Last month, the California Globe posted a breaking story about CBS’s reality show, “Big Brother” asserting that the houseguests making up an alliance known as “The Cookout” were guilty of racism. This was rooted in their decision to form an alliance solely based on race. This allegation remains true today. And now there are receipts to prove it.
After the Globe became the first outlet to tackle the question of “Is this racist?”, other news organizations have written columns addressing the issue. Last week, the Los Angeles Times carried water for CBS and discounted any criticism of the “Cookout Alliance.” The Times selected quotes from both production executives, the show’s host Julie Chen and past houseguests who have failed to adequately discuss the racial underpinnings of this show’s season. Their conclusion was implied throughout the piece – The higherups and even past contestants say this is “OK” and that it’s essentially racist to ask the question.
Before examining the evidence of racism, a few things should be noted.
The “Cookout” alliance is absolutely dominating this game. To form a large alliance on day four and last this long completely intact has all the markings of Big Brother “Legend” status. They have won a third of all competitions. Every member of the alliance has kept their mouths shut to other houseguests, they are careful never to be in the same room together and their loyalty to the Alliance over other personal relationships has proven formidable. Even during personal strife between its members, they have remained faithful to their cause. It makes for compelling reality television, and although viewership has tumbled this season, it remains a flagship for the woke network.
The question remains: If something is framed as a minority group overcoming the odds does that mean it’s not racist? The evidence below shows that their gameplay is rooted in a race-essentialist philosophy that if done by white players would (and has been) called out as blatantly racist. Likewise, Julie Chen Moonves’ refusal to address this years’ controversy on air is emblematic of CBS’ current condition. While the show’s adage is “Expect the unexpected,” this column would retort with “I told you so.”
The members of this alliance are Tiffany Mitchell, Kyland Young, Derek Frazier, Xavier Prather, Hannah Chaddha, and Azah Awasum. Regarding winning competitions and holding the most power in the Big Brother house, Kyland has been the most successful winning four competitions and being Head of Household twice. Regarding the social gameplay and likeability, Derek wins the hearts of fans and houseguests in a landslide. When it comes to pushing the priority of the Cookout Alliance and keeping the ranks in check, Tiffany is unquestionably the leader of the pack with Xavier being her helpful henchman.
Tiffany Mitchell is the primary mastermind of the super alliance. In a situation aired by CBS in Episode 13 that boggles the mind, Tiffany is seen speaking with Kyland and Xavier about her master plan to have the Cookout comprise the final six members of the house. She insists each member of this alliance select a white counterpart in the house to latch onto in order to not raise suspicions and stack the deck. As needed, they will start evicting them one by one. As she’s discussing this with her teammate, she is handling chess pieces, picking up the black ones (The Cookout Alliance) and juxtaposing them with the white pieces (everyone else in the house). The racial imagery of this situation is overt and shocking. If the colors were reversed and Tiffany was a white woman, fans and executives at CBS would be up in arms.
Dissension in the Alliance?
Not all her teammates are fans. Derek Frazier has been vocally opposed to Tiffany for weeks. In a conversation with fellow cookout member Azah on August 12th, Episode 17, Derek exploded – “I don’t want to work with this bitch anymore. I don’t do good with people trying to act like they’re the boss. Bitch, you’re not the boss. We have one player who’s not playing like a team player. I don’t deal with bum-ass bitches like that.” Personal feelings aside, Derek has remained loyal to the racially homogenous group while his allies outside of the Cookout have been sent home.
A conversation between Tiffany and Xavier aired by CBS on August 19th was even more jaw-dropping. Tiffany relayed to Xavier that the other Derek in the house (the last remaining non-black male) asked her if there were any white guys left in the house and if that has ever happened in Big Brother history. Tiffany brushed off the comments. Xavier responded, “They’re all low key starting to put it all together but they’re never going to say it out loud. When they all get to Jury they’re going to ask ‘Did you all notice there are only black people left in the house?’” Tiffany and Xavier then chuckled at their own plan, seemingly pleased that they are likely going to succeed in ousting all white houseguests. Again, if the races were reversed, the outcry would be deafening.
Finally, Julie Chen Moonves is not making this situation any less suspect. In years past she has readily revealed to evicted houseguests that there were secret alliances behind the scenes that resulted in a houseguest’s eviction – see seasons 1-22. Not this year. She has avoided mentioning this all-black alliance to every houseguest who has been evicted, both on the episode broadcasts and in the extended interviews which aren’t televised. LA Times reported, “A spokesperson for the series said Chen Moonves has not mentioned the Cookout to the first group of evictees because “the reveal of the alliance did not play an important part of the evicted Houseguest’s story.” This is not true. The Cookout has accounted for at least 46% of vote totals since week one and had their hand in the evictions of Whitney, Brent and Christian. In the Times story, digital journalist Vince Dixon concluded, “It’s a disingenuous approach that seems calculated and controlled. It doesn’t feel honest or transparent at all. Julie not mentioning the Cookout to the people who are out is a reflection of that.”
There is much more to be said about the racism in Big Brother Season 23 and we will continue to coverd. The Cookout has made the show’s longtime saying, “The Power is Up for Grabs” obsolete. They are in complete control. What used to be a show about physical endurance, mental acuity and social manipulation has morphed into a a “black versus white” segregation soiree. The producers, network and the show’s host may want to consider a different approach before this philosophy bleeds into succeeding seasons and the shows devolves even further into the tri-weekly Anti-Racist training episodes it is quickly becoming.