Big Brother 17 vet Audrey Middleton is speaking out against the CBS reality show's alleged exploitative treatment of minorities in the wake of recent controversy regarding the show's portrayal of the houseguest Kemi Fakunle and two of the main people behind her eviction, Jack Matthews and Jackson Michie.
On Sunday, Middleton, who was the show's first out trans houseguest, shared about her painful experience on the show in 2015. "I have never said this publicly, mostly out of fear, however, Big Brother doesn't give a sh-- about representation. A week before I was cast I was flown out to LA and *told* I should come out on national television because they were worried about perception," she began.
Middleton claimed that the producer said that, in the wake of Caitlyn Jenner coming out, it would look bad if she didn't come out as trans as soon as the welcome champagne was popped, and she ultimately agreed. She then noted that the following year, the network allowed a trans man to compete on Survivor without having to label himself because "CBS appears to the social climate, at all cost." (The contestant, Zeke Smith, was later publicly outed during the competition by a castmate, who was swiftly sent home.)
"To be completely blunt, in my experience and opinion, like most systems, Big Brother US is a completely corrupt operation whose agenda is solely to make money. Hence, the lack of authenticity from the host, the poorly planned twist, and routine cast with bigoted viewers," Middleton wrote. "They protect the worst individuals on the show and undermine the edits of the minorities because they need people to keep watching. They can't exploit the Jack's because they need to be likable for the long game to retain viewership. They represent those that suit them. If you don't, they will discredit, sabotage and exploit those who they deem lesser than to limit their voice. To be honest, it's much darker, in my experience. Too much to type. If you want justice, force them to change by not watching. I want to support the few left who actually dreamt their whole life to play this game, and also haven't stopped as low as the assholes. After that, their show has nothing left to offer me."
Middleton's Twitter thread was posted in response to a Reality Blurred article published after Kemi's eviction that detailed the show's selective editing when it came to Kemi, who is still living in the house as a result of the Camp Comeback twist; Jack, who was the HOH during Kemi's eviction; and Michie, who is a member of the Gr8ful alliance alongside Jack. The website broke down several examples of how the show's producers have given Jack and Michie a sanitized edit, cutting all examples of the pair talking badly about, and at times even threatening violence against, Kemi from the broadcast episodes that air on CBS.
Viewers who watched the live feeds knew that behind Kemi's back, Jack was shown saying, "F---ing' Kemi makes me want to stomp a f---ing mud hole through her chest," and "I'm gonna f--- you up. God, dude, she gets me so hyped! I f---in' hate -" (At this point, the live feed was cut by producers.) Michie was also seen on the feeds saying he wanted to "cut this tumor out of us, because she's a cancer on the house." Yet on the broadcast episodes, all of Jack and Jackson's antagonistic words regarding Kemi were not shown, while scenes of them comforting her were included. The live feeds also revealed that Jack was warned by producers about his language toward Kemi.
Jack and Michie have also been shown on the live feeds using threatening language toward David Alexander, who was the first person evicted from the house, and potentially even using a racial slur. During a conversation earlier this month in which Jack and Michie plotted to purposefully annoy David, one of the two men (it's unclear who because their backs are turned) seemingly refers to David as the N-word, although the audio is difficult to make out clearly. However, Michie did say in a separate incident that he wanted to "mule-kick [David] in the teeth." None of these moments were included in the episodes that aired on CBS either.
But while the show's broadcast episodes were giving Jack and Jackson a more sympathetic edit, Kemi's screen time focused almost entirely on confrontational or aggressive moments, including a Diary Room segment in which she talked about wanting to get revenge on Jack for nominating her for eviction, saying, "I'm not even the stab-you-in-the-back kind of person, I'm trying to, like, spin you around and slit that throat." After this, Kemi immediately gasped and said, "Don't air that. Oh my god," but the show did air.
Instances like the Diary Room one become even more problematic in light of Kemi telling the other houseguests on the live feeds that a Big Brother producer, whom Kemi identified as Christine, had been pushing her to behave and speak in a way that she wasn't comfortable with. "I think I'm portrayed as a bitch. 100 percent. They were like, Oh, why don't you, like, wag your finger and be like, Uh uh girlfriend. I'm like, I don't even talk like that, so maybe try again, Christine. And she was like, Oh, I mean, I just thought that was an option. Why are you trying to -- I literally don't talk like that, so, like, what are you trying to do?" Kemi told Sam Smith, Nick Maccarone, and Bella Wang.
Prior to her eviction, Kemi also had a conversation about racism in the house with David and Jessica Milagros, who was nominated alongside Kemi and who was referred to as "Consuela" by Jack on one occasion. The trio discussed how everyone who had been sent home or targeted thus far had been people of color and how they believe being a minority in the Big Brother house can be disadvantageous in the game.
"If you're different in any way and it's early on, the decision to get you out is not so much 'no blood on my hands' but also we don't click because naturally we don't click," David said. "That's just a natural thing. It sucks, but that's the thing -- even coming into this, I knew that was a thing that was evident. Is it a disadvantage? Sure, yeah, I mean, if you need every type of advantage in terms of making the communication, the connection, it is a disadvantage. But odds are against you in society and odds are against you in the house. There are opportunities to be successful, so f-- the odds, destroy that sh--. That's my mentality."
Big Brother has a long history of houseguests making bigoted remarks or threats that are then cut from the broadcast edits. But many fans have had enough of what they see as the show enabling Jack and Michie's racist behavior, taking to Twitter to call out the problematic editing this season and defend Kemi. Several are even stating that they are quitting the series in light of these recent incidents.
CBS has not responded to TV Guide's request for comment at this time.
Big Brother 21 airs Sundays at 8/7c and Wednesdays and Thursdays at 9/8c on CBS.
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