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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Thu 15
Oct
2009

Big Brother Is Actually Not Watching You At All

What Max Reckons Big Brother is Actually Not Watching You At AllNine girls were trapped in a big house in Turkey, their every move filmed for the titalation of their captors. Not recently. This was about a month ago. I’m only mentioning it now because a month ago my brain wasn’t working. Back then, I just thought, “That… irony… blog.” That’s as far as I got. But I’m feeling better now, thanks for asking.

So the interesting part is that the girls thought they were on Big Brother. According to reports:

…the women were not abused or harassed sexually, but were told to fight each other, to wear bikinis, and to dance by the villa’s pool.

Upon discovering this was not for a national TV audience but just a couple of horny old men who owned the house (I’m guessing), the girls reacted badly. Apparently they demanded to be released. But they’d signed contracts, promising to stay for at least two months, and the contracts had some pretty serious penalty clauses: tens of thousands of dollars if the girls left early. I guess you call that a pay or play deal.

The girls took the position they’d been duped, so they were essentially being kidnapped. When the police found out, they agreed.

Me, I’m not so sure. It seems the girls’ main objection is that while they were wearing bikinis, dancing by the pool, and talking about their most embarrassing sexual experiences (I’m guessing), not enough people were watching. These degrading, exploitative acts they were pressured to perform, they weren’t broadcast on prime-time. The problem was there was no fame. The mother of one of the girls said:

We were not after the money but we thought our daughter could have the chance of becoming famous if she took part in the contest. But they have duped us all.

Being watched by two sleazy guys wasn’t enough. If it were millions of sleazy guys, that would be okay. But two? That’s sick.

Comments

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Machine Man subscriber Katrina (#847)

Location: SF, CA
Quote: "Good sex is like good Bridge: if you don't have a good partner, you'd better have a good hand." -- Mae West"
Posted: 1836 days ago

Oh come on, the main objection is that the possible future financial gain (ie being famous) was drastically reduced by the fact that the girls would not be visible to more people. They hoped to translate showing off on TV to more lucrative jobs in the future, but if only 2 people view them they likelihood of an actual job that's non-prostitute is probably zero.

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 1836 days ago

I get that! I'm just interested in the idea that the only difference between a reality TV show and a creepy voyeuristic kidnapping is the number of voyeurs.

Simon (#3192)

Location: Melbourne
Quote: "I'd rather be arrogant than wrong"
Posted: 1836 days ago

Well now... said sleazy guys sell footage on Internet, slezy guys get rich, girls get famous, everybody wins!

Karan (#1376)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Quid Quid Latine Dictum Sit, Altum Viditur - Anything said in Latin sounds important"
Posted: 1836 days ago

it was some delicious irony indeed :) it's a question of social acceptability determined by weight of numbers I guess - a large number of people doing something makes it socially acceptable, but one or two makes it unacceptable. We humans are occasionally funny like that :)

Abgrund (#3357)

Location: Atlantis
Quote: ""Redeem your mind from the hockshops of authority." - Ayn Rand"
Posted: 1836 days ago

I was expecting some kind of commentary on laissez-faire and how awesome contract law is. You didn't read the eighty-page Terms of Service that allows Facebook to sell your "private" information? LOSER. But, the not-enough-of-a-bimbo perspective is even better.

Machine Man subscriber Adam Willard (#4231)

Location: Madagascar
Quote: "What unseen pen etched eternal things in the hearts of humankind... but never let them in our minds?"
Posted: 1836 days ago

Totally right! And I think Karan's comments add to an understanding of it, but I definitely don't see how it can be considered kidnapping. It's a pretty crazy (and ironic) world indeed.

Besides, has anyone heard of anyone on a Big Brother reality TV show that's actually gotten a decent job as a result of it? Maybe I'm just out of the loop, but I don't see how this increases someone's job qualifications.

