Wednesday, June 01, 2005
While the new ‘Big Brother’ fails to excite British TV audiences and viewers seek ever more ingenious ways of avoiding ‘Celebrity Love Island’, a religious lobby group is encouraging pre-emptive protests against one of a large summer crop of new US reality shows, ABC’s ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’.
James Dobson’s influential group Focus on the Family claims that the programme, which has not been aired yet, will portray Christians as “bigoted, self-righteous and judgmental.”
‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’ brings prospective new families into a suburban cul-de-sac. The white families who already live there have their prejudices tested with potential neighbours who include gay, minority and heavily tattooed couples. The winning family gets to move in.
The ABC series is one of nineteen new-launch US television shows that claim to highlight aspects of ‘real life’ ranging from the mundane to the bizarre. Although ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’ has no premiere date, Focus on the Family is giving out the contact details of ABC Entertainment President Susan Lyne on the web so that people can pressurise her.
Meanwhile the president of the American Family Association wants supporters to target sponsors of the programme. "Find out who the advertisers are and contact [them]", he declares. But Mr Tim Wildmon nervously cautions correspondents to “be careful that in your calls to ABC and its sponsors you don't become the stereotype you're protesting.”
Focus on the Family leader James Dobson famously remarked a number of years ago that “[w]hat ... I have called a ‘civil war of values’ continues to rage.”
In Britain some cultural critics of the reality TV craze have tried more positive ways of highlighting its defects.The broadcaster and feminist academic Germaine Greer (who said of ‘Big Brother’, “it isn’t the end of civilization – it is civilization”) decided to go on the celebrity version of the series herself in 2004. But she later quit in disgust.
The international development agency Christian Aid – which works with 40 churches and 600 partners in 50 countries – has offered young people an alternative world view to ‘Big Brother’ through its Global Gang website.The release of the Citizen Ship game for 8-12 year olds was timed coincide with the new 'Big Brother' series that began last week. It is about cooperation and justice rather than competition and hedonism.
Two years ago Christian contestant Cameron Stout, a fish trader from the Orkneys, actually won the UK Channel 4 series. He charmed viewers but was denounced by one critic as ‘terminally boring’.
A 2003 poll revealed that more people in the UK knew the name of the winner of ‘Big Brother’ that year than recognised the name of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
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