As some of you may know, I’m a massive reality television fan. In fact, my viewing habits over the years have gravitated from CSI and Seinfeld to X-Factor and Property Brothers. I don’t know why, but when it comes to television I simply find reality to be much more entertaining than fiction.
Over the years, the only program I can recall watching faithfully over the past ten years (other than Survivor) has been Big Brother. I had always said that the ONLY reality game show I could ever see myself on would be Big Brother. Heck, they just announced a month or two ago that they were FINALLY going to start casting the Canadian version of Big Brother and I got a bit excited (the fiance said “no”…so I guess I”ll just have to remain a couch fan for now).
So this season of Big Brother started off a little bit bland. Sure, there were twists (four previous Big Brother players were brought in to be “coaches” to a team of players where the winning player would get $500,000 and the winning coach would get $125,000), but overall things didn’t really get interesting until the coaches entered the game as players (you KNEW that was going to happen).
Dan Gheesling is a high school football coach who won Big Brother in 2008. He was brought back to the house as a coach and jumped at the chance to play the game one more time. As the game continued on, he dodged the occasional bullet but eventually found himself on the block and was pretty much guaranteed a trip to the Big Brother “jury house” (i.e. the final seven players who would vote to decide who wins the money).
While going through a 24-hour isolation penalty of sorts, Dan came up with one of the most incredible plans ever devised inside the house. This plan, though, would also mark the direction Dan’s game would take over the remainder of the summer.
I can’t begin to adequately describe how “Dan’s Funeral” played out if you don’t follow the show. Just trust me when I say it was the single-most incredible game-play I’ve ever seen on pretty much any reality show.
As he was saved from the chopping block, he began to lie more and more to prevent himself from going back up. He swore on his wife…he swore on family heirlooms…he swore on the bible. And each week he would cause the back-stabbing eviction of somebody blindsided and thinking they were safe from eviction for yet another week.
Dan ended up making it to the end (honestly, I think he was brilliant in how he played everybody off each other). He was brought to the final two by an uber-fan named Ian who didn’t have great social gameplay, but had won competitions when it was required. Dan even lied in order to make it to the final two, admitting that he wouldn’t have taken Ian if he had been given the opportunity.
In the end, Dan lost as he only got one vote from the evicted house guests. They were absolutely appalled by Dan’s gameplay and immoral actions with lying and back-stabbing. Even though Dan apologized and said that he did whatever he had to do in order to make it to the end of the game, they didn’t feel his gameplay warranted winning $500,000.
So at the end of the day, can anything be learned from this? Is it as simple as saying “no bad deed goes unpunished”?
No, I think it’s more complex than that. Y’see, the most interesting part of Big Brother is the human element. It’s seeing how people act in a confined space without any contact with the outside world. It’s seeing the things people will say and do in order to win a large sum of money.
Anybody who follows Dan’s website, Twitter, or Facebook page knows that he is a positive, honest, trustworthy individual who is admired by the kids that he coaches and by those who know him as a person. He played an incredibly dirty game full of lies and deceipt because he wanted, ultimately, to benefit himself and his family.
Does that justify how Dan played the game? I guess it’s all in how you look at it.
Before you sit back and judge a person for how they play the game in one of these reality shows, also take a close look at the person behind the gameplay. Dan never sat back and trash-talked his house mates. He never reveled in the sorrow of others. He simply did what he felt he needed to do in order to win the game.
Tackling a wide receiver just after he catches the ball is no big deal when you’re playing football. Tackling someone as they’re crossing the street in front of a convenience store is slightly illegal. What’s the difference? You’re doing one of those things in the context of a game where the other takes place in “real life”.
Does this now justify how Dan played the game? To me, it does. Nobody got hurt. In fact, when all was said and done the worst injury caused by Dan’s play was a bruised ego. So many players on these shows talk about how they don’t want to “sell their soul” for money and want to play with integrity, but does that really mean anything? If the only thing hurt is their feelings, why should they feel superior to somebody else because they didn’t play a “dirty game”?
At the end of the day, reality television isn’t really reality. Any thoughts on morality need to be kept out of reality television and kept into reality.
Congrats, Dan. I was a fan previously, but now I’m on the Team. #TeamDan