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"Dear White People" visits the "Big Brother" Cookout via a pointed parody of reality show racism

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25.09.2021

"Dear White People" could not have asked for a better concluding coincidence than the parallel between this season's show-within-a-show "Big House" and the current cycle of "Big Brother," the CBS reality show it parodies.

The 23rd round of "Big Brother" is set to be the first in the show's existence in which a Black player will win. This is all thanks to The Cookout, an alliance of Black players who secretly agreed to stick together near the top of the season's outset expressly to achieve that purpose.

Reactions to The Cookout have fallen along predictable lines, with an offending slice of the "Big Brother" viewership boo-hooing about this alliance's supposedly racist underpinnings. This intentionally ignores all the prior seasons' history of treating racism as a sideshow attraction and white players excluding people of color with a regularity you can set your watch to.

Before The Cookout only one Black person made it to any Fiinal Six over the past 11 seasons, as Reality Blurred's Andy Dehnart reports in his concise breakdown of the team's extraordinary run. Now that "Big Brother" is down to its final three candidates the gender breakdown becomes a fascinating factor, since the choices are between two men, Derek Frazier and Xavier Prather, and a woman, Azah Awasum.

Obviously "Dear White People" creator Justin Simien and showrunner Yvette Lee Bowser did not think such a turn was possible, although the show's parody, "Big House," ends up crowning a Black champion who wins by force, and whose victory is itself a part of the farce.

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Representing the Netflix show's fictional Ivy League school Winchester University in "Big House" are Colandrea "Coco" Conners (Antoinette Robertson), the Black student community's embodiment of assimilationist striving, and her best white friend Muffy Tuttle (Caitlin Carver).

Muffy is the walking representation of clueless white girl privilege, the type of girl who means well but can never entirely understand why her Black friends are so upset over the state of the world. She and Coco have their ups and downs but always find a way back to each other. Nevertheless, taking part in "Big House" snaps their bond as the gameplay breaks down, predictably, along racial lines manipulated into the storyline by the show's producers. One of the first casualties of the season is the other Black woman, who the white kids and producers goad Coco into betraying.

What goes down inside "Big House" isn't central to the fourth and final season of "Dear White People," but it fulfills the same purpose as previous seasons' show parodies by becoming a metaphorical mirror to the main theme. In this last season the Armstrong-Parker students are in their senior year and finding themselves with a surfeit of choices, many of them forcing each characters to weigh their integrity........

© Salon


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