The Big Brother Phenomenon

The Big Brother Phenomenon

We’ve all heard of dystopian fiction: The Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Divergent… Many of these popular novels were inspired by one of the most famous books of all time —  even amongst Language and Literature students at Graded — 1984 by George Orwell. More than pioneering dystopian fiction, 1984 also inspired the reality TV show franchise: Big Brother

The Big Brother TV franchise features contestants competing for a cash prize. It is broadcasted in more than 50 countries, including Brazil, and has more than 440 seasons. Regardless of location, the contestants live in a completely isolated environment where they are found under strict 24/7 surveillance – there are live cameras and personal audio microphones everywhere. Similar to Orwell’s best-seller novel, where the totalitarian government in power controls and surveils every move people make, the reality television show also features an overwhelming system of constant scrutiny. The character of Big Brother in 1984  is of an omniscient supreme ruler who is in control of the whole population through cameras. Unmistakably and intentionally, the show used the name “Big Brother” as the title.  It relates back to the theme of totalitarianism and surveillance present in 1984, but also fills the audience with a sense of comfort given that it’s a“family member” looking over your every move — Orwell too intended this connotation in his dystopian novel.

Brazil’s version of Big Brother is a phenomenon amongst the international franchise. Often referred to as “BBB” (Big Brother Brasil), the show conforms to the most basic of dystopian stereotypes as it provides viewers with more tha

n 50 cameras to spy on the contestants. This year’s edition, BBB21, is a hot topic and is being talked about on every possible social media platform. Earlier this year, with only one week of streaming, BBB21 became the most tweeted topic on Twitter (more than 35 million tweets citing the show on the platform), overcoming major subjects like Covid-19, international politics, music, and spo

rts. As the show progressed, the popularity increased exponentially. Not satisfied, the reality TV show outshined the hashtag “BTS” (referring to a famous K-pop group) and took the title of the most tweeted hashtag in the world: “#


 Last year, thanks to the pandemic and the rise in views during quarantine, #BBB20 also beat many worldwide records. Throughout the whole of 2020, last year’s production was the most commented show on Twitter. That being said, trends indicate this year’s production kicked off with an even better start

Along with all of the tweeting, the show also engages with the public through voting. BBB20 entered the Guinness World Records Book as the television show with the most public voting in the world, surpassing 1.5 billion votes, and this year keeping up the high attraction. The public participates by voting on a player to be eliminated every week. This voting system is known as the “paredão.” The most controversial contestant was Karol Conká who left the house with the biggest percentage of rejection of all Big Brother history. With 99.17% of votes, Conká left the show overcoming the previous rejection record broken only a week earlier, 98.76% by another tendentious participant: Nego Di.

BBB has gained immense popularity in recent years. We are left to wonder whether this fanaticism with BBB correlates to the isolation due to the worldwide pandemic. One might suggest that in desperate moments many attempts to flee their reality and seek distractions in arguably futile shows like Big Brother. On the other hand, the show’s success could be linked to something completely different: the genius of George Orwell’s insane but intriguing society. Next time you’re in English class picking out your vacation assignment, choose to read 1984, who knows… it might just put you on the loop of the year’s hottest show!