(CBS SF/AP) – The current season of “Big Brother” is continuing to be a controversial one.
A run of ethnically insensitive remarks has continued during filming for the 15th installment of the CBS reality series, raising questions about whether the network should be doing more to police it.
One of the cast members on the program, 28-year-old Amanda Zuckerman, made remarks during the past week that could be seen as insulting to various ethnic groups.
On the 24-hour Internet feed of the house, Zuckerman, who is white, complained about a black cast member putting a headband on her greasy, “nappy-hair head.” She referred to another black housemate as “the dark knight” and “the black mamba,” mocked the accent of a Korean woman and referred to “Puerto Rican showers,” leading to a debate about whether she’s racist.
“I’m just joking,” said Zuckerman, a real estate agent from Boynton Beach, Fla. “I’ve had sex with Puerto Rican guys before.”
Earlier this summer, two other cast members were heard making offensive comments.
CBS airs “Big Brother” on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday during the summer, but Zuckerman’s remarks haven’t appeared on television.
Another contestant, Spencer Clawson, also gained attention this week for making jokes on the live Internet feed about watching child pornography. TMZ reports that the comments prompted police in Clawson’s hometown of Conway, Ark., to investigate.
“The Conway Police Department was alerted to comments made,” the police chief told TMZ. “Due to the nature of the comments, our department moved quickly to look into the matter. At this time we haven’t found that any criminal act was committed.”
CBS Corp. chief executive Leslie Moonves, whose wife, Julie Chen, hosts “Big Brother,” said last week he finds some of the behavior on the show “absolutely appalling.”
Last month, the network released a statement saying it does not condone the houseguests’ offensive remarks: “Big Brother’ is a reality show about watching a group of people who have no privacy 24/7 — and seeing every moment of their lives. At times, the houseguests reveal prejudices and other beliefs that we do not condone. We certainly find the statements made by several of the houseguests on the live Internet feed to be offensive. Any views or opinions expressed in personal commentary by a houseguest appearing on ‘Big Brother,’ either on any live feed from the house or during the broadcast, are those of the individual(s) speaking and do not represent the views or opinions of CBS or the producers of the program.”
Public relations executive Joni Hudson-Reynolds, who writes a blog called ebonymompolitics, said young people watch the show and she believes CBS should be doing more to prevent the dissemination of offensive language.
“To just say ‘This is reality television, and these are the kinds of things that are said in regular conversations’ is not enough,” Hudson-Reynolds said. “This is a controlled environment.”
Hudson-Reynolds said she watches “Big Brother” with her teenage daughter, considering it a guilty pleasure. She doesn’t go online to watch the day-to-day interactions. For people who don’t follow it that closely, controversial comments are given greater circulation through compilations that are posted online.
CBS declined to comment further on the insensitive language. It’s unclear whether there’s a built-in delay on the Internet feed of what is going on in the household that would enable producers to cut off offensive talk.
Moonves, speaking to reporters last week, said he believed CBS was handling the situation appropriately.
“We did not comment on some of the racial things being said until it really affected what was going on in the household,” he said.
Author Jennifer Pozner, who wrote “Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV,” said she has a hard time believing show producers didn’t get exactly what they wanted. A show like “Big Brother” is cast with people to increase the likelihood of table-flipping fights, drunken hook-ups and offensive language, she said.
“You know what — it’s appalling, and you created it for that exact reason,” Pozner said. “Why should we believe that you as a network did not get exactly what you wanted?”
“Big Brother,” now in its 15th season, is averaging 7.1 million viewers per episode this season, up 9 percent over last year, the Nielsen ratings company said.
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