Big Brother woke

If you think Big Brother has ‘gone woke’, you clearly never watched it in the first place

Don’t let pointless culture wars make you think this show has been anything other than diverse

You knew it was coming. Of course it was coming. Last night, everyone’s patience for the ITV reimagined reboot of Big Brother launched to 2.5 million – the highest debut the show has had since its heyday in 2006. As a super fan who spends a lot of time amongst other super fans, I know for a fact we all were nervous for the channel to get it right. What a relief then that the launch night was so successful, with a wide range of weird and wonderful housemates of all ages, shapes, sizes, genders, ethnicities and sexualities. Just like Big Brother has always been. But in the current climate, as we watch the right wing press fan the flames of a culture war against diversity and a sheer addiction to the emptiness of the word ‘woke’, it comes as no surprise that a certain corner of the internet is screaming out that Big Brother is box checking for 2023. To this, I’ve got one thing to say: Have you ever watched this programme before?

Big Brother and diversity have gone hand in hand since the very beginning. Channel 4 launched this groundbreaking reality show with the mission statement that it would be a sampling of all walks of UK life, shoved together in a house for two to three months to see what will happen. Yes, in the later Channel 5 era the show waned towards influencers who’d popped up on, say, Ex on the Beach, in the hope that we wouldn’t notice – but in Big Brother’s heyday the show always cast normal people. Diversity was never a Big Brother box checking exercise, just the way the show did things. Nobody cared back then, of course – because words like woke hadn’t been forced down your gullet at every available turn by media outlets you don’t need me to name.

Today, they’re publishing the headlines you knew they were always going to. “Viewers condemn Big Brother for going woke”, etc, etc. Their selective outrage, and that of the viewers who’ve soaked up these culture wars and now think anything that isn’t a white cis person is ‘woke’, is just nonsense. Since Big Brother debuted back in 2000, the show has had two trans winners, gay winners, disabled winners as well as housemates all over the

Woke is a made up word. What does being woke actually mean? Anything other than white? Anything that isn’t cisgender? There’s a reason Big Brother has always had a queer following: It’s a show where LGBTQ people have always felt seen. Big Brother has been creating a space for queer people to be themselves for 25 years, a house where we can educate people who wouldn’t normally encounter anyone other than those they already know. I think often about how Courtney Act went into the house and appeared both in and out of drag, and in doing so had to spend time schooling Ann Widdecombe on why her views are archaic. Six years later, and I fear the normalisation of the views of Widdecombe has made the world feel less like we’re trying to push out old fashioned views, but now we’re under attack for supporting diversity and wanting people to be able to live their authentic lives on and off television.

If you’re watching Big Brother in 2023 and claim it’s woke, you never watched it properly in the first place.

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