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Monday, June 16, 2008

confession: self-disclosure in pinoy big brother teen edition plus

In true Orwellian fashion, the omniscient and omnipotent Big Brother resorts to certain techniques in an effort to influence his boarders, the teen housemates, to disclose themselves. It must be remembered that the housemates’ tendency toward self-disclosure is congruent with the program’s general tagline which is “Ang teleserye ng totoong buhay” and, most importantly, is the show’s closest attempt at Reality TV, the current crowd-drawing phenomenon in contemporary mass media. After all, the truer the housemates are to their own selves, the more secure they get in dealing with other people.
Hence, Big Brother’s setting of parameters in his house naturally creates a conflict among his subjects, who had been plucked from their free world and suddenly placed in an environment where they come to terms with everything as they show their true colors. One such rule is that if a teen housemate gets evicted, the guardian gets evicted, too, and vice-versa. This rule is controversial because one can be eliminated from the program whether one likes it or not, and it is all because of someone else’s doing. It somehow goes against the logic of being responsible for one’s own action. For example, Josef’s guardian Anna expressed her intentions of voluntary exiting because of her frequent disagreements with fellow guardian, John, thus affecting her ward. Anna was being sarcastically referred to by John as “Anna Queen of the Filipinos” whereas John, acting very demanding, is faulted by Anna for “making a commotion.” While the housemates have equal opportunities and risks of staying inside the house and being evicted from it, respectively, Josef’s chances are significantly lowered and his dangers, heightened as his guardian renounces her status as a housemate guardian. It is understandable that Anna should decide to leave if only to avoid further clashes with Kevin’s father; her decision must have been informed by the social requirement to be civil at all times at any cost. However, the cost happens to be unfair to her own ward because Josef himself will have to follow Anna’s suit even as the decision to exit is not his. It should be noted that the two generated conflicts are related in different ways to the act of self-disclosure. The conflict with John had Anna deciding not only what she really thinks of and feels at the moment—leaving—but also, how her very self is different from John in terms of gender, cultural and class upbringing. Meanwhile, the conflict of Anna’s dragging Josef along with her exit is also associated with self-disclosure because her decision of voluntary leaving serves as an access to what she thinks and feels within.
It is also significant to point out that while Anna is already a guardian to whom her ward may disclose himself, Anna herself makes her self-disclosure to Big Brother, who acts like a guardian to the rest of the housemates, including the guardians. With her self-disclosure, she is not simply providing information about herself to Big Brother, but she is giving access to information that do not necessarily get revealed to anyone of her same status i.e. fellow guardians, much less to her ward or to the entire audience of Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition Plus. The private talk with Big Brother creates an air of confidentiality since it is done in a private area called confession room, so the element of trust is being established as she or any other housemate for that matter attempts a connection to Big Brother. In such a case, Big Brother is all-knowing not only to the physical manifestations of one’s thoughts or feelings but also to their internal counterparts, accessible through the verbal confessions.
One time, John and Anna had another argument because of an ice cream making challenge, once again affecting Josef. While the challenge may have served as the trigger to the argument, it is really the opposing psychological makeup that engaged John and Anna in that conflict. John thinks and feels differently from Anna and vice versa because John is a male who is more given to rationalizing than females like Anna while Anna is a female who is more given to pouring out her emotions than males like John. Hence, the two’s respective self-disclosures would come out differently and, most likely, will run head-on against each other.
Another time, John got angry because of Josef’s actions while he stayed in the guardians’ base, which resulted to another shouting match between John and Anna. While it would have been easier for John and Josef to relate with each other owing to the similarity in gender, the conflict lies in the generational gap. John is chronologically more mature than the adolescent Josef. Due to the relative immaturity of Josef, John thinks it is Anna’s duty as Josef’s guardian to look over her wayward ward. While Josef is the one who created the misdeed of punching the door of the confession room because of anger, John shouts at Anna because he thinks and feels that the aunt is responsible for the way the nephew is misbehaving. Josef may have been sent back to the teen housemates’ base because of his erratic action, but this did not stop the male guardian from revealing what is on his mind, triggering the female guardian to respond with what is on hers.
One other technique that Big Brother has produced to achieve the program’s self-disclosing goal is the creation of special twists to persuade further the housemates to shed the hoods off their selves. Normal situations indeed normalize behavior among humans, but given situational gaps or abrupt changes in the norm, humans are susceptible to behave in such a way that manifests their true thoughts and feelings at the moment. This is because circumstances merit the revelation of one’s real state of mind and emotion; it is no time for putting on a show when extraordinary situations are unfolding.
