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Monday, February 18, 2008

Autism group vs. Big Brother

An autism group is going after Big Brother (the TV show, not the Orwellian concept):

Autism Group Demands Apology From CBS

Feb 18, 8:45 PM (ET)

NEW YORK (AP) - A national autism advocacy group is demanding an apology from CBS over a disparaging remark a contestant on the reality show "Big Brother" made about people with the disorder.

John Gilmore, executive director of Autism United, said Monday that his group has been trying to speak with CBS executives since last week's broadcast.

On that episode, a contestant named Adam, who claims to work for an autism foundation, said he would spend his winnings on a hair salon for people with developmental disabilities "so retards can get it together and get their hair done."

His partner, Sheila, told him: "Don't call them that."

Adam responded: "Disabled kids. I can call them whatever I want. I work with them all day, OK?"

The show's Web site describes him as a 29-year-old public relations manager from Delray Beach, Fla.

In a statement released Monday, CBS condemned Adam's comments, saying they don't represent opinions held by the network or the program's producers.

"We certainly find the statements made by Adam to be offensive but believe they were countered by the immediate reaction of shock and condemnation from a fellow houseguest, Sheila," the statement said. "Adam's remarks would not have been permitted to air unchallenged."

"Big Brother" also has been condemned for contestants' remarks on incest, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Some contestants have been removed following incidents that were deemed violent or racist.

The premise of the show is that contestants - or "houseguests" - are isolated from the outside world while under constant surveillance. Once a week, they vote to evict a member of the group.

When just two people remain, a jury of voted-off contestants picks the "Big Brother" winner of the $500,000 grand prize.

Autism is a complex disorder featuring poor social interaction and communication skills.

You know, I don't want to appear unsympathetic here. The remark was ridiculous, immature, etc. But the whole demand for an apology seems to show a complete lack of understanding of television in general and reality television in particular. This guy is not representative of CBS or even the show he's on. He's one guy on a reality show who made a stupid remark, a remark that was criticized by those around him. There was no endorsement of his stupidity. He said something offensive and was criticized for it. The message on the show was pretty clear: Calling people that name is a bad idea." I'm with CBS on this one: "We certainly find the statements made by Adam to be offensive but believe they were countered by the immediate reaction of shock and condemnation from a fellow houseguest."

Demand an apology from Adam when he gets out of the house (it doesn't seem possible he'll stay in there very long). But making a big issue out of it with CBS is just silly.


The Acrobatic Flea said...

Not wishing to sound cynical, but having words with Adam once he's out the house would facilitate an apology between the two parties, but launching an attack on CBS gets an organisation international media attention.

Nimbus said...

There's been similar problems over here in the UK regarding Big Brother. Really, it's the fault of the person not the show. And if the acrobatic flea's comment is the case then it's a pretty low and underhanded way of getting some publicity.

But that's Marketing for you, I suppose. :)

Also, isn't the idea of restricting what a contestant can say on this sort of show somewhat Big Brother-ish (the Orwellian concept).