"Big Brother is watching you"/"You are watching Big Brother". The phenomenon of (over)watching and the imperative of ratings on a reality show

  • Lidija Radulović Department of Ethnology and Anthropology Faculty of Philosophy University of Belgrade
  • Ildiko Erdei Department of Ethnology and Anthropology Faculty of Philosophy University of Belgrade
, reality television, popular culture, panopticon/synopticon, TV ratings, commercialization, surveillance


The reality show "Big Brother" represents a metaphor for the transformation of contemporary media toward its commercialization and the primate which is given to entertainment as opposed to classic informative and educational content, which, in Serbia, takes place in the context of post-socialist transformation. The hyper commercialized character of "Big Brother" is the product of a new guiding idea in the media sphere, which is to measure success only on the criteria of ratings. In all versions of "Big Brother" (the "ordinary" as well as VIP), the framework of the reality show is made up of two elements: the phenomenon of surveillance and the commercial principle of the programme. In this paper we wanted to take these two themes - surveillance and commercialization - and connect them through the concepts of the "panopticon"/"synopticon" and "ratings". In the analysis and discussion we will show that the newfangled criteria of "ratings" is directly dependent on the situation in which the viewers of the reality format find themselves, situations in which "many view and decide on the fate of the few". We will analyze the ways in which the very production of the reality show is geared toward influencing the ratings, through interventions and the direction done by the production team, but also the reception of the show in specialized forums. In the second case, a netography of the reception of VIP BB 2013 was undertaken, taking into account the discussions in the forum and the monitoring of YouTube videos. Based on this, we singled out the most viewed moments in the reality show, and considered the reasons why certain events and/or actors who participated in them garnered special attention among viewers, thus increasing the ratings of the show, but also multiplicating the commercial effect through the participation of viewers through different media platforms (websites, forums, online votes etc.)


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How to Cite
Radulović, Lidija, and Ildiko Erdei. 2017. “"Big Brother Is Watching You"/"You Are Watching Big Brother". The Phenomenon of (over)watching and the Imperative of Ratings on a Reality Show”. Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 12 (1), 19–50. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.21301/eap.v12i1.1.

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