Survivor handled their transphobic moment with grace and dignity for 99% of those involved, but Big Brother 19 shows the sentiment isn’t CBS-wide.
This post will discuss, and include, censored versions of transphobic language, as well as discuss Survivor and Big Brother 19 spoilers up to last night’s episode.
After I promised that I would not do any more recaps of Big Brother 19, I still find myself watching the show out of morbid curiosity about just how low the show can go. With 75 days left until the debut of Survivor Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, the allure of a show where people gain immunity each week, vote each other out and have a bunch of people I can’t cheer for is too much after the end of Survivor Game Changers.
However, one thing that took me aback was just how unabashedly honest the players were to their true selves, and how much Big Brother 19 created an environment where they felt untouchable. It empowered human compassion, differences of opinion and open dialogue of transphobia.
One player, named Cody, was talking to his showmance partner, Jessica, and somehow the conversation turned to Cody taping his male genitalia down. Cody asked how one would do that, to Jessica asking if it was a thing some people do. “I mean, for tra**ies, I guess,” Cody replied, with Jessica immediately covering his mouth and trying to laugh it off. “Do you really think I give a s**t that 0.000001% of the population is f***ing tra**ies? I don’t give a f***. I promise you; they’re not expecting me to sympathize with their psychological cause.”
As soon as this happened live on the Big Brother feeds, fans from the show, Survivor and other reality mediums were immediately dismissive, with former players (one individual being transgender themselves) standing up and decrying what had happened. However, within the show, it was a private moment where just the couple seemed to be paying attention about what had happened.
It wasn’t quite like Survivor, to the extent where one player outed another player for being transgender at Tribal Council; a space where players, production and the host, Jeff Probst, could all shut it down immediately. That moment, as horrible, dark and disturbing as it was at that moment, saw everyone look at the face of injustice and malicious behavior in the face and show the aggressor (and the world) that this was not okay.
At that moment, I truly felt that the days of salacious Survivor, hosting people of questionable mentality such as Phillip Sheppard and Brandon Hantz multiple times just to see them have ugly meltdowns with other castmates, was finally over. Jeff Probst and the Survivor crew didn’t even let viewers on that an ugly moment was about to happen, blowing up the event for ratings.
Most importantly, they didn’t hide a player being transphobic to the television audience, unlike what CBS has been doing with Big Brother 19.
Eight hours after Cody made his transphobic remarks, Jessica hinted about them in front of Paul, Matt, Raven and Mark in the Head of Household room, with Cody saying, “I don’t give a s***,” to Jessica’s rampant laughter. “Tuck away their d***s all they want,” he continues, as Matt chuckles inwardly, Paul holds back laughter and Mark smiles at Cody’s audacity.
Most shocking about Cody’s honest and open bigotry was how comfortable Big Brother made him feel in his remarks. “Do you think they’re going to f***ing come at a Marine Corps infantryman for saying the word tra**y,” Cody emphatically stated, as everyone else bowed their heads in awkward laughter. “It’s entertaining,” Mark concluded.
In that moment on July 1 after 9 p.m. PT, live feed watchers, half of the Big Brother 19 players, the live feed watchers and, most importantly, the production team at CBS became blatantly aware that one of their players was making repeated transphobic comments. Yesterday, on July 13, Big Brother 19 held its second live eviction, with Cody going home and host Julie Chen revealing that he and the other evicted players would battle back to get into the house next Friday.
In those two weeks, not once did the CBS broadcast show or hint at Cody’s transphobic comments, nor was a comment released by Big Brother about the event. It has become increasingly clear that not only are they preparing for Cody to win the Battle Back next Friday, but are protecting his image from the millions of people who are watching casually at home.
Not only does it fill me with extreme disappointment, but makes me proud about how well Survivor handled their moment. To give Big Brother some credit, Jeff Probst, CBS and the Survivor crew had upwards of nine months to prepare for this bombshell, worked with GLAAD on the storytelling of the episode and had statements prepared. Jeff Probst wanted to make sure everyone was as best prepared, focusing on the making sure the person who was attacked.
It could always be worse; you could be watching Big Brother, where transphobic comments are hidden by CBS in order to protect the interests of the show’s story development.