Listen to this Post Read by the Author:Let the parasocializing begin![/caption]
In a hope to be the tiniest bit productive this summer, I have forgone the purchase of the live feeds and vowed to only watch the main show this year. However, to make it interesting, I will be using my experience as a literature teacher to break down Big Brother’s main show as though it were an Orwellian tale with Dickensian form unfolding each week. In the past, I have integrated the study of Survivor when analyzing such works as The Canterbury Tales and Macbeth, and am confident Big Brother is as primed with literary applicability. So this season I will be avoiding spoilers, After Dark and live feeds, for the sake of watching and writing about Big Brother as a collaboratively crafted story.
Lesson 1: Big Brother Archetypes
A narrative examination of archetypes(common symbols or patterns) as seen in Big Brother would fall under three categories: setting, character and plot.
Our setting, the Big Brother House, mimics three of fourteen established environmental archetypes pretty well: The Boat, The Island and The Small Town. The latter reflects the judgmental spirit of the house and the urgent call to conform within it. The players that fail to conform within The Small Town archetype are persecuted and forced to leave, analogous to the evictees each week. Grendel from the epic poem Beowulf can be viewed as the first societal evictee ever characterized. But, unlike the mere cringing induced by Rachel Reilly, when Grendel burst back through the front door growling, “I’m back bitches,” people got eaten.
Ultimately though, The Island and The Boat do a better job of highlighting the isolation associated with being in the Big Brother house. Plus, The Island archetype matches the Big Brother house in its likelihood to break down a character, for good or ill. One might consider Big Brother 11’s Ronny much like the sacrificial Piggy, in the island-set, Lord of the Flies, being both marginalized and subsequently disposed of.
But at the end of the day, The Boat is the truest archetypal representative of the Culver City stage known as the Big Brother house. Like The Small Town, the close quarters of The Boat provoke a heightened scrutiny of character; And like The Island, there is an isolation and potential for personal enlightenment or degradation; However, The Boat matches The Big Brother house the most because it represents a voyage. The Boat is synonymous with braving a challenging, unknown space. Like Ahab’s search for the elusive white whale, the players of Big Brother are all on a maniacal journey toward a supreme prize. The Boat is also more hopeful than The Small Town/ The Island as it implies a mobility that pairs well with the social, financial and spiritual enhancement possible on Big Brother.
The cast of the Big Brother house are real flesh and blood, and the live feeds and After Dark truly flesh them out as such. But the main show only has so much time to keep us interested in such a vast array of people. This is why the main show characterizes, and often caricatures them. Without question, this implicit labeling by editors, casting, and production aid the audience with remembering who the hell is in the game by making them appear comparable to figures in our own life; however, their contrived resemblance to narrative archetypes is really what gets us invested. For most viewers, a clear delineation of good and evil is comfortable, and Big Brother tends to skew toward this expectation because a certain amount of conflict, the essential ingredient for any successful story, is more than likely when pigeonholing the player’s personas. So, time to play a little pigeonhole:
Hero (TBD), Initiate (Aaryn), Mentor (Helen), Loyalist (Amanda), Scholar (Andy), Fool (David), Adventurer (Judd), Warrior (Jeremy)
Notably, the Hero is not yet known in Big Brother and not all seasons have a hero. Ideally, the winner will be a hero in his or her own right, but casting blatant hero archetypes is problematic. One would assume characters like Frank or Jeff to be heroes, but they were Warriors. The biggest distinction being a warrior and a hero is that a hero goes through a transformation. Big Brother 12 winner, Hayden, is one of few who can argue himself a hero archetype, having won the first HOH, a car, the girl, tragically losing her, and still having had the strength and determination to fight for the win. Don’t get me wrong, Hayden’s personality is definitely not one I treasured on Big Brother, but he owned the game in important ways. His being a hero was only defined by the glorious villains of that season, anyway.
Aaryn is the closest I can see to being a hero in Big Brother 15 and in some ways reminds me a female Hayden. She is one of the more quiet girls, but says it like it is in the diary room. She is smart, but not too smart where it would be threatening to others. Hence, she has been deemed AARYN the INITIATE. The initiate, also known as the innocent, is the character with the most potential to become a hero. In another narrative dimension, Rob Stark might be considered an Initiate, readied to avenge his father and reclaim the HOH, and like Rob, Aaryn will be loyal to those close to her, atop having a subtle leadership that can blossom.
HELEN the MENTOR is an obvious archetype. She knows enough to not fall into a matriarchal role because it will only hurt her in the long run. While a matriarch will sympathize with a more varied moral code, the mentor is only accepting of positive forces. I don’t see Helen willing to take a goat to the end that she doesn’t find redeemable qualities in. Not to mention, she will teach the rest of the house, much more than they will teach her.
Calling AMANDA the LOYALIST stems partly from her being a real estate agent and ability to build trust. She can entice players in a way that others won’t. I see embellishment being a tool in her box. But she is not a leader, and she pointed to this by admitting she was into Nick. As Nick is not a character that will take orders from her, it is suggested she could acquiesce to his will. All signs point to her being loyal to a fault in the long run.
To emphasize overlap within seasons, we have Andy. What Ragan was to Rachel, we can only hope Andy will be to Elissa. Andy is another communications professor that has been tossed into the mix, surely, to add extra insight during his talking heads about how the houseguests are interacting with one another. ANDY the SCHOLAR is the very guy you do not want to be sitting next to at the end because he will verbally smoke you.
DAVID the FOOL, another vital component to good reality, finds himself an object of lust, and a serious physical threat in a high stakes personality game. He is blindly playing this game, excited, no matter what the outcome ends up. His lack of foresight and malleability will prove essential during climatic moments in weeks to come, but like a Howie, he will let others design his demise.
