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Reality obscured on CBS’ Big Brother, says Dehnart

Cast of Big Brother 15Accusations of racism, sexism and homophobia among the cast of CBS’s hit show “Big Brother” (pictured right) have show producers defending their decision to censor some comments. Andy Dehnart, visiting assistant professor and director of Stetson’s journalism program, weighed in on the latest drama surrounding the reality TV show now in its 15 season.

Critics of CBS’s decision accuse the network of presenting a false image of the show as well as missing an opportunity to highlight these issues in society.

“These (comments) will probably never air on television if history is a guide,” Dehnart said, “so we’ll likely get a sanitized version of the houseguests instead of editing that reflects their actual personalities, attitudes, and comments.”

Dehnart, reality show critic and author of the blog “Reality Blurred,” recently posted several of the offensive comments in his analysis of the insensitivity of some cast members, as well as CBS’s explanation for keeping certain footage off television. His opinions on the situation are featured in several major media outlets such as The New York Times and NPR.

Contestants on “Big Brother” live together in a house for three months while cameras are rolling 24/7. Even though more than 100 hours of weekly taped footage are edited out for show’s broadcast, viewers can watch the contestants live, 24/7 on CBS’s website.

Viewers who tuned in to the live web cast witnessed several of the cast making offensive racist, homophobic and sexist insults towards each other.

On his blog Dehnart provided examples of the offensive language that had stirred up trouble for CBS, which originally didn’t want to help perpetuate bigotry. However, social commentators viewed hiding bigotry as a way of endorsing it.

“What really needs attention is the fact that, by not broadcasting the bigoted comments — which I understand would be challenging to do with sensitivity — the television version presents distorted images of the cast members,” said Dehnart

CBS answered its critics by airing some of the offensive remarks in newer episodes, as well as releasing this public statement:

“We are very mindful of the important issues that have been raised by these recent comments. With regard to the broadcast version, we are weighing carefully issues of broadcast standards, an obligation to inform the audience of important elements that influence the competition, and sensitivity to how any inappropriate comments are presented.”

Still, Dehnart and other critics believe CBS is being disingenuous as it pertains to the issue.

“The important discussion that I hope people have as a result of this is about how a broadcast television show has for years been presenting a different reality and hiding behind a pretend moral high ground while continuing to profit off awfulness,” said Dehnart.