explain “Big Brother” to Me


Guys, seriously…

Please explain Big Brother to me.

I’ve been writing for this site for the past 10 years or so, and every summer, like clockwork (or fish flies, or a punctual and virulent strain of televised herpes), this show returns.

I don’t understand it. I mean, I get the basics: a bunch of people are trapped in a house and they have to do things that the house tells them to do, and if they don’t they at least have to have awkward night-vision sex or else the house spits them out like a spray-tanned watermelon seed. The one time I watched, there was a lot of talk of “strategy” and “the game”. I play games. I’m great at Settlers of Catan. I once took down an entire apartmentful of powernerds after 4 tense hours of the Battlestar Galactica game (I was the secret Cylon, and I know how to play dumb – farewell, humanity!). I am not, in other words, a total idiot – and yet this game makes no sense to me whatsoever.


From what I can tell, many of the people on this show are total idiots. And yet they possess some genetic sauce that allows them to excel at maneuvering a round-the-clock Battle Royale where, instead of murdering one another like any self-respecting game of this sort would demand, they are asked to bathe in ice cream and build ziggurats out of foam fingers and oatmeal. If there is a strategy to this, it is beyond my comprehension. Are these people Big Brother savants, incapable of surviving anywhere except for within the walls of this fake house (or possibly, if they are very lucky, in porn)? If that is indeed the case, then I am glad that we have built a sanctuary for them, and can go on with my life with the understanding that this show is merely the equivalent of a live zoocam trained on a litter of endangered baby pandas.

I have actually seen and enjoyed several movies and shows inspired by Big Brother, but they always seem to involve the contestants dying horrible deaths. (One brilliant British zombie miniseries, Dead Set, was actually set on the Big Brother UK compound.) This I could understand the appeal of. Because from what I can tell, CBS actively recruits the most annoying, backwards, unevolved contestants possible for this game. These are people who can ruin a nice dinner out at a quiet restaurant if they get seated next to you. These are people I will change subway cars to avoid having to listen to. Why on earth would anyone want to tune in weekly (or several times a week, is it?) to spend time with them? Or even, heaven forbid, watch a live feed? How about I just sit here and you beat me with a garden hose.


This show is, to me, unfathomably unnecessary. Fans like to use the excuse that it’s summer and there’s nothing else on. Really? Try Vicious. Or Drunk History (which also lets you watch drunk people acting stupid but slips in some historical fact while you aren’t looking). Or spend $7 on Hulu and check out Danger 5 or any of the 3,204 Korean teen romances they have to offer. Do not simply settle for a show about strangers rattling around a glass mansion ruled over by a woman to whom even the fans of the show refer as a robot.

I have six burning Big Brother questions. If you can help with any of them please sound off in the comments!

1. Who is Big Brother? Is there a Big Sister? If so, let me know when she shows up, because that sounds like a party.

2. Is this basically Survivor only without Jeff Probst or the exotic locales, those being the only things that make Survivor worth watching?

3. Do we get to vote on who gets killed first?

4. Do the players know that “veto” is not one of the players’ Italian uncles?

5. Is Julie Chen happy with the choices that she has made in life?

6. Seriously, when do they start killing people?

In recurring relevancy death-rattle “Please Explain…” a longtime contributor asks TheBacklot’s community to help him understand a pop culture phenomenon that makes his brain hurt.

Writer-filmmaker Brian Juergens launched, the world's first website devoted to horror films from a gay perspective, in 2003.