Millions of us have tuned in since to watch the sometimes-hilarious, sometimes-depressing spectacle of strangers going at each other’s throats in a house full of cameras. The concept is so simple, yet so effective, that it’s amazing nobody ever thought of it sooner.
Only somebody did think of it, back in 1949 – half a century before the first Big Brother was aired. The sinister premise for the show was actually a classic novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Penned by English author George Orwell, the book offered a vision of a bleak future where citizens were under constant state surveillance, and where the government has absolute power.
The anti-communist book, set in the year 1984, is all about one man’s struggle against the CCTV-loving state – and it’s all-seeing, all-powerful figurehead, Big Brother. Meanwhile, the long-running show, which continues with Celebrity Big Brother tonight, is all about cramming people in a house under the watchful eye of a cruel, all-seeing overlord, with cameras rolling 24/7 in every room.
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In the TV show, and its celebrity offshoot, Big Brother is an unseen, godlike figure, who controls the housemate’s lives and emotions by doling out privileges or inflicting punishments. Just like in the book, if someone ever sets a foot wrong, Big Brother knows about it, and at the same time he’s the only person they can ever speak to who isn’t a fellow housemate.
Like citizens in Orwell’s book, Big Brother housemates are encouraged to turn on each other, and are constantly in competition – in this case, to keep their place on the show.And just as the book envisioned a world where everyone was under constant surveillance, there’s no way TV contestants can ever escape the cameras in the Big Brother house either.
Of course, the book and the TV show aren’t exactly the same. For one, the book has a far bleaker ending than the show, which finishes with a lucky winner being crowned. But plenty of other aspects of the show, such as people “disappearing” (getting evicted) if they don’t make the cut, are clearly inspired by the dark novel. And the sinister Big Brother in both the show and the book really couldn’t be any more similar.
The TV show puts housemates under the watchful eye of Big Brother, the godlike overlord who controls the show But, thankfully for the housemates, the TV show isn’t all bad. Previously, we revealed how this year’s Big Brother Naija contestants were set for a stay in a five-star pad, complete with luxury suites and a designer kitchen.