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  • Grande Fratello Symbolic of Italy's Problem
    This TV show – and its American version – send a bad message
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    Big Brother, known in Italy as Grande Fratello, is what is wrong with the world. And I'm not talking about "the man" spying on your phone conversations and controlling your thoughts. I'm talking about the reality television show. I first watched the Italian version in 2004.

    I was in Italy on a trip that was part vacation and part work, and I had injured my knee (so badly that I lost circulation in my leg and came all too close to having to have my foot amputated in an Italian hospital). Obviously, I couldn't move much, and Italian TV was my new best friend. Holed up in my cousin's room, on the tiniest of screens, I watched Grande Fratello, a show in which contestants agreed to live in a house with their opponents and close off all communication with the outside world.

    Many of the people on the Italian version would go onto become big stars. Don't ask me who because the pain barred me from paying enough attention. But my Italian husband tells me this happened. I mentioned the show to my mother when I finally returned to the States. Now, she watches the American version religiously (so does my sister and some cousins). My experience with Grande Fratello ended in Italy. I never watched the new show. And I never gave much thought to the one I watched in Italy until now.

    My mother comes to my house in the evenings to help me with my nearly one-year-old son on nights when my husband is in Italy. She's been doing that recently, which is why I have begun watching Big Brother, the American version. It prompted me to see whatever happened to Grande Fratello. It's still on the air. You can see clips of the most recent season at the show's Web site.

    Now, I find myself keeping up with the American version. Thanks, Mom! Note sarcasm. And I'm appalled at the behavior of contestants. This time my mind is clearer. Although people form these fake alliances to get themselves to avoid getting evicted by their housemates, they are all working for themselves. After all, the one person who remains in the house at the very end is the winner of $500,000. Apparently, my mother tells me that some of them become so popular that they make a career of competing on Big Brother.

    In any event, they lie, cheat, and steal to get to stay in the house. They are mean backstabbers to their friends. Clearly, you have to be cutthroat and untrustworthy to get anywhere in the game. Today, one of the particularly cunning (not to mention conniving) contestants Dan cried after hearing a message from his wife, who described missing him and being proud of him. He cried. And I thought if my husband as acting like Dan on television no less, I would not be proud of him. In the last two weeks, he put up his supposed closest ally in the house for eviction, turned on one of the women in his alliance, and played everyone in the house by pledging allegiance to all and truly helping no one. I thought to myself, "If I was his wife, I might be contemplating divorce? How could anyone be so untrustworthy?"

    Then, I remembered the same evil behavior in Grande Fratello. And I thought that this is what is wrong with the world. This game is symbolic of why economies are in the dumpster and we all seem off track. Too many people in Italy and the United States are greedy and just in it for themselves. They don't care about their neighbors, not even their friends or family. They are willing to abandon their principles and even the people they supposedly love. We reward people like this with riches and fame and praise. Really, we should be rewarding the kind and the trustworthy. But oh where did all those people go in Italy, the States and everywhere else?

    Di Meglio is the author of Fun with the Family New Jersey (Globe Pequot Press Travel, 2012), and you can follow her career at the Two Worlds Web site.

    Article Published 9/10/12


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