Skip To Content

    No, The “Big Brother” Cookout Alliance Is Not Reverse Racism

    "This is not about oppressing the non-Black people in the house. It's about empowering themselves.”

    On today's episode of BuzzFeed Daily, we broke down the top pop culture headlines AND discussed the Big Brother alliance The Cookout. You can listen below or scroll down to read more about the interview!

    Listen on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts. You can also find BuzzFeed Daily wherever else you might listen to your favorite podcasts!

    So let's dive right into it! Recently we talked to Big Brother superfan and RHAP podcaster Mari Forth about the racist history of Big Brother and the current season's Cookout alliance. Here's some of what we learned:

    BuzzFeed Daily: Before we get into what's going on with the show this season, which is amazing, we need to dive into some Big Brother history and the fact that this show has a pretty racist history. Can you set the scene for us?

    looking back at some of the racist moments from BB15 absolutely infuriates me. if i would’ve been candice, i would’ve mopped the floor with aaryn’s racist ass and called her out in front of the whole country. and gm, well, 🐑🐑🐑. #BB15

    Twitter: @theotaurus

    Mari Forth: So in the last 22 seasons of Big Brother, there have been just various degrees of microaggressions, bullying, racial slurs, and abuse aimed at Black house guests. And the show itself is just — I hesitate to call it a racist show, because when you start saying stuff like that, people's ears kind shut off, in a sense. But the history of it is right there.

    So in the 22 seasons, minus this current season, normally you only have one to two Black people cast per season. And because of this, you get tokenism, and tokenism can often lead to isolation at best case and bullying at worst case. And worst case, a lot of Big Brother fans will tell you and that we've seen, is season 15. Season 15 is the most infamous season. People call it the most racist season. It is literally the reason why on the Big Brother live feeds there is a disclaimer about what the contestants say on the show.

    And I'm sorry, just for any listeners who don't watch Big Brother, it's a reality show that's happening right now in real time. And you can watch them on the live feeds 24/7, every day of the week and it's like 99 days. So from day one to day 99, you can just see it all basically. We've seen the biases and the prejudices from so many houseguests and it really affected a lot of viewers like myself who are Black and who have to sit through this season after season after season. Big Brother has, in 22 seasons, never had a Black winner. There have been three winners who are people of color, but we've never had a Black winner. And often the playing field has never been level for Black players. So this is why this season has just been so monumental to watch.

    BuzzFeed Daily: I think we can all agree that reality competition shows in general have a pretty fucked up history when it comes to race. But it seems like Big Brother in particular struggles with this. Now, you've already mentioned the issue of representation, like not casting enough Black contestants, but it seems like there's also something about the mechanics of the game itself that lends itself to racism. Would you agree with that?

    Aaryn from Big Brother season 15
    CBS

    MF: Oh, yes. You cannot hide this. You know, they do present edited episodes every Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday. But true Big Brother fans like me, live feeders, we're constantly watching. I have to constantly watch because I podcast about it and we see it all. And when cameras are running 24/7, you can only hide your biases and your prejudices for so long. It'll eventually come out and then we'll see it. Other reality shows have the luxury of editing. You know, most reality shows — Survivor, The Challenge, Amazing Race — they're produced months in advance. They're then edited down and they normally edit out those really unsavory parts, especially if those unsavory parts are coming from your winner. And on Survivor itself, we've had several Survivor contestants, Black contestants, contestants of color come out and say that they witnessed and had racism thrown at them while out there. But we don't know because we don't see it on the edited show. So the mechanism of Big Brother in itself leads it to be able to pull the veil back on what we're seeing in that house.

    BuzzFeed News: Now I want to move on to what's going on this season because it is absolutely brilliant and amazing. Every time I talk about it, I get chills because the gameplay is just so amazing. This is coming from someone who's only watched two seasons of the show and I'm like, "Wow, I need to watch this." Why it's so big is because we have an alliance known as the Cookout. How have these contestants taken matters into their own hands? Can you describe what they've done?

    Photo of the Cookout alliance from Big Brother 23
    CBS

    MF: So most of these contestants are all fans of Big Brother and the six members of the Cookout Alliance — Black contestants — they're fans and they know there's never been a Black winner. Initially just kind of made a pact to not target each other, but it grew into an alliance called the Cookout, and their mission was to ensure that there is a Black winner this season and they got to the final six completely intact. There are only six people left in that house. And now we will have a Black winner for Big Brother 23. And it's because of them and it's because they made a concerted effort to make it their mission to have a Black winner.

    BuzzFeed Daily: There are so many reasons to be fans of this alliance, one of them being the fact that it's just an ingenious strategy. Can you explain exactly how the alliance is working?

