After a season of drama and outbursts, one can’t help but wonder if the contestants of the reality television shows are put through strenuous enough of a mental screening. With Big Brother 11 contestant, Chima Simone, opting to break as many of the rules as possible and being expelled from the house by the production team, there have been questions as to whether there is enough screening done before the shows are cast.
Sure, the networks screen the contestants to make sure they don’t have a history of violence or mental health issues that would impact their ability to play the game, but do they put them through screening to determine whether they can handle the pressure cooker situations that they will be living/competing in for the length of their show?
In the case of Big Brother, 12 (or 13 this season) strangers are thrown together in a house to compete for $500,000 with one being evicted each week until only two remain. The winner is determined by a jury of their evicted house guests, which means that there is going to be a lot of scheming, lying and backstabbing amongst the contestants (house guests) that are in the house at any given time. Big Brother’s moniker has always been to “expect the unexpected” and has never failed to live up to it.
This season, 12 house guests entered the Big Brother house, split into 4 ‘high school’ cliques and were set up to compete as teams for the first several weeks of the show. There were 3 house guests per clique, but little did they know that they would be gaining a 13th houseguest following their first competition for head of household. The first episode of the season revealed both of these things to viewers, as well as to the house guests who had already been in the house for a short period of time.
Once the show began to air, it was clear that there were distinct lines drawn in the sand when Big Brother 10 contestant, Jessie Godderez walked through the door to take his place as the first head of household. From the time Godderez entered the house, star struck house guests flocked around him as the more experienced leader. Those who did not follow his lead were the first to be picked off until America was given the chance to give one houseguest the power of “Coup de’Teat” which allowed them to overthrow one or both of the head of household’s nominees and choose who replaced them for eviction.
The houseguest America chose was Jeff Schroeder, who did not use the power the first week it was given, since it would not have been beneficial to his game, but it was used the second and last week that it was in play. Chima, along with the rest of the house guests, knew this power was out there and made it quite clear that she would cause a disturbance during the live eviction show if the power was used. This lead CBS to do something that had never been done before, they taped the show in the morning to air later that evening.
When the show aired, Julie Chen asked if the Coup was going to be used and Jeff stood up, effectively overthrowing Chima’s head of household reign by taking the nominees, Russell Kairouz and Lydia Tavera, off the block and replacing them with his own, Natalie Martinez and Jessie Godderez. Godderez was then voted out by his fellow house guests, setting him up as the first member of the 7 person jury who would determine the winner. The rest of the show went off without much of a hitch, but it was apparent after the live Internet feeds returned that all was not well in the house.
Those who watch the live Internet feeds, along with Big Brother After Dark on Showtime, quickly gathered that in the hours since the eviction happened, there had been several explosions among the house guests and tensions were running quite high. With Michelle as the new head of household, people began their normal campaign of “don’t put me up, put so-and-so up.” While Michelle Noonan listened, she was not going to be listening to what others suggested, she had a target in mind and no one was going to sway her.
When the nominations happened the following day, the real problems began. Michelle chose to nominate both Natalie and Chima for eviction after being on their side during the previous week when Chima was head of household. Chima couldn’t handle it, she had confrontations with fellow house guests Russell and Braden Bacha during previous weeks, but her explosion this time was epic. Those who subscribe to the live Internet feeds were able to watch Chima flip out on Russell, Jeff, and Michelle, along with defying the rules that they all agree to upon entering the house.
Chima refused to wear her microphone, she also refused to get up from bed to make trips to the Diary Room or interact with her fellow house guests. She also continually back-talked the production, cussing at them through the cameras, flipping them off and even cussing in the diary room when she was in there. Things got worse as the day went on and viewers of the After Dark show got to watch Chima willingly destroy her microphone. After several warnings from production to put her microphone on, fellow houseguest, Natalie went and retrieved it from the bedroom for Chima. Chima, after being handed the microphone pack, turned around and threw it across the yard, causing it to land in the whirlpool spa. The pack was fished from the spa and traded out for a different one, which Chima still refused to wear for some time.
Eventually, Chima gave in to wearing the microphone pack, but still refused to follow other rules, such as to not obstruct the camera with a sheet. Not only did she do that, but something else ended up broken during this time, either a light or a piece of decoration. Late into the evening, Executive Producer Allison Grodner made a visit to the house to speak to Chima in an attempt to resolve problems. After some time, it was clear that Chima would not be returning and Grodner made the announcement that, due to the blatant rule breaking, Chima had to be expelled from the game. Her things were packed for her and that was the end of Chima’s time in the game.
Now, this all has a point. Chima is the 3rd person to be expelled from the Big Brother house in 11 seasons. The first was Justin Sebik, who was expelled from the house for holding a knife to the throat of a fellow houseguest. The second was Scott Weintraub, who was expelled from the house for throwing furniture. Chima makes the third expulsion from the game, but they are not the only ones who have been removed from reality television shows for behavior problems. They also won’t be the last, more than likely.
With the publicity surrounding Chima’s expulsion, one can hope that the casting and production teams for these shows will re-evaluate the way things are done. It’s hard to tell what the ultimate cause of Chima’s declining behavior during the game, whether it was the pressure cooker of the game, the lack of seeing someone other than fellow house guests or other personal influences that led to the demise of Chima, but one thing is clear; changes need to be made in the way these shows are handled.
When most reality shows are filmed, the contestants have contact with people other than their fellow contestants. They may not have contact with the outside world and what is going on in it, but they get to see and talk to the camera people, the production team and others who have to do with the production of the show. So while they are isolated from the outside world, they aren’t isolated to the point where they only ever see their fellow contestants. In those cases where contestants don’t see anyone else, there is always more drama, but when does the line get drawn between drama and endangering oneself and the fellow contestants.
My personal feelings on the matter are as such; despite my love for reality television, I feel that they need to consider changing the way things are done. This is most especially necessary when there is a situation where people are going to be completely and totally isolated. Perhaps a more extensive mental health screening or a more in depth background check. Sure, the drama makes for great ratings and television viewing, but at whose expense? Is the prize worth the problems?