Leading in to the audition area is a desk teeming with Big Brother crew. They’re wearing black t-shirts flaunting theupdated Big Brother logo – it looks more like a line drawing of a kayak or a cross section of an avocado than an eye. As people enter, they are handed both laminated numbers AND numbered stickers – it is an inscrutable, redundant taxonomy that sets an authoritative mood for a show about people who have none.
The audition waiting room is a room with bright halogen lighting and casino carpets. I feel like I am at a Concession party for the State Election.
Leather hoodies. Teal-green skinny jeans. Grim straight hair fashioned in to a severe top knot the size of a second head. Daytime sequins. A McDonalds uniform. Sunglasses on the back of necks. Calf tattoos. I’m pretty sure I’m in a room full of people who comment on YouTube videos.
Everyone’s quirks have the cumulative effect of looking exactly the same. Just like how every girl at Goodgod looks like ‘Manhattan’ is their favourite movie, every girl at the Big Brother auditions looks like they make no effort to understand Facebook privacy settings.
I sat next to a young guy who was clutching his CV in a plastic sleeve. I discretely read the text he is drafting: and — though I’m pretty sure I can never relate to people who write ahahaha’s at the end of a sentence — I shoot him a warm smile, and we start chatting.
His name is Samuel and I ask him whyhe decided to audition for Big Brother. He says he didn’t really want to but his mum made him. She’d heard the ad on Nova and he might win and the money would help with their mortgage. Plus, Trevor won so a black guy could win again. I said he should’ve auditioned with his mum! And was all, ‘Nah, they did that already’. He asks me why I decided to audition and I said ‘uh dunno- just curious I guess’, which in this distracted setting counts as a perfectly legitimate conversational gambit.
We’re interrupted by a crew member making an announcement ‘is number 2370 here. Is anyone here #2370?’, before adding, in a voice audible only to those in the seats near mine. ‘…he’s left his children here’.
My new friend and I continue chatting and he asks how old I am. I have already snuck a look at his plastic sleeve and the 1990’s DOB contained therein. I cannot justify my next move but I quickly Benjamin Button myself and lop off a few years. ’25’, I beam.
He tells me he doesn’t mind who is in the house as long as it’s not old people. I say ‘What about me! I’m old!’ and he says ‘Ha nah man, you seem like you’re 18.’
Yes. I seem exactly like I’m 18, To someone who’s frame of reference is limited to 18 years of human experience.
‘Anyway’, he says, ‘You’re not old, I just don’t want to be in the house with anyone older than 26’.
It’s a sweet gesture. He has made room for me and my fake age to just scrape through.
We sort of run out of conversation for a while but it gives me a chance to tune in to some other frequencies. Turns out everyone is asking everyone else how old they are, and why they want to be on Big Brother:
‘I want to do it so bad.’
‘Not to be famous– ‘
‘Something different I haven’t done it before.’
‘Not everyone gets to do it.’
‘I like loved Sarah-Marie.’
The Ghosts of Big Brother Contestants Past haunt the room. Everyone here is extremely literate with the vocabulary of the show, using dialect without italics or quotes- ‘Intruder’ is as real a word as ‘student’ or ‘food blogger’. The housemates will be a self-selected population of people weened on Reality TV.
There is a beach ball in circulation and it makes me feel like the least fun person in the world. Everyone is enviably unihibited around the beach ball, feeling elated when it comes near them so they can make it go near someone else.
I come up with the brilliant idea of asking Samuel if he’s seen the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games is a thing people like! NOT TO MENTION the Hunger Games forward slash The Culture of Reality TV! This is going to be a great conversation – one of our best yet!
‘…Seen the Hunger Games??’
I take it upon myself to explain the Hunger Games with great detail and sensitivity. The third act of my Hunger Games monologue morphs in to an extremely patronising lecture about how he should just be himself in the BB house. He is wildly uninterested. I am competing with his iPhone and the beach ball lobbing back and forth to our left.
And why would he be interested in my advice of how he should behave in the house? Maybe I have to win Big Brother real quick so the patronising advice I genuinely enjoy dishing out has at least some flavour of legitimacy? And If I stop spending so much time being caught up in the narcissism of small differences – are Samuel and I really exactly the same person– AM I really 18? Would it be corny if I proposed to him in the house? Am I, the curious bystander, seriously about to audition for fucking Big Brother?