The religious-Zionist rabbinic group Beit Hillel has issued a statement harshly criticizing “Big Brother” and other reality TV shows, and calling not to watch them. The latest season of “Big Brother” is to begin in the upcoming days.
“These types of programs often legitimize moral weakness and unrestrained indulgence of baser impulses,” rabbis wrote. “These programs strengthen [moral] deficiencies and perversities that violate societal norms.”
“When a large percent of society takes in these messages on a regular basis, it is likely to disrupt the social order due to the disrespect these shows have for societal and halakhic norms,” they added.
One major issue is the shows’ glorifying of immodesty, they said. “These shows that by definition neutralize any value of privacy or modesty, like Big Brother, do serious damage to attempts to educate to modesty.”
The shows also treat women as objects and externalize sexuality, they said, thus eroding and cheapening the concept of real love. “This type of objectifying discourse is likely to trickle down to society and to hurt the status of women,” they warned.
Yet another issue involves the Biblical prohibition on lashon hara, literally “evil speech,” which includes a prohibition on speaking badly of others when not absolutely necessary.
“Judaism has much to say about clean speech and guarding one’s tongue,” they wrote. “Man was distinguished from the animal world due to his ability to control his speech. Some reality shows allow, and encourage, the lowest, crudest speech in front of the cameras, and exploit contestants’ weak points... In some of these programs one cannot find a single episode without cursing and crude speech.”
“It’s hard to find any positive examples of real dialogue and appropriate speech in these shows, that is, meaningful discussions and real listening,” they added.
Beit Hillel is not opposed to television in general, rabbis noted. Television “brings the blessing of exposure to many areas of interest, enriched knowledge, the sharpening of moral sensitivity and the broadening of the viewer’s experience,” they said.
“However, this culture also carries a danger of shallow messages, of preferring ratings to quality, of harmful programs with violence, sex and more,” they continued.
Ultimately, they concluded, “We are not against making use of this media, while maintaining moral and halakhic boundaries.”