Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The Knife

Earlier I wrote how crap is TV and how dead is the format of Big Brother, the ten year Channel 4 filler for summer. I still think this, but what follows is by revision and confession.

Suddenly I am interested, because I have been watching a masterclass at work. If some months back you entered Bea Hamill into a search engine, you would have received many results about a recruitment person in the Bristol area. This is the person who is demonstrating a masterclass of character through her appearance on Big Brother. She would have been better on The Apprentice given its methodology of business.

When she entered the Big Brother House late on she made a moral case for ignoring a subterfuge task as she attached herself to whom she knew was a leading character, indeed one likely to win. He is Freddie George Fisher, of upper class origins and intelligent too, and a bit eccentric in his analysing and mediating. Having so attached herself, she started a round of criticising others while at the same time acting the innocent, cultivating sympathy elsewhere. She cleverly forced Freddie Fisher to stop being neutral, and he emotionally found himself having to analyse and mediate in her favour. She cleverly used small incidents (though, like any total institution, small incidents are big incidents, and any dispute is chewed over and over) to go on and on about something, whilst at the same time complaining others were going on and on about it.

What fascinated me was how in recent days she turned, and instead of me putting half an eye on the programme and even live bits, I started paying more attention. She turned on Freddie Fisher ruthlessly. For anyone who can identify a Machiavellian streak, she has it in spades. She clearly worked out how he identifies himself, as a warm, mediating, interesting individual, and when she stuck the knife in she went right for his core personality. She called him "paranoid", told him to "analyse yourself", and he said he does (taking steps backwards metaphorically). She said, "You're not so clever as you think you are." You could see the effect of just these few words, and his emotional investment was being destroyed. But he wasn't a fool, and told her before going off, "Watch your back." Later he tried to mediate at a time when she had made that emotional connection before, and she tore into him again and he withdrew into her command for silence.

[Corrections made] The next night she had moved her bed away from his, and thanks to friends Marcus Atkin and Siavish Sabbaghpour, he deprived her of what she needed: talk. Talk is her weapon. They said, in effect, keep away. Freddie Fisher meanwhile got continued emotional support from these happy rule breakers, both of whom had been 'wronged by women' in the House, Marcus Atkin most recently by Bea Hamill herself, and the lads at least add some humour into the tired format. What she was doing the next night was going on and on about Freddie Fisher to others, and how she was wronged. The other party were now giving her sympathy, saying she is the only person probably who can take him on given their intelligence levels. She didn't challenge that, because she listens and adds what she hears to her armoury. Yet it hadn't been long before when she was doing the same to them.

One can imagine Bea Hamill in business, climbing the greasy poll, sussing out the people around her, finding their basis of existence in their jobs and who they are, and finding the words by which to cut them down. She persists too and she will quickly and cleverly turn the whole thing around so that they are the guilty party and she was only speaking innocently.

It is a masterclass is the use of language. She goes on and on, but few words do the necessary job. However, there is a flaw in all this, and here is where I would hope she comes a cropper. In terms of the game show, once she is up for eviction on a vote to remove the nominated (I don't know as I write) she will be out. But what about more generally?

First of all, in any strategy like this, going round and round, gaining sympathy from a party you were wronging not long ago is a debased currency. It might work on the first circuit, but it won't work if you have to keep repeating it. Secondly, the way to treat such an individual is indeed to back off, to detect who they are and how they operate. By keeping a distance and keeping a sense of your own moral island with defences, whilst engaging carefully with others, you will better withstand the onslaught, and if you need to put in a knife it will be all the more effective.

I didn't see earlier weeks of Big Brother well enough to know the background she will have studied. As I understand it, and before the second batch of people came in, Freddie Fisher was continually put up for eviction because he was different from everyone else in speech (it's a class thing) and they didn't like his mediating/ analysing. He survived week after week, and then they left him alone, and probably liked him better. Once Bea Hamill turned on him, the suppressed animosities must have returned, plus he now plays with the naughty boys, but the suggestion must be that he is stronger than she is, and actually she might find that he is as intelligent as he thinks he is.

But for the duration, her choice of words, and her delivery, and her persistence, was and is the real stuff of drama. It just fascinated me, because I couldn't have done it but I supposed I secretly (not so secretly!) admire her ability.

Incidentally her video to get her on the programme had stuff in it about polyamoury, and then on appearance she was on about babies and the like as if into monogamy. It was all nonsense for someone who puts up fronts and weighs people up and can, obviously, cut up adults.

I just wonder who she recruits for jobs and how she interviews them. She clearly looks at CVs and applications and sees what matters, and acts on them. I think if she was at the other side of the desk I might be shivering a little, but also I'd be weighing her up, and I'd try to offer things on spoons and keep the knives in the cutlery drawer and just try to keep a sword's length away.

Update Thursday

The programme on Thursday evening, detailing very early Thursday morning, was extraordinary. Here she launched into some more knife wielding, but Marcus Atkin in his late night sitting up was having none of it, and then with Charlie Drummond acting the dipstick she turned on the waterworks because he said you can't talk like this about other people. Some of her comments were breathtaking in their reversal: as in "if you can't take it don't dish it out", a perfect description of her own condition (and why Freddie Fisher, overhearing it, laughed and then had to justify why he laughed) - plus she claimed others were going "on and on and on" while she, it was, who kept reraising these points. It is interesting that she did all this: either she is acting a larger script (to be really cynical), or acting her own script (and can turn on waterworks - including crying on her own in the bog) or she is actually pathological like a child who first sends out her perspective and when no one will accept it she starts chucking around all the toys, and gets personally distressed. And as she came round, what did she do? She launched a new personal attack on the apparent 1980s appearance of Marcus Atkin, just to wield another knife. What an extraordinary display of character! She also made reference to dealing with people, so there is a link to her job of recruitment. Gosh, what it must do to some people at least. Would any such recruiting agency employ her?

And Friday

So she dragged him down, did enough to become the assassin, leaving her in lead position, and as a result most of those who were left paid homage to she who predicted the turned-upon Freddie Fisher would go and not Marcus Atkin. Which is where I'll leave it.


libz72 said...

I got this sent to be from a relative. I cannot even find the words to describe how very well I think you have put it - so to speak. You have said exactly what I see, so thanks for that!

chequeredmonkey said...

Succinct and savvy analysis and, agreeing with the other poster, directly in line with how I viewed it (even down to an unspeakable, grudging admiration of such arch-manipulation). Whilst, I also agree that there seems to have been a lack of love and care put into this year's 'Big Brother' at a production-level, I am always gripped by the phenomenological insights it often uncovers, inadvertently. I was heartened to find out today that Mr Fisher was evicted with a close 53% of all votes cast, so Bea's victory is, thankfully, only partial.