Thursday, January 18, 2007

English Chavs in Racism Shock

I can't watch Big Brother from here, though, to be honest I haven't watched an episode of the show since Nasty Nick Bateman got bumped off it back in the first series. Since then it appears the nastiness has become more in vogue if the reported treatment of Shilpa Shetty is anything to go by. What is it actually like there? I get only reports from British media sources that divulge little of the magnitude of the story; there have been good pieces in The Guardian by Hari Kunzru and occasional fruitbat Germaine Greer. Kunzru's piece is particularly interesting as it notes the slightly pompous disposition of the Bollywood actress, which ruffled the feathers of the chavs a bit too much. As horrendous as the racism is, I can't find it terribly shocking either. Did anyone seriously think that English lumpenproleterians, with zero awareness, never mind knowledge, of Johnny Foreigner, would act any different when put in a room with an Asian actress, who, unlike them, can actually be called genuinely famous, known to hundreds of millions of people? Trying to exonerate one of the other tenants, who, it was suspected had called her a 'Paki', by claiming that he only called her a 'cunt' is one of the greatest pieces of mendacity yet proffered by Channel 4. And there is some stiff competition for that.

Being detached from it all I suddenly feel the yen for British TV, if not quite Big Brother itself. The farrago and its ins and outs remind me of those questions that people in English-speaking countries asked expats living in Paris at the time of the banlieue riots; the riots were far bigger news abroad, where images of burning cars fifteen miles from Paris translated as the city itself being on fire. Is Big Brother all that big over there?