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Home > Media

Big Brother: the D-Day Connection

12 June 2004

D-Day and Big Brother are seemingly unrelated events: one was a massive air and sea invasion in 1944, the other is a bunch of divs in a house. And we can only fantasise about the Big Brother housemates being cut to ribbons by machine-guns on Omaha beach.

However, certain pundits have managed to make a connection between D-Day and Big Brother, namely: today's society is selfish, self-centred and dissolute, while the war generation was self-sacrificing, stoical and courageous. (The Mail's Peter Hitchens went as far to say that Britain is no longer 'morally or physically' capable of fighting World War 2, as though there's a possibility of it starting up again tomorrow.)

These comparisons are, to put it mildly, weird. Big Brother isn't a representative snapshot of contemporary society. If anything, it's quite an offensive portrayal of young(ish) people. The reasons are obvious - BB couldn't afford to be as dull as last year, so the contestants have been chosen with ratings in mind.

There are some obvious conflict-based choices, most obviously putting gay contestants alongside self-confessed homophobe Ahmed. BB has also drafted in people who probably don't have any qualms about getting naked and/or fucking on TV, and the obligatory thicko to come up with amusing/depressingly ignorant comments. As a bonus, they've got a black contestant who puts race relations back 40 years. Fo shizzle.

In some ways, the BB housemates represent societal trends. They've got the gormless shoutiness that so many people mistake for having a personality, and Vanessa, 26, is exactly the sort of not-very-academic student that the relentless expansion of higher education has created (Vanessa is of course studying business studies). But on the whole they're prancing fools. They may as well have filled the house with pissed monkeys. On acid. With guns.

But even if the BB housemates and the dribbling morons sending text messages to Big Brother's Little Brother represent the antithesis of the war generation, should we really be making this tenuous comparison in the first place?

The problem with pundits like Peter Hitchens is that they can't make the intellectual leap from merely finding things to complain about to making any sort of sensible comment about society. Why, in an age of relative prosperity and abundance, do we need to be frugal? In 2004, all of us should be thinking about leading a satisfying, enjoyable and worthwhile life, not learning how to strip a Bren gun. You can bemoan a general 'lack of discipline' and other social ills, but simply harking back to 1944 isn't going to solve any problems.

And if you think we should live in a society united by a common purpose, where physical fitness was paramount and large sections of society were ready for immediate military mobilisation, you might care to remember it's already been tried.

Seig Heil!

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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