Earlier today, a short clip of a diary session from the latest season of Big Brother Australia made the rounds on Twitter. As the three Housemates featured in the video went through their sessions – a notable part of the Big Brother franchise that seeks to keep track on a housemate’s most present feeling or reaction to activity around the house – many of us could pick up some differences between the Australian version and Big Brother Naija.
We can talk about the neon-themed diary room or the sleek cinematography but all those wouldn’t measure up to the strikingly laid back interactions between Australia’s Big Brother and the housemates. For one, the Australian Big Brother speaks to the Housemates with genuine interest, candour and infectious playfulness. The voice is at once one of a favourite older brother who also doubles as your best friend and asks questions that, in such a short clip, unravels how much he knows the housemates, and how he thinks of them not as pieces in a game, but as people whose wellbeing he cares about. A sentiment that supposedly lies at the very idea of housing more than 20 strangers in a house and being their guide for a couple of weeks.
As many noted, this characteristics is heavily missing from Nigeria’s Big Brother. With a deep, foreboding voice, there is often a constant atmosphere of disapproval, paternalism and an undeniable sense that the housemates are being done a favour. There is hardly any sense of recognition that, without these housemates, there would be no show, and without a show, there wouldn’t be anyone to play the Big Brother role over.
It is interesting to consider what type of show we would have if Nigeria’s Big Brother were a more interesting character whose role around the house aren’t robotic, almost-mean and subtly unwelcoming. How much more would we learn about our favourite housemates if Big Brother saw them and related with them as people in his care and not little pieces on his chessboard? How interesting would it be if Big Brother exuded some unique, but embracing, personality?
Now that many of us have seen a different, much more appealing way the Nigerian Big Brother role can be played, it would be exciting to see what changes the showrunners make for next year’s season.
Nelson C.J is a culture writer with works in The New York Times, Xtra Magazine, OkayAfrica, Black Youth Project, AfroPunk, and a few other spaces. You can find him saving dog pictures on Twitter.