Analysis: How are people feeling about 'Big Brother' racism?

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Image Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS

Big Brother must be hoping that the old adage that there’s no such thing as bad press is true.

The long-running reality show has generated more headlines than ever this season — often about racist remarks made by multiple contestants – and while there has been negative reaction in the media about houseguests Aaryn, GinaMarie, and others, the volume of conversation about Big Brother has exploded. According to General Sentiment — a leading social analytics firm that analyzes more than 60 million sources of digital content every day — Big Brother has experienced huge spurts of social chatter since the premiere of season 15 on June 26, but while there is high volume, it tends to be extremely negative. Perhaps not surprisingly, the biggest days of chatter correlated pretty directly to when depressing racist moments were shown either on television or all over the web via the live feeds.

On General Sentiment’s 100-point scale, a HIT score of 50 is neutral, a score of 51 and higher skews positive, while scores of 49 and lower skew more negative. The day the show premiered — and before Aaryn became the most reviled houseguest in the program’s history — Big Brother’s HIT score was averaging around 60, with a comparatively smaller number of people talking about it at all. Once the show began, the volume picked up, but went negative fairly quickly. The first big spike came on July 4, with 66,614 mentions (volume-wise, the fourth most popular day), and a 26 HIT score. That was the day Aaryn and other houseguests’ comments first began gaining traction among live-feed watchers along with media pickup, and she subsequently lost one of her modeling jobs.

The surge continued a week later with a week of the highest volume of mentions to date. July 12 (94,365 mentions) was the date that Aaryn and GinaMarie infamously flipped Candice’s bed over and said a bunch of confrontational racist remarks. Not surprisingly, the HIT score was 34. On July 15 (117,943 mentions, the show’s peak), that same fight was broadcast on television, bringing it to the attention of many more viewers, resulting in the second-most-negative-sentiment-day-so-far HIT score of 21.

Some trends are to be expected — regardless of the HIT score, the volume of mentions peak Wednesdays, Thursday and Sundays, which of course are days the program airs on television — but others are a bit confounding. The most negative day of all was July 25, which had the three “mean girls” — Aaryn, GinaMarie and Kaitlin — up on the block together. Audience members were likely hoping Aaryn would be packing her bags, but instead, Kaitlin’s journey ended. Oddly, there was a weird few days between July 17 and 19 where the HIT score shifted into positive territory (average HIT score: 62). This was when unlikable people like Aaryn and Jeremy were being called out (and up on the block), America became MVP, and Amanda and McCrae’s showmance was going full speed ahead. In fact, July 18 was when viewers saw the pre-taped segment with Amanda and McCrae’s families that viewers seemed to like.

But, of course, the mighty fall. Amanda’s recent remarks, particularly her seemingly out-of-nowhere fights with Jessie and Candice, tanked whatever favorability she likely had: The program hasn’t had a plus-50 HIT score this entire past week, and each day this week has had a lower HIT score than the day preceding it.

The winner in all of this might be dearly departed houseguest Judd. His shocking elimination last night doubled the amount of mentions from the previous week and with a HIT score of 26.5 people were not happy about him getting backdoored. Or maybe they weren’t happy about that crazy Candice/GinaMarie fight? Or maybe they weren’t happy that somehow Amanda wound up not going home? Perhaps viewers are just upset they won’t ever be able to see the Bear shirt again.


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