    Members of the Cookout alliance in superhero costumes
    CBS

    MF: So what they've done is they've utilized what's called the "plus one strategy," also known as the "parachute strategy." It's not new, but they have executed it the best. There are six members in the Cookout, and they all had what is called a "plus one." They all pick somebody else in the house who they connected with and that they game-played with, they did strategy with, they made other fake alliances with. That person was basically seen as their duo in the house. So to people who don't know the Cookout, they look at, say, contestant Tiffany and Claire, and they're a duo. So if they ever want to target them — either one of them — you've got to put them both on the block. The Cookout strategy is, yes, we want you to put both of them on the block that way. We had the votes to keep Tiffany safe and vote Claire out. And that is the genius execution of this strategy.

    And again, I just want to point out, it's not new, but they really have executed it better than any other alliance in history. They are the only alliance who got every single one of their members to the final six, to just being them left in the house. And they did it, also, I would like to point out, by never being in the same room together until the final eight. They knew that they could never be seen together in a room because they didn't want people to catch on. Everybody who got voted out this alliance was concealed until it was just them. Nobody knew until it was too late. And that really is the amazingness of it. And that's why they're getting so much praise.

    BuzzFeed Daily: Inevitably, there are some people who are not happy about what's going on right now, including some OG Big Brother fans. So what are people complaining about online?

    The Big Brother alliance The Cookout celebrating
    CBS

    MF: A lot of people are complaining that the group is racist, that they are voting people out due to the color of their skin, which just simply isn't true. Just like any other alliance that's ever been in every season, it was based on protecting each other. It's protecting and looking out for each other and they've never excluded anybody, even when they had their plus ones who were basically all non-Black, of course, they always work with them. They always they actually truly cared for their plus ones. We never saw any isolation, any bullying. They never harassed any of the non-Black houseguests, which we've seen in previous seasons. We've really seen in previous seasons people be ganged up and bullied. Again, racial slurs being lobbed at them. And the Cookout is nothing of the sort. This is not about oppressing the non-Black people in the house. It's about empowering themselves. And that is honestly the true difference between this alliance and some of the other alliances that we've seen. 

    And to the OG — if they're really OG fans — they would know that modern Big Brother in itself has forced houseguest to create large groups to protect themselves from the twist. And this same thing has happened for multiple seasons. The only difference is this alliance is Black and there's enough of them to finally be able to give them a fair playing field, because there's more than two of them in the house. In some of the older seasons, a lot of Black players made it further because the gameplay was different because you weren't reliant on large alliances. It's been in the last 12 years that, because you have to get into a large alliance, normally, the large alliance is non-Black. All the houseguests who aren't Black, or mostly not houseguests of color because of how they mesh and having the same backgrounds and stuff like that. And because of that, then you'll see your Black houseguests getting voted out because they can't fit into that group. 

    So this season was just great because they still didn't come in the house with the majority. There are six of them. They started out with 16 houseguests. There were six Black houseguests and they still had to maneuver their way to get down to being into a majority situation. So that's why it's just amazing to watch. And it really is nothing we've ever seen.

    You can learn more about diversity in reality TV by watching or listening to Black Voices of RHAP: The State of Black Representation in Reality TV and Podcast Coverage and the Black Voices of Survivor Roundtable.

    In other news, Ryan Fischer, who was shot while walking Lady Gaga’s dogs, has opened up about the experience and why he started a GoFundMe.

    Still from an interview with Ryan Fischer with a chyron: Lady Gaga's Dog Walker Speaks Out
    CBS / Via youtube.com

    He told Gayle King that after he was attacked, Lady Gaga flew his family, as well as trauma therapists, out to see him, adding, “I stayed at her house for months while friends comforted me and security was around me."

    But after Ryan started the GoFundMe, many people speculated that Lady Gaga wasn’t helping him as much as she should be. He explained: "LG's very supportive of my journey right now, and I think it's hard for people to understand why someone would go about healing in this way. I grew up Catholic, in the Jesuit faith, and there's something about giving up your resources, giving up belongings, and to contribute back to society. And so, I know that doesn't make sense to a lot of people, but she totally gets it."

    Moving on, if you’ve seen the photo Keke Palmer posted of her Met Gala meal, you know it didn’t look particularly appealing — to the point that people were comparing it to the cheese sandwich from Fyre Fest.

    Screenshot of an Instagram story from Keke Palmer featuring a photo of a plate of meat and veggies and the caption "This why they don't show y'all the food...I'm just playinnnn"
    @keke / Instagram / Via Instagram: @keke

    After the chef in charge of the menu, Marcus Samuelsson, told TMZ the food was quote “delicious” and the post-Gala feedback was “incredible,” Keke tweeted an apology, saying “I just have different taste buds! I love this Chef, sorry to this man.”

    As always, thanks for listening! And if you ever want to suggest stories or just want to say hi, you can reach us at daily@buzzfeed.com.

    BuzzFeed Daily

    Keep up with the latest daily buzz with the BuzzFeed Daily newsletter!

    Newsletter signup form