A participant in the reality show is not a hero, as the Homeric speeches of the presenters lead to believe. He is a wall-climbing human with desire, confined to a show of lust and madness. On the road between fame and anonymity are sex and money, the wall and victory.
The crossroads of Big Brother Brazil, the main entertainment product of Brazilian TV, is back this Monday on Globo platforms, reaffirming the population’s interest in what happens in the human mind.
It was nearly noon on a Friday and the sun was burning through the cracks. The house that will welcome the 22 participants of BBB 23 is located in a secluded place, inside Estúdios Globo, in Curicica, in the west area of Rio de Janeiro. Everything there is artificial like the grass, which covers the floor and transforms the space into a greenhouse.
The BBB house looks more like a studio and is far from being a house, which does not prevent the existence of a certain aura of charm. All in colour, the walls around the lawn are covered with canvas, illustrated with the landscape of an industrial city. It’s an ironic design. The imaginary city in the drawing delimits social life and only reinforces the feeling of confinement.
Going down to the lawn we find the swimming pool, the most important space in the outdoor area. It contains, drop by drop, all the libido of the “expressed talents”, as the marketing agencies say. Exerting a fascination for the eyes, the border has an erotic tension, with swaying loungers. There, the most fetishized bodies in the country will land for the next hundred days.
For the internal area, the production of the program has decided to adopt the theme of travel this year. Right at the entrance is the traveler’s room. Around the sofa, the walls have miniature boats and trains, a cupboard for storing souvenirs, a globe and six globes hanging from the ceiling – which is not low, contrary to rumors.
There is only one bathroom, shared by 22 unknown people. It’s almost like meeting friends at a beach house. The famous confessional, on the other hand, has a background full of LED lights, resembling a portal to another dimension.
Ultimately, the two rooms oppose each other, reflecting the formation of two antagonistic groups in the game. One is called Deserto, and the walls, also made of canvas, depict an arid scenario. On the opposite side is the Fundo do Mar room.
The walls gain fish and sharks: an octopus falls from the ceiling. Equipped with cutting-edge items, the teal kitchen is the only room in the space that actually looks like it belongs in real estate.
It’s not comfortable staying at the BBB’s house. At about 1,800 square feet, the space is small—too cramped for two dozen people. There is no air circulation or natural light inside the house, only white light. The explosion of colors on the wall, in turn, is dizzying, as is the excess of trinkets scattered throughout the rooms.
Everything is proactive, says architect André Scarpa. “It’s a way to encourage interaction between people, it’s impossible to go from one room to another without going through the living room,” he says. “This absence of windows distresses people and the excess of information stimulates participants’ dialogue with their environment.”
If we analyze the psychological dimension of the reality show, architecture is surely one of the most powerful tools to disorient the participant inside the house. In this way, the environment encourages intrigue and barracks.
Scarpa says the size of the place hasn’t changed much over time, but currently the BBB production doesn’t bother much with hiding the cameras. Otherwise technology is now part of the daily life of the participants, who can take pictures with a mobile phone.
“It’s above all an ‘instagrammable’ environment,” says Scarpa. “There are many stimuli with strong textures and colors, a scenery that, throughout the program, becomes natural for its inhabitants.” The excess of information, says the architect, forces the participants to dialogue with their environment.
In this sense, excess garbage is not always harmful. In the monotony of confinement, sometimes a participant establishes a bond with some object. A dog figurine, for example, can have a name.
According to psychoanalyst Christian Dunker, architecture is just one of the participants’ mental health challenges. First, reality television, as the term suggests, creates a tension between reality and representation. In this masked ball, those who tend to be more successful tend to establish a harmony between their ego and the subject represented: the actor and the character.
The reality show is therefore the contemporary aesthetic experience par excellence. It is not a Greek theater, with actors and an audience, but an immersive environment, provided by the architecture. “It’s a dangerous social laboratory,” Dunker says. “Depending on the psychic behavior of each one, confinement can be traumatic, with excessive self-exposure”.
But the BBB wouldn’t be as appealing to those who watch it without the libidinal discharge and narcissistic competition of those confined to it. The eroticism is in that pool, but also in the eye, which symbolizes the “peek”, transforming millions of spectators into voyeurs. The exhibition is long and everyone has to create strategies to seduce the viewer.
Leaving the BBB house brings a sense of relief. It’s like returning to the natural landscape, even if you haven’t experienced confinement. At the exit, a battalion of influencers were waiting their turn to enter the house. Each of them tries to show off with his colorful “looks” and his hysterical behavior. They follow the same path to one day become one of the brothers and, after leaving home, maybe launch their own line of intimate perfumes.
Mirella Santos, with 14 million followers, looked like she was dressed for a ball. Felipe Theodoro, with 2.3 million followers, spoke to the cameras in a “panic” voice, clapping his hands to underscore each silly joke. All shared the artificiality of showbiz, in tension with themselves, as did the attendees of the BBB.
There has been a change in the state of the program over time. Just like gossip, influencers are the engine of the money machine. Some new features have already been announced for the new edition.
The main one is the R$ 1.5 million prize, which will increase throughout the program, an initiative to try to stop the importance of the prize in view of the number of followers on the networks. The so-called bets, current currency at the BBB, will be more valued.
Last year, more than 152 million people watched the BBB. The final had a record number of votes in all years: there were 751 million votes. On the networks, 88% of entertainment conversations were about the BBB. The audience average was, however, lower than in the previous two years, totaling 22 points.
In recent times, identity guidelines have entered the daily life of the brothers. First, in 2020, when the straight, white male figure was deleted. Then, in 2021, with the fear of cancellation – the BBB of heartache. Everyone there tried to show mastery of the ABC identity. Singer Fiuk even apologized for being a man.
In this pendulum between hedonism and moralism, those who reduce the BBB to a shack and make out programs will not go unpunished on the networks. To the critic, a crowd will quickly point out its elitism, highlighting the reality show’s contributions to Brazilian cultural life.
Presenter Tadeu Schmidt believes the program reflects a phase of change in society. Each of the participants behaves differently. In his good-natured manner, Schmidt says, however, that the BBB is not the ideal place for party politics.
“The attendee does what they think is right, but people don’t want to watch the BBB to see someone doing politics,” he says.
With a similar thought, Boninho, the head of the BBB, denies he is concerned about the ideological position of the candidates. “In the house you can say anything, you can even laugh a lot, because the participant covers his mouth after saying something, but it’s self-censorship, we have nothing to do with it”, he says. “There is no control, he put it there, whatever God wants.”
The journalist traveled at the invitation of TV Globo
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