What happens once you force a bunch of strangers to live together in a house together where they are cut off from the regular world and forced to abide by the rules of an ambiguous figure called “Big Brother?” You get a hit reality TV series! But what happens if these people happen to be celebrities? Say hello to fighting, backstabbing, scheming, and a thunderous controversy. The past season of Celebrity Big Brother UK certainly created a controversy – one that has spread like wildfire across the globe.
It was a culture clash of sorts, with Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty at the core. Unable to pronounce Shilpa’s name, housemate Jackiey Budden set off a spark when she referred to her as “the Indian.” Not only could this be considered insulting, but almost borderline racism. Jade Goody, former S-Club 7 singer Jo O’Meara and ex-beauty queen Danielle Lloyd began to gang up on Shilpa by making derogatory comments about her. Jo claimed that all Indians were so thin because they undercooked their food while Danielle exclaimed that Shilpa “should f**k off home!” Jade also referred to Shilpa as “Shilpa Poppadum” (poppadum is a type of Indian food).
The issue escalated one night when Shilpa and Jade got into an ugly argument which resulted in Jade spitting out inappropriate and aggressive comments drenched in obscenities.
In the real world this racial issue was making headlines all over the world. Channel 4 received over 35,000 complaints as well as petitions, all opposed to the treatment of Shilpa on the show. It had even gone so far as to be brought up within the British Parliament.
Eventually Shilpa Shetty won the show with 63% of the votes and is currently a huge celebrity in the United Kingdom due to the grace and dignity which she carried in the face of adversity. Shilpa maintains that she does not think the girls are racist. Jade, Jo and Danielle have all publicly apologised. Truly, these three girls are paying a costly price for their despicable words, with each of their careers destroyed. Shilpa, on the other hand, has made her country proud and has apparently raked in offers like starring in Bombay Dreams, a UK sitcom, a cooking show and creating a perfume of her very own. Not to mention, she recently met Queen Elizabeth!
While we continue to brush racism under the carpet claiming that it doesn’t exist, it has resurfaced through this television show posing an important question for human beings around the world – as much as we deny it, is racism still a factor we are forced to deal with each day? This reality television series has shown us, racism still exists – and in a bigger way than most of us could ever imagine.