NEW YORK (AP) — A run of ethnically insensitive remarks has continued during filming for the CBS reality TV show “Big Brother,” raising questions about whether the network should be doing more to police it.
One of the cast members on the program, which throws a group of people who don’t know each other in a house together and films them to see how they get along, made remarks during the past week that could be seen as insulting to various ethnic groups.
On the 24-hour Internet feed of the house, Amanda Zuckerman, who’s white, complained about a black cast member putting a headband on her greasy, “nappy-hair head.” She referred to another black housemate as “the dark knight” and “the black mamba,” mocked the accent of a Korean woman and referred to “Puerto Rican showers,” leading to a debate about whether she’s racist.
“I’m just joking,” said Zuckerman, a 28-year-old real estate agent from Boynton Beach, Fla. “I’ve had sex with Puerto Rican guys before.”
Earlier this summer, two other cast members were heard making anti-black comments.
CBS airs “Big Brother” on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday during the summer, but Zuckerman’s remarks haven’t appeared on television.
CBS Corp. chief executive Leslie Moonves, whose wife, Julie Chen, hosts “Big Brother,” said last week he finds some of the behavior on the show “absolutely appalling.”
Public relations executive Joni Hudson-Reynolds, who writes a blog called ebonymompolitics, said young people watch the show and she believes CBS should be doing more to prevent the dissemination of offensive language.
“To just say ‘This is reality television, and these are the kinds of things that are said in regular conversations’ is not enough,” Hudson-Reynolds said. “This is a controlled environment.”
Hudson-Reynolds said she watches “Big Brother” with her teenage daughter, considering it a guilty pleasure. She doesn’t go online to watch the day-to-day interactions. For people who don’t follow it that closely, controversial comments are given greater circulation through compilations that are posted online.
CBS declined to comment further on the insensitive language. It’s unclear whether there’s a built-in delay on the Internet feed of what is going on in the household that would enable producers to cut off offensive talk.
Moonves, speaking to reporters last week, said he believed CBS was handling the situation appropriately.
“We did not comment on some of the racial things being said until it really affected what was going on in the household,” he said.
Author Jennifer Pozner, who wrote “Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV,” said she has a hard time believing show producers didn’t get exactly what they wanted. A show like “Big Brother” is cast with people to increase the likelihood of table-flipping fights, drunken hook-ups and offensive language, she said.
“You know what — it’s appalling, and you created it for that exact reason,” Pozner said. “Why should we believe that you as a network did not get exactly what you wanted?”
“Big Brother,” now in its 15th season, is averaging 7.1 million viewers per episode this season, up 9 percent over last year, the Nielsen ratings company said.
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