Asst. Arts & Entertainment Editor
The reality show Big Brother has been on air since 2000, and yet, in its 21-year run, has just made history for the series.
The show broadly follows a group of 16 contestants, known as Houseguests, living together in a specially-constructed house that is isolated from the outside world for a cash prize. While staying in the house, the Houseguests are continuously monitored by hidden television cameras as well as personal audio microphones. Throughout the course of the competition, Houseguests are voted out of the competition, thus being evicted.
Throughout the show, Houseguests play competitions like the Head of Household (HOH), who holds the most power in the house, and the Power of Veto (POV). Whoever wins the weekly HOH competition gets to nominate two Houseguests who could get sent home by the end of the week. The POV winner can take down one of these nominations or keep them the same; when a POV winner does take down one of the nominees, the HOH has to pick a replacement nominee. There is a jury that begins to form around the time there are 11 Houseguests left, and the jury votes for the winner of Big Brother at final two. This means about nine evicted Houseguests choose a winner for the show. As you can imagine, alliances are formed, backs are stabbed, and chaos always ensues. With the already-paranoid houseguests wondering who to trust, each season always has twists, which is where the iconic Big Brother phrase, “expect the unexpected,” originates from.
Most of the winners of the hit reality series have been white people; this is due to the fact that the majority of players are predominantly white each season. Historically speaking, for the CBS show, the few people of color that were on the show rarely ever made it far in the game. For the 23rd season of Big Brother, CBS announced a new requirement, which stated that at least 50 percent of contestants must be people of color or Indigenous people.
With a more diverse cast, the 23rd and current season of Big Brother had six Black houseguests (Kyland, Xavier, Derek F., Azah, Tiffany, and Hannah), a Latinx houseguest (Alyssa), and an Asian houseguest (Derek X.), making up half of the 16 houseguests (the other eight being Frenchie, Christian, Travis, Britini, Claire, Brent, Whitney, and Sarah Beth.) The six Black houseguests formed a secret alliance, called “The Cookout,” early on, with the goal to make it to the final six together. Most bigger alliances don’t make it all together, whether it’s because other people start gunning for their alliance, or because they break up on their own. While smaller alliances (two to four members) have made it to the finals together, bigger ones (often five to eight members) have never made it with every member together at the end. This has a lot to do with trust and paranoia within their own groups. Many Houseguests who come on Big Brother have multiple alliances and play both sides of the house, usually someone from one or more of their alliances sees this and this breaks up the alliance. Oftentimes, bigger alliances are also just covers for a smaller alliance, so members of the bigger alliance don’t feel like they have to be loyal to the bigger alliance. Also, when the Houseguests who are not in these bigger alliances have control of the house (i.e HOH), they often go after members of the big alliances because those are people who are not working with them.
Besides The Cookout there were multiple other alliances and separate members of The Cookout were a part of some of them. Even with disagreements and fights, the secret alliance tried to keep in mind their goal of creating history. One strategy The Cookout had was for five out of the six of them to have a number one ally outside of the alliance to work with (Hannah had Derek X, Tiffany had Claire, Azah had Britini, Xavier had Alyssa, and Kyland had Sarah Beth). This means this alliance was able to control the votes in the house without the house knowing they were all working together. By the final eight, the six members were still there, and looking pretty good. It was a double eviction night, which meant two people would be sent packing the same night. The Houseguests on the block were Claire and Xavier, and with everyone voting being one of Xavier’s allies, Claire was the one who was voted out. After an expedited HOH competition and POV competition, Kyland and Alyssa ended up on the block. With The Cookout controlling the votes, Alyssa was voted out. The Cookout had done it; they made history! Funnily enough, Alyssa made a joke about being the next player out after Claire because all the white people in the house would be evicted, and she is half white.
As a self-proclaimed super fan of Big Brother, and a Black woman, this season has been a pleasure to watch. Not only did a big alliance that was formed very early in the season make it to the final six together, but they also were an all-Black alliance. This is something that had never happened on Big Brother before because there are often very few people of color on the show. The most Black people on a season of Big Brother previous to this has been two players, and that’s two out of 16 players, while the rest were mostly white Houseguests. This victory of The Cookout, ensuring that a Black person will win this season of Big Brother is not only great for the Black community, but for other people of color as well. Big Brother isn’t the only show that has lacked diversity; CBS shows like Survivor, Love Island, and Amazing Race have also lacked diversity. According to Vulture, former Black contestants from Survivor said the show “routinely forced them into racial stereotypes in its editing, while also cutting out the racial slurs and other forms of discrimination other contestants used against them.” Having more representation is always impactful. In this season of Big Brother, for example, having six Black players really showcases the diversity within the Black community, and that we are just as complex and complicated as everyone else. Each member of The Cookout had their own unique personality and strategy in the game, yet they were able to work together for a common goal.
Every time someone is evicted, they get goodbye messages from the houseguests. The jurors this year slowly started piecing together that The Cookout was working together based on their goodbye messages. They found out that The Cookout was working together from the very beginning of the season, and realized it was to ensure that a Black person won, which would be historical for the show. The jurors there, before any Cookout members have been evicted, were Britni, Derek X., Sarah Beth, and Alyssa, who were all close to one or more Cookout members, yet were unaware of this alliance. Upon realizing the members of The Cookout were working together, and realizing their mission, they had no hard feelings for them as a whole and understood how important it was. It showed true allyship because, although anyone who goes on this show wants to win, they understood that The Cookout’s mission was bigger than all of them as individuals.
This will be the first time in Big Brother history that a Black person wins the show. It’s this emotionally beautiful thing to be able to watch history in the making even on a smaller scale like this, but it also shows that if we are still in the making of history, then we have so much more to go.
Featured Photo Courtesy of Cliff Lipson/CBS