For one, Big Brother instructed the teen housemates to explain why they nominated their choice in front of everyone. A housemate chooses a nominee for either eviction or extension; in the case of eviction, the nominator will have been psychologically inconsistent if he or she decides against the extension of his or her nominee and yet explains something contrary to his or her true thoughts and feelings. For example, nominees are thought of as “playing safe,” “treating others like maids,” “tamad (lazy),” “mapag-utos (bossy),” “pare-pareho ang sinasamahan kaya hindi nakikilala ng iba (do not mingle with others)” by their nominators, who reveal everything to Big Brother. Their basis for their assessment of their nominated housemate is their relationship with them while inside the self-contained house. Since all of them live in an externally uncontaminated community, their happenings are limited to a very close interaction to a handful of fellow human beings. Their participation is compelled in the do’s and don’ts of the very community, and have no hand at what tasks should be assigned for them to perform. In effect, their interaction with one another reveals a substantial recognition of the culture they have absorbed from their respective communal origins as well as other factors that inform their personality like media, social class and social interactions. Hence, the nominators give their judgment based on what the nominees consciously or unconsciously self-disclose while dealing with one another. In return, what self-disclosures the nominees had created a dent on the nominators are revealed to Big Brother before the Nomination Nights, when everybody will know if he or she gets nominated for eviction, and why. Nominators take their pick before the invisible Big Brother, and explain why the choice must go. In the case of the Third Nomination Night, the housemates were clustered according to their geographical origin, overseas and Visayas region, from which housemates Kevin and Nicole, respectively, hail. It is not where they came from that caused their nomination but the personalities they revealed in the course of a few weeks: Kevin for his physical jokes and Nicole for her shyness. The rest of the housemates were informed of the reason for their nomination, if any: one was chosen for her strong personality that comes on too overbearing for others, one was chosen for his negligence at contributing in household chores, and another was chosen for his misinterpreted coolness. Another nominee, Josef, was chosen by the guardians but it was mainly for what her guardian Anna shows to her fellow guardians. The information of their nomination becomes a means through which nominees see themselves in the context of their cohabitation with their housemates. They learn from the explanation that this or that character is being shown by them, a manifestation of their self-disclosure. On the other hand, nominators’ revelation of their nominees and their reason for doing so also provide an access to what they have in mind regarding the nominated housemates they live with. As they confess to Big Brother within the four walls of the confession room, they already entrust their revelation to him. As they unload their secrets to the authority figure in the house, they also reevaluate their relationships with their housemates. Because they are made to believe that everything is not unconcealed to Big Brother, it becomes pointless to keep whatever bothers their minds without this being eventually manifested in their behavior. This ultimately gives way to their self-disclosure.
In the case of the Fourth Nomination Night, Robi got the highest number of votes from the guardians whereas Jolas, Josef and Rona were nominated by their fellow housemates. Reasons range from Robi’s “mayaman naman (economic capacity, which means he can afford not to win the cash prize)” to the rest’ “hindi tumutulong sa gawaing bahay (laziness),” “puro reklamo (whining),” “puro ratata-tata-tata (loquaciousness)” and mayabang (conceitedness).” The nominees’ and the nominators’ self-disclosure still plays a part in the happenings within the Fourth Nomination; however, seeming like a defense, the nominees are asked rather unusually to tell what character they possess that should serve as their pass for house residence extension. One said that he should not be evicted because he has fortitude whereas one said she has gained no upper hand over other housemates, making them all equal in their privilege to stay in Big Brother house. The latter is yet again a means for self-disclosure on the part of the nominees; since their act is camera-recorded and projected worldwide via satellite, it is not only to Big Brother that they reveal their inner thoughts and feelings but also to the entire globe. The artificial world in which the housemates cohabitate is constantly under watch by Big Brother and those subscribed to the program, so whatever self-disclosure these nominees say during nomination nights may be appraised through their behavioral and psychological revelations caught on-cam.
Both the confidential and the live nominations put the housemates’ character to the test. What the nominators say about the nominees become the latter’s vantage point at assessing their own personalities; if they are perceived to be lazy, loud-mouthed or arrogant, they can now begin to check if indeed, they are whom nominees thought them to be. The period from the nomination night up to the eviction night becomes a time when they become conscious of their self-disclosure that becomes evident to their fellow housemates prior to the nomination. Others who fail to make an assessment of their personality may be said to have fortified the character in question within themselves, making it really hard for them to improve their personality within a very constricted period of time. Also, both nominators and nominees use the self-disclosures as vantage points at assessing their relationships with one another. What they know from one another serves as the means through which they deal with people who might have taken their character for or against them. Nominees might be friends to those who did not nominate them at all, while they may either take their nomination for or against their nominator. If they take the nomination positively, they will try to improve their manner of relating to their housemates, especially to those whom they think they have shown the negatively-perceived character so that their attempt at improvement may serve as a redeeming value on their part. If they take the nomination negatively, they might not change at all, stubbornly justifying that that is how their character has been molded since pre-PBBTE+ days. They may even rationalize that they show that character precisely because that is what Reality TV is about: to reveal who you really are without any pretense, coercion or acting script. However a housemate reacts after the nomination night, the self-disclosures during that night creates an impact on his or her personal and social psychology.