Denzil Ward (#4497)

Location: Indiana
Quote: "Above all else try to have fun because no one leaves this life alive."
Posted: 1836 days ago

Wait the parents weren't interested in the money but their daughter being famous right? Doesn't fame bring money? I think they were just crying that they weren't going to be stars. I think Karen is right as well. Think about how much public opinion dictates political policy (prohibition anyone?)

Linnea1928 (#2654)

Location: Rosemount, MN
Posted: 1835 days ago

OK, I personally think this is seriousfully creepy. I get your point about the irony, but I think it's a big deal. These messed-up creepers lied to a bunch of women (obviously not brilliant women, but still) in order to film their every move.
I would never be on a reality show (I've never actually watched Big Brother) but I'd be totally freaked out too-- I guess I assume a tv show would have rules about where the cameras are and who sees the footage uncensored, whereas these guys had nothing holding them back-- they obvs had no qualms about deceiving these girls to get their rocks off. I mean if they lied about who they were, what else did they lie about? Goodness knows what kind of footage those d-bags recorded.

Joe (#2270)

Location: Campbell, CA, USA
Quote: "I'm subverting the system from the inside. I think."
Posted: 1835 days ago

Yes, the reason people are eager to get on reality TV is not for the relatively small amounts of money that those shows pay, but because they believe (usually falsely, but hope springs eternal) that the exposure will skyrocket them to fame. For fame, they'll trade away their dignity.

Imagine a world where you only think you're a successful author. In reality, some old acquaintance of yours who has become rich enjoys messing with you, has arranged a publishing deal, but no one's buying the books; the weird old rich guy is buying them all. Would it be just the same? You get to write, and get paid for it. But there's no audience.

Machine Man subscriber Lisa (#2587)

Location: Enfield, Connecticut USA
Quote: "outside of dog a book is man's best friend...inside of a dog it's too dark to read--Groucho Marx"
Posted: 1835 days ago

Does Max's stint at the Melbourne Writers Festival constitute a reality show or a kidnapping? There were only a few people watching...but no cameras. Dibs on the filming authors writing in real time reality show. I think Max should be on the first season.
=^..^=

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 1835 days ago

@Linnea1928:
> I assume a tv show would have rules about where the
> cameras are and who sees the footage uncensored

Boy, I dunno about that. Last time I saw Big Brother, they were streaming live, uncensored footage over the internet from cameras in the bedrooms and showers. The only place I can think of that they didn't film was the toilet. But this was a while ago, so later shows may have braved that frontier.

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 1835 days ago

@Joe: STOP TALKING I CAN'T HEAR YOU NA NA NA

Linnea1928 (#2654)

Location: Rosemount, MN
Posted: 1833 days ago

@Max
Fair enough, like I said I don't watch reality shows and I've never seen Big Brother, so I wouldn't know.

Machine Man subscriber Paul (#4496)

Posted: 1831 days ago

We are all a computer Max, it's all a trick on you!!!

Sheng Yi (#710)

Location: Melbourne
Quote: "Oops, I think we amputated the wrong leg. "
Posted: 1830 days ago

@Max and @fellow readers,

I present to you one simple sentence which will enlighten all: "Celebrity is the Opposite of Woman."

Read on: http://dapook.blogspot.com/2007/01/celebrity-is-opposite-of-woman.html

Machine Man subscriber Mike R (#4310)

Posted: 1830 days ago

You're right on Max. Same thing, smaller audience.

Hmmm. Vapid exhibitionists, lurid voyeurs, a world where marketing, entertainment, news, and education collide. And an elaborate high-speed always-on electronic communications network to mainline it straight into our brains.

Max, there's a story idea in there somewhere, and I know just the guy to write it.

P.S. Have you ever read Clarke's "I Remember Babylon"?

Michael Ricksand (#2212)

Location: Terra
Quote: "You do not have a right to be stupid."
Posted: 1820 days ago

In the comic book The Exterminators, I read the same thing concerning the way poultry is treated in slaugherhouses. Carving their beaks off, not giving them any space, torturing them... As individuals, we know that's sick. But as a society, there's no way we'll say no to cheap chicken meat. Which is why I don't eat birds anymore.

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