This year’s Celebrity Big Brother has got a ‘theme’

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - TELEVISION -

It’s a new year and even Celebrity Big

Brother is try­ing a bit of self-im­prove­ment. It’s not just a place where an ex-Ap­pren­tice con­tes­tant au­di­tions for a me­dia ca­reer or where des­per­ate politi­cians at­tempt to ap­pear like hu­mans, it’s not Jackie Stal­lone pop­ping in out of nowhere to ter­rorise Brigitte Nielsen or Ge­orge Gal­loway squeez­ing into a shiny leo­tard or Pete Burns’s iconic go­rilla coat be­ing ar­rested.

Now it’s about hav­ing a dis­course with its view­ers, ig­nit­ing high­brow de­bates rather than spark­ing Of­com in­ves­ti­ga­tions.In­stead of its usual, bla­tant head­line-grab­bing ten­den­cies, this year its trolling is thinly con­cealed un­der a provoca­tive “mes­sage”. The theme of the show for 2018, is “the year of the woman” with an all-fe­male line-up to ac­knowl­edge the 100-year an­niver­sary of women winning the right to vote in the UK. Which, to go on past Big Brother be­hav­iour, is a bit like those fast-fash­ion sites that sell “The Fu­ture is Fe­male” slo­gan T-shirts made by women slav­ing in sweat­shops.

“If I was to ac­tu­ally go in, this would be the year I’d do it,” host Emma Wil­lis bleats to ev­ery con­tes­tant as if try­ing to con­vince her­self that this is a worth­while so­cial ex­er­cise rather than the stuff Katie Hop­kins’s hate-filled dreams are made of.

Nam­ing the bed­rooms af­ter suf­fragettes or trilling on about “Girl Power” doesn’t erase the air of ma­nip­u­la­tion, the de­sire to turn it into a cat fight where the se­man­tics of fem­i­nism are ripped open over cheap chardon­nay and Ket­tle Chips. It’s a golden op­por­tu­nity for Rod Lid­dle and his crew of bros to chuff “so much for the sisterhood!” in count­less re­dun­dant think-pieces.

It’s the trans­par­ent plot to have no­to­ri­ous con­ser­va­tive Chris­tian Ann Wid­de­combe bunk along­side out­spo­ken trans news­reader In­dia Wil­loughby and for glam­our girl Jess Impiazzi to en­dure the judg­men­tal gaze of

Daily Mail jour­nal­ist Rachel John­son, sis­ter of Boris. It’s a month-long Twit­ter argument with ad breaks.

For all its trum­pet­ing about how im­por­tant this year is, Celebrity Big Brother hasn’t shed its skin, it’s still the Stan­ford Prison Ex­per­i­ment of reality telly, where you can wit­ness the slow, ag­o­nis­ing break­down of a

Hol­lyoaks cast mem­ber or watch an ex-boy­ban­der have an argument about bul­ly­ing while dressed as a giant egg.

Hope­fully it will turn out to be the most un­event­ful year yet al­though ob­vi­ously, a har­mo­nious house akin to Won­der Woman’s is­land is not what the pro­duc­ers have in mind, ea­gerly await­ing the addition of a man to the group (ex-foot­baller John Barnes) which will have turned the all-fe­male utopia into some kind of glo­ri­fied Lynx ad by the time you’re read­ing this. Welcome to 2018 where sis­ters are do­ing it for them­selves but all un­der the un­blink­ing eyes of the Big

Brother pa­tri­archy.

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