On November 9, CBS announced that moving forward, its unscripted TV shows like Big Brother, Survivor, and others are going to be at least 50 percent BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) across all casts beginning in the 2021-2022 broadcast season. The network also committed to spending a minimum of 25 percent of its annual unscripted development budget on projects from creators/producers who are BIPOC.
Reality TV stars were quick to praise the initiative, but they also say the work is not done — this is merely an important first step.
Marcellas Reynolds Can’t Believe It Took CBS This Long
In an interview with TMZ, Big Brother cast member Marcellas Reynolds said he’s “actually shocked that it took CBS “this long to address the bias that is inherent in all their shows and has been going on for so many decades at this point.”
He went on to say that as the first Black and gay cast member on Big Brother, he will still get notes from fans saying they were able to come out to their parents because of him or they had their first conversations about being gay because they saw him on TV — and not just Black gay kids, but gay and lesbian people of all races.
“Diversity and inclusion matter. Kids need to see themselves represented on screen so that they can see that there’s someone else like them so that they don’t feel alone. By seeing positive images of the whole spectrum of humanity on the screen, it leads to better understanding. That’s what’s at stake. When white people see black people as human and just like them, it can destroy biases. We seem to be heading in a better direction than where we were, but as a person that works both in front of and behind the scenes, until we have true diversity on all fronts, we’re not there yet,” Reynolds said, adding, “You cannot not be a person of color or a person who is LGBTQI and tell our stories correctly. We need to have those voices in the room that are actually able to make those calls, those judgments.”
The Next Step Is to Stop Casting Racists, Says Julia Carter
Julia Carter, a cast member on Survivor: Edge of Extinction who was part of the group of Black Survivor contestants urging CBS to have more inclusion in front of and behind the camera, says the next step is to stop casting people who will make minorities feel unsafe.
“Hey @CBS, with your commitment to more diverse casts, also avoid casting racists, sexists, homophobes, etc. This includes previous players regardless of their popularity. If you commit to diversity, also commit to an inclusive & tolerant environment for those players,” wrote Carter on Twitter.
She doesn’t name anyone by name, but there are quite a few Big Brother contestants who have gotten a very positive edit for the TV broadcasts but were heard saying racist or homophobic things on the live feeds. Since there are no live feeds for Survivor, fans aren’t really as dialed in to who might be getting a favorable edit, but presumably, it happens there as well.
Other fans were excited about CBS’ pledge. Big Brother alums Andy Herren and Kevin Campbell said it was “great news” and that “representation matters,” while Survivor alum Jamal Shipman wrote, “Nice work my new found family … This’s what we can do with our voices. Now to holding those in power to account.”
Survivor hopes to film season 41 in the spring of 2021 for a fall 2021 premiere. Big Brother 23 will return in the summer of 2021. Until then, we might get a new season of Big Brother Canada this winter/spring and there is talk of a winter edition of Celebrity Big Brother.