Tuesday, 31 May 2011

10 reasons why Question Time is like Big Brother

As part of my new year's resolutions and after being inspired by the likes of Greg Jericho/Grog's Gamut, I said I'd write a blog on something I'd researched on a bi-monthly basis. Instead, I came up with this; the blog equivalent of a forwarded email.  

Fuck it, I'll do better next time.

In any case, I've been reflecting on our House of Representatives' behaviour during Question Time, and it occurred to me today that there are several striking parallels to Big Brother. 

Before I get settled in to my argument, I have a confession to make. I loved Big Brother. I watched it religiously for every single season it was on air (I don't count the last one because Gretel wasn't hosting). I bought a 3 mobile phone so I could watch it in bed even before they had Big Brother Up Late with Mike Goldman et al. Inexplicably, I bought TWO rubber egg-laying chickens, a lanyard and a BB06 cap from the website when I wasn't busy tying up my employer's bandwidth watching the live streaming from the house that I had bought a subscription for.  And, naturally, I voted. A lot. I think it's fair to say that I was a Certifiable Big Brother Tragic.

There have been several times when I've seen parallels with life and Big Brother (which, being a reality TV show, is not entirely unsurprising). I like observing people (including myself) make new friends in large groups of people - reminds me of the first night of the show. In those sorts of situations, you often find yourself thinking, "Who are the cool kids? Who is likely to be a wanker? Who secretly has a penis?" and as you get to know people and get sick of them you can start drawing parallels to The Lord of the Flies, but that's a whole other blog post.

So now that you all think less of me, I'll continue.  Courtesy of Blogspot, I will now proceed to intellectualise my trashy TV viewing because I'm comparing it to politics, surely one of the most intellectual pursuits of all, by answering the question: Why is Question Time like Big Brother?

1.  There are rules enforced by an all-seeing entity.

Your all-seeing entity is either Big Brother himself or in the case of QT, Mr Harry Jenkins, MP.  True, their execution is slightly different; BB tends to announce himself by saying "This is Big Brother" and the housemates promptly STFU, whereas Harry exerts his rule of law by howling "OOOORDAAAHHHH" optimistically throughout the House while his subordinates pay little to no attention until he really decides to throw his toys out of his pram.  In either case, people may get bitchy when these rules are enforced, and some may choose to completely ignore them at their peril. Regardless, everyone enters the House in the full knowledge of The Rules.

2. The House is a place for prop-related stunts.

In the case of BB, it's Friday Night Live's It's a Knock Out style antics. In the case of QT, it's someone organising a stuffed toy to be waved around in a taunting fashion, or a massive fold out prop (subsequently dismantled) that was employed to make a point. Either way, it's guaranteed to be a visual feast and bring plenty of laughs*.

*laughing with derision is still laughing

3. People in The House need to talk things through... publicly.

Members of the House can take time out to talk through their thoughts/agendas. In both cases, they're obligated to, either by a weekly visit to the Diary Room (BB) or to be seen to be doing something by their constituents, members of the House of Representatives can be seen asking Dorothy Dixers as required (QT).  

Herein lies a small but significant difference... if you talk about things that are too private on BB, it's celebrated! They've forgotten the cameras were on and they talked about the time they got pissed with their friends and had group sex with a primate! Woohoo! Whereas even a far less extreme story can cause headlines if the lines of privacy are even perceived to have been crossed in Parliament.

4. People in the House can go too far and scare the shit out of small children.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

5. Loving relationships form within the House.

You name it, if it was Chrissie and Peter (of Dancing Doona fame), Jess and Marty (who got married after the show, and then divorced) or Kernot and Evans (don't even think about it, you'll hurt your brain if you go visual with that one), love is in the air in the House.

6. Very rarely did a chick win the most important vote.

7. Both are set in irrelevant locations.

Would you go to Canberra if it weren't the nation's capital? ...sorry, silly question.

I won't even bother asking you about Coomera (that's where Dreamworld is, by the way).

8. People like to comment on what's going on in the House.

Gretel and Mike became expert. They got to know exactly what made the housemates tick, how they were likely to react to certain upcoming challenges, how they would deal with nomination for eviction, etc. On the other hand, Andrew Bolt can go fuck himself.

9. Name calling, goading and other generally immature behaviours are commonplace.

The difference is in one instance it is conducted by a group of twenty-something bogans locked in a house for three months, in the other it's being conducted by the leaders of our nation who are being paid to represent us. Depressing really, no wonder Harry gets so damn cranky.

10. Ultimately, the people have their say.

In BB, the housemates are locked into the House for 3 months, for a Parliamentarian, it's 3 years. In both cases, people are free to leave earlier than this, however it pisses off producers and voters respectively.

After a week of being in the House, BB contestants are nominated and face eviction. Eviction is a glorious time where viewers can seek revenge on that person who has severely pissed them off throughout the series or wronged one of their favourite housemates. Once they're evicted, the housemates leave to go on stage with Gretel for a goodbye interview, get pissed, make some money with appearances in line with their rapidly-declining fame, and then, usually, fade into oblivion.

Really not all that different in politics. Think about Maxine McKew's goodbye interview in 2010...

Considering the amount of attention the colour of Gillard's hair got throughout the election (and the less said of Abbott's choice of swimwear, the better) in a lot of ways I'm not entirely sure people always make decisions based on more than the superficial when they're voting for who's going to represent us.  At least in Big Brother we can bitch about the producers who chose shitty housemates. When it comes to Question Time, we've got no one to blame but ourselves.


  1. I was reading "The House is a place for prop-related stunts" and recall senate estimates last week. In community services the sitting was adjourned so Eric could enter and meet the senators. Hilarious!