Let’s Talk About Why It’s Not OK to Use Bullying as Drama on Reality TV

Big Brother

When it comes to making reality TV, there’s one simple formula which hooks in an audience. Drama.

No matter the show, whether it be about love, living in a house with perfect strangers or living in a house to find the perfect stranger, it’s simply just not as exciting without the gossip, the backstabbing and the tears.

And while this is something a lot of fans live for when it comes to their favourite TV show, there’s one “drama” exercise which should not be tolerated on national television — bullying.

We preach to those we love, and ourselves every day, that we must be kind to one another, that we must lift each other up and that we should learn tolerance and acceptance. But what happens when reality TV sets an entirely different standard?

When did it become socially acceptable to bring each other down on a national platform?

Take Big Brother Australia for example.

For the most part, it’s fun, light and hilariously entertaining, however, this season we’ve seen more than our fair share of housemates deliberately using their time to taunt or make fun of others.

In the case of Hannah Campbell, upon entering the house, she was met with the cold shoulder. There was a self-proclaimed “Queen of the house”, Talia Rycroft, and she wasn’t going to let herself be dethroned.

During her first 24 hours, Campbell was subjected to bitching, gossiping and silent treatment which she, herself felt “bullied”.

Big Brother
Channel 7.

In an interview with TheLatch—, Campbell said after her eviction: “The Big Brother experience is supposed to be so exciting to watch and I just sat down and pretty much watched myself be bullied in front of the whole of Australia,” she said.

While Rycroft said during her post-eviction chat that editing played a huge part in her being portrayed that way, Campbell wasn’t sold.

“I didn’t know how bad it was until I actually watched it,” she said. “I could feel it was bad because everyone was really standoffish with me, so I knew something was up. No one was giving me a chance, no one would talk to me. No one made the effort to get to know me.

“For me personally, it was one of the hardest mind-games I had to play to push everything aside and get my head in the game and not focus on how I was being treated in the house.”

But it’s not just a case of the mean girls we’re seeing.

Daniel Gorringe and Mat Garrick, the self-proclaimed “alphas” of the house have some explaining to do themselves.

We get that there are personality clashes, but outwardly picking on Kieran Richardson is not winning them any fans. In fact, if this was the old format, Garrick and Gorringe probably would have been sent packing ages ago.

People have been taking to Twitter in droves, some saying: “Bullying is out, kindness is in” and “If they’re in the final, they’ve both lost my vote.”

But this type of behaviour is not new. In fact, it happens on most reality TV shows. If you can think of one without any form of bullying, please, let me know.

Take Married at First Sight’s Martha Kalifatidis and Cyrell Paule. Remember the great red wine incident of 2019?

Or what about the “mean girl” trio of Cat Henesy Smith, Romy Poulier and Alicia Aitken-Radburn on Nick “Honeybadger’s” Cummins season of The Bachelor. The women were chastised on social media for their childish behaviour.

All have since redeemed themselves, but at the time, it was painful to watch.

The Bachelor
Network Ten.

So, when is it going to be enough?

It doesn’t just stop at the people on TV.

If the shows are happy to air it, internet trolls are standing-by with the pitchforks, sending death threats, tweeting harsh memes and calling them derogatory names. Is that fair? No? Is it warranted now? Does it seem like the shows give permission for this behaviour to be the norm, I’m going to argue yes.

A producer once told me that the only way to get any screen-time was to cause drama.

“Make it up if necessary,” they said. “Sometimes, the producers will tell us what to say and we’ll have to do it over and over again.”

So, is this the price of fame these days? Sell your soul as a bully? It’s such a vicious and unnecessary cycle.

While a little drama never hurt anybody, one thing is certainly clear. The incessant bullying needs to stop.

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