Big Brother’s big bashing

200Pt Bb Davidgraham
Oh. My. God. (sorry, but you have to punctuate like that sometimes when you’re a blogger.) Big Brother contestant David Graham came out in the house last week. That’s right – he actually admitted he was gay, in public. Now that’s the kind of edgy stuff that makes Australia’s longest-running reality show truly avant-garde television. By 1960s standards.

Clever approach by the BB producers, though. Ensure an issue of sexuality gets them the controversy-driven headlines they need to get ratings, but that because there presumably aren’t any other gay guys in the house, there won’t actually be any action to trouble the censors.

Plus, because he’s a spunk, there’s a non-threatening piece of eye candy for the pre-pubescent girls who form the show’s core demographic. Much better casting than last year’s token rustic Glenn, who turned out to be a bit seedy.

(Never fear, though, Uncut fans. With 3 models and a nightclub host, there’s enough vapid eye-candy to keep the pages of FHM full for a few months, and satisfy Uncut‘s voyeur audience who don’t mind how boring a show is as long as it contains a smattering of nudity.)

David even cried when he made his confession. How perfect is that? But you have to pity him a little – he won’t know his parents are cool with it until after he gets out, and it must be upsetting. But he ultimately shouldn’t worry about his small town – becoming a BB-grade celebrity surely trumps any rural homophobia.

And David certainly knows about homophobia. What has been genuinely controversial and interesting is the revelation that David was bashed earlier in the year. (Which is not the only revelation in store if his former agent gets his way – let’s hope he doesn’t.) It’s a rather uglier element to add into the story, and it’d be interesting to know whether the producers were aware of it.

The fact is that most gay men – even nice, spunky, beefy ones like David – face violence at some point. And whether it intended to or not, the role BB has played in bringing the national media spotlight onto an ugly problem will probably help enormously. While the Federal Government has spent millions on the violence against women campaign – as it it should have – we don’t often hear that Australia says no to violence against homosexuals as well.

With all the fuss, it’s interesting to contrast Graham with BB01‘s openly-gay Johnny Cass, an Oxford St identity. Then, there just happened to be a gay guy in the house as part of the mix, without any particular fuss or fanfare. That was back in the days when they went for an interesting group of people, before they went in the direction of trying to get everyone to shag.

Now, it’s a big deal. A talking point. Doesn’t feel like it’s six years, later, does it?

David’s also outed himself as something far more embarrassing than being gay – a Nationals supporter. The party must be mortified. If Joh was still around, David would have been seized from the BB house by the Special Branch and locked up in far less comfortable surrounds. Whereas with today’s Nats, let’s just hope BB06‘s pinup boy never wants to get married.

On this occasion – perhaps inadvertenty – Big Brother has brought a genuinely important issue into the spotlight, but it doesn’t genuinely push the boundaries. It’s ultimately about selling advertising and SMS votes. And that seems an appropriate note to end on. So let’s assume that the closet David’s been in for his whole life so far was courtesy of Freedom Furniture.

Dominic Knight

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