Judd earns himself JUDD the ADVENTURER because he is most assuredly the most out of his element. It speaks to the company he keeps that he has to spell out his name every time he says it. As he himself noted, on another season, he could have been the Fool, but in #BB15, he is a player capable of taking a sustained, rewarding ride.
Jeremy isn’t so much into his being Irish and German as he is being Cherokee. That is his favorite part of his heritage and he has decorated his flesh to show the world this inner truth. JEREMY the WARRIOR is like Jeff and Frank in that he will be a production darling, but has little hope of truly ingratiating himself with the majority of housemates. Already in two alliances, he could end up taking on more than he can handle. He is a fighter, but not a winner.
Rebel(Candice), Seductress(Kaitlin), Tyrant(Elissa), Devil(Spenser), Evil Genius, Traitor(Nick), Sadist, Creature
CANDICE the REBEL draws upon bitterness hinted at in pre-game interviews. The Rebel archetype is considered a grown-up Fool. Having had jobs that relied on her beauty and youth in her past, there is the potential for her resenting others in the house for being younger or prettier. Candice, like most rebels, claims to be savvy and she projects a necessary strength in rebels as well.
KAITLIN the SEDUCTRESS caught the eye of the show’s warrior, which will resonate throughout the series. For him not to pursue Kaitlin after admitting she to be his favorite so early could threaten his inflated sense of machismo. As a bartender, she likely has the best one-on-one skills of all the girls, besides perhaps Helen. Her being more relatable and accessible than Helen is paramount though.
ELISSA the TYRANT can be designated as such simply because she is the relative of a past player. It is about power for Elissa more than it is about the money. She wants to win to live up to her sister’s standard. She is also the only houseguest forced to be duplicitous from the start. Being two-faced is a central facet to The Tyrant archetype.
As someone with a ginger-beard myself, I don’t like to be a propagator of ginger-on-ginger crime, but SPENSER the DEVIL fits. He is the only character so far that openly admits to not wanting to even meet these people at all. He has already begun to seek out weaknesses in others, and admits in the diary room that he is the only one capable of leading. He will be falsely admired by those around him and will have the least problem slitting the throats of his competition.
Nick could have easily been The Evil Genius, but I am not convinced his self-awareness is sufficient to warrant such a designation. Additionally, Nick, in no way can be considered the same archetype as DR WILL the EVIL GENIUS. So, NICK the TRAITOR is more appropriate when analyzing the archetypal descriptions. A traitor is more akin to manipulation and trapping people by using their own words against them. He is seeking a metaphoric revenge, which is backed by his own admittance that women often betray him and he has trust issues. Nick the Traitor wants the notoriety, more than the prize,
Patriarch/Matriarch, Distressed Damsel(Jessie), Zealot(Howard), Outcast(Mcrae), Hag(Gina Marie)
Of course, what is a story without a damsel in distress? Enter JESSIE the DISTRESSED DAMSEL who is immediately swept away by the throbbing masculinity of JEREMEY the WARRIOR. Beautifully, it is shown that Jeremy prefers Kaitlin, but when Jessie traps Jeremy in an alliance with her, he’s cooked. Jessie also framed herself an inevitable victim of her fellow female housemate’s cattiness, further defining her role.
HOWARD the ZEALOT works for a couple reasons. First, the obvious one, he is a devout Christian who claims he will make no effort to hide his beliefs from the others in the house. Howard makes me excited for the possibility of a Big Brother: Theists v. Non-theists. But beyond being a dogmatic theologian, he has made his body a freaking temple. Clearly the strongest of the house, it will be curious to see how strong his mind is.
Being the first winner of the HOH could label someone The Outcast just from that alone, but MCRAE the OUTCAST proves you can be a multi-layered weirdo. His first distancing occurs when people think he is deceiving them about being a pizza delivery boy. While he may kind of look like a hippy-Ian, he doesn’t come off as sweet as Ian. I don’t know exactly who could take McRae under his or her wing without making themselves vulnerable. It seems McRae will be a liability for anyone that allies with him, so it is up to America to have his back.
While being stamped The Hag is not the most flattering of titles, GINAMARIE the HAG can’t be avoided. Hags, shamans and witches are all in the same archetypal grouping because they’re figures that usually help those around them without even intending to; and by being so ‘far out’ themselves, they help others to appreciate their own normalcy. The Staten Island accent bleeding into her laugh is a great example of why Gina Marie can’t escape this characterization.
The most dynamic, unique and exciting aspect of any new season of Big Brother is anticipating what might happen over the course of three months. Inferring the potential plot of any season can help us make heads or tails of whom has the best shot at the win. Here are some plot archetypes we can expect to see this season in Big Bro:
- The Quest: One player will make it all the way to the end and claim the prize.
- The Task: Competitions to test characters before reaching their goal. ie. HOH, POV
- The Fall: Many houseguests will find themselves HOH one day and gone the next.
- Good v Evil: As noted above, the cast enables this dichotomy. ie. Frank v. Willie
- Unhealed Wounds: Betrayal in the house can come back to bite the betrayer.
- Magic Weaponry: Use of tools or special powers to fulfill a goal ie. POV, Diamond POV, MVP
- Burgeoning Love: Has there ever been a season without any sort of showmance at all?
- Loss of Innocence: Anyone whom has been blindsided knows this storyline.
- Rite of Passage: Win or not, some people get personally changed and matured by the house.
- Initiation: The jury votes, Julie Chen reads your name, and then the big check.
I can’t wait to see which characters end up fulfilling which plot lines. Until next time, thanks for parasocializing!