'Endemol approved clones': Big Brother, illusio and celebrity

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This piece examines the importance of contestant construction for fans of Big Brother UK (2000-10), as the show's cessation allows a timely overview of the show's impact upon the creation of celebrity. Across the show's duration, audiences demanded that contestants avoided appearing too desirous of fame, indicating the importance of authenticity and being 'ordinary'. Housemates had to avoid appearing too eager to win, and this meant that any game-playing had to be hidden (Couldry, 2002, p. 90). This can be seen in the first series' case of 'Nasty' Nick Bateman, who was vilified due to his overt playing of the Big Brother game and the lack of authenticity that this suggested, through to the final Ultimate Big Brother, where winner Brian Dowling was championed for seeming to still be the 'same' as he was in the second series and, therefore, being both ordinary and 'himself'. This importance for audiences of contestants hiding their game-play can be related to sociologist Pierre Bourdieu's (1984) work, which suggests that culture is built on specific fields (e.g. culture, education) and that individuals participating in a given field can accrue levels of 'capital'. He proposes the concept of illusio, which is defined as a 'belief in the game' (1984, p. 54), as individuals must have an “'investment” in the stakes involved in any particular field, or simply, the belief that the game is worth playing' (Benson and Neveu, 2005, p. 3).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218 - 220
Number of pages2
JournalCelebrity Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


  • celebrity
  • reality television
  • pierre bourdieu


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