Reality programming thrives on artifice. Artificial competitions, constraints and, more often than not, contestants who adopt a persona that they think will be more marketable than just being themselves. Big Brother certainly involves a ton of artifice, with twenty four hours of footage edited into a half hour or so by producers crafting a narrative that will bring in the most viewers. But it’s always seemed like the “realest” of the reality shows despite this, and without much else to do, Big Brother contestants often provide an insight into a social demographic viewers might not interact with themselves.
As such, it serves as a sociocultural barometer, and this was evident in the powerful moment in the finale when Ben proposed to his partner (also called Ben). It was genuinely moving, but also demonstrates a cultural shift. Sure, Sonya Kruger may have reacted a bit awkwardly to the proposal, but it’s hard to imagine the same thing warranting such a positive reaction on television ten years ago. I think, perhaps, the significance of the moment was best demonstrated by a comment from one of my Year Eight students who said the next morning – in complete seriousness – “I like gay people now!”