"You've been on quite a journey," says Davina. Nikki just looks back blankly, for all the world like a tiny brown Mekon with constipation.
Nikki left the Big Brother house yesterday, to the relief of viewers nationwide. Well, not all of them: Nikki had many supporters among the BB forumgoers. A curious breed, these - we who frequent the net understand that the absence of the social limiters (such as the potential for being smacked in the face) that keep ordinary human discourse from descending into warfare, very much consequent of the internet forum (or BBS as some of us oldsters still like to call it), leads to forum dialectic being of similar tone to a knife fight between toddlers. We expect that. It's stupid, wrong and a distillation of all that is reprehensible in the human race but it's not surprising.
The BB forums (fora? It sounds like the word should be fora) are a little different, not because they don't scream in mindless rage at each other (they do) but because most of the posters are not regular forumgoers. Big Brother is one of those phenomena that actually encourages people who wouldn't ordinarily touch that there interweb with a barge pole to dive right in, ensconced in the comforting context of the TV programme. The BB forums are like a diving bell full of people from the mundane physical world on a day trip into the mysterious depths of the digital.
In short, one expects a little better. One expects such people to default to the behaviour and manners they wield in real-life conversation, to be polite and respectful and insightful in a way that us seasoned webcynics would regard as refreshingly quaint: instead many of them have reproduced Friday night town-centre violence in word form, slagging off anyone who disagrees with their fanatical devotion to their favoured housemate with manic fervour. I won't reproduce examples here (you can go and look for yourself) but it's the kind of childish screeching that gives playgrounds a bad name.
I forwarded a YouTube video of Nikki's now-legendary Bottled Water Tantrum, in which she makes what appears to be medical history by stating that it cures migraines, to a friend in Canada who despises the whole reality TV genre (and who despairs at my addiction to BB) as a demonstration of What Modern Youth Is Like. I have related to her many tales of the vile, stupid, self-centred thugs and thugtarts that infest my home town of Watford but I don't think she's ever completely believed me: Nikki, as the only public representative of my birthplace without a marketing department to limit the full impact (George Michael and Geri Halliwell are everyone else), will surely convince her.
The best thing about Big Brother at the moment is Grace Dent's Radio Times blog. Grace voices the non-moron view of this year's event far better than I can, a reassuring voice of For-Goodness-SAKE-ism among the slavering masses. Reassuring because, more than any previous year, it's hard not to worry that maybe it's me at fault: maybe this really is how ordinary people are now and perhaps it's me that's abnormal. I have exchanged emails with Grace and she tells me that she has been deluged with missives from similarly aggrieved viewers, all of whom were thinking "am I old-fashioned because I don't find this amusing?".
It is for this reason that my sympathies within the house lie firmly with Aisleyne, after Jayne insulted her to her face and immediately flatly denied it, depending on aggression and insistence to persuade Ais (and Michael, standing right next to her) that she had simply imagined it. There's a certain kind of bully that thinks they can make you do or believe anything they wish by being aggressive enough: what is more, they believe themselves to be absolutely justified in this approach, as if the modern world demands such despicably selfish behaviour to get by and that anyone who doesn't think so is a naive loser. A lot of them seem to work in senior management at Sony, actually, but that's a rant for another day.
In Jayne's case the worst of it is that she cannot be punished. She knows she's going to be nominated and voted out as soon as the chance presents itself, so BB's ultimate punishment of ejection has no teeth - she can bully and shoot her mouth off and break every rule in the book, nothing will make her regret her actions. As far as she's concerned, she is in the right. She's keeping it real, she's being honest and not two-faced, she's being herself, not like these other fakes and pretenders.
Any of those italics look familiar? We've heard a lot of those phrases lately, and not just in BB. Behaving in a way guaranteed to offend others, a way that is incompatible with human society, a way that is completely and entirely self-serving and playing it up as a virtue is something we see on the streets every day. In previous years of Big Brother each housemate has made a journey, has come out of the experience changed: this year they just don't seem to be doing that (with the possible exception of Glyn, who has learned to cook an egg and wash his own pants), and as dangerous as it is to make comparisons between society at large and a TV show, it's hard not to.