In the case of the confidential nominations, Big Brother has housemates come to the confession room to pick a picture of their chosen nominee for eviction and confess why they think their choice merits nomination. One by one, housemates speak what is on their minds, basing their divulged secrets on the way they were dealt with by their choice in the immediate past. Most of their disclosures have to do with negative characters being the reason for the nomination; there are instances wherein economic status is considered why one should go, since that one does not need the money anyway. It is a rare instance in which a non-character becomes the basis for nomination, another being culture. Character, on the other hand, is mainly the reason for one’s nomination. If one possesses a character that is not suitable for cohabiting with other people, that character may prove as one’s liability. Arguably, some characters clash directly with the cultural context of the Philippines, so housemates with independent character influenced by their upbringing in Western countries may not stand a chance with homegrown housemates who have generally imbibed such Filipino virtues as pakikisama (togetherness) and family-orientedness. Whatever the case, the character that becomes the subject of contention is recognized primarily through its manifestation within the tiny community of Big Brother’s house. The housemates, by choice marooned inside that artificial community, are strangers who become acquaintances at most at the onset. Their day-to-day interaction as time goes along becomes everybody’s slow, engaging point of self-disclosure. It is only a matter of time when they become friends or enemies depending on whether their revealed characters fit well with those of the other housemates. If these do not harmonize with others’ characters, housemates may get chosen for eviction in yet another manner of self-disclosure: a nomination before the unseen Big Brother inside the confession room.
Not all nominations are done in the privacy of the confession room; there are cases of live nomination wherein housemates are chosen for eviction in a face-to-face manner. The self-disclosure here is more intense because Big Brother or the program hosts ask the housemates one by one to identify their choice for eviction and the reason for it. On the one hand, the nominees know right away how they are being perceived by their nominators based on the former’s revelation of their own characters inside the house and, especially, who perceive them as such. On the other hand, the nominators tell live who their choices are and for what cause they are chosen. This real-time self-disclosure becomes the nominees’ instant access into the way perceptions are formed from their mutual interactions. Hence, friends and non-friends alike are being disclosed to, affecting relationships going on among teen housemates.
In another instance, Big Brother tested the selflessness of the teen housemates by asking them to burn their fellow housemates’ clothes. The punishment came after the teens failed to complete the task of bead making which they must have finished before leaving for Palawan. The test was to have all clothes collected—from their laundry to underwear to necktie—and piled for burning in the yard, with Nicole being the first to be asked to set their clothes aflame. The housemates followed Big Brother’s order of cleaning the entire house of their clothes but grudgingly did so. It took Nicole a while before she took the gasoline from the storage room but defied Big Brother by returning to the confession room to tell him she cannot do the job. The rest of the housemates consecutively told Big Brother they burn the clothes, until Alex agreed to have his clothes burned.
What the housemates did—the defiance of an authority figure—is far outweighed by the disclosed concern of the housemates for one another, that they are not willing to have all their basic necessity turn to ashes even if it means getting an automatic nomination for disobeying Big Brother. The order serves as a test if they can sacrifice their basic belongings as an obligation to follow their authority. Their defiance is less their willingness to be selfless but more their concern for others who will be affected by one housemate’s act. If any one of them pours the gasoline on the clothes and sets the pile afire, then not only the perpetrator but all of them will have to suffer from a lack of clothing.
Meanwhile, Alex’ willingness to have his clothes burned if only to save the rest of the housemates’ clothes is that redeeming value of self-sacrifice that Big Brother is hinting at in his seemingly cruel command. His choice to save the rest by having his own clothes sacrificed is a fine example of selflessness, because he is willing to suffer the lack for the sake of his housemates. It is a manifestation of how his housemates figure in him: as objects of concern. Taking the objects’ side, their resistance to burn everyone’s clothes is a self-disclosure of concern for one another.
The abovementioned details from the PBBTE+ program are appropriate samples of how self-disclosure works as a window into humans’ perception toward one another’s personality, and as an extent to which they are willing to connect with one another in the face of ever-shifting social bonds. This willingness to let others know who one really is in the desire to be liked and to build relationships is grounded on the revelation of secret information, shared interests, even deepest fears and hopes. Some housemates have become off-putting when they reveal too much about themselves, there are others who become so because of the exact opposite, but by being a housemate in the program is a revealing act in itself because the self-disclosure goes beyond the house and into the entire global village.

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