Last Saturday the production of the reality show Grande Fratello Vip announced that one of the participants, Marco Bellavia, had left the broadcast. The reasons are not very clear, but Bellavia had previously said she had a mental health problem, and the humiliating and stigmatizing behavior adopted towards her by the others and by the other competitors may have played a role in the decision to leave. The people who follow the program are discussing a lot about what happened, but not only, and the story in the last few days has also ended up in several newspapers. The production of the reality show was accused of not having managed the story correctly, and some sponsors have decided to dissociate themselves from the program.
Big Brother Vip was born from Big Brother, a reality show aired in Italy on Canale 5 from 2000 to 2019 and based on a Dutch format (Big Brother) which took its name from the homonymous character in George Orwell’s novel, 1984. In both programs there are competitors who have to live for several weeks in the same house, observed 24 hours a day by the cameras. The first edition of Big Brother was conducted by Daria Bignardi. Since 2016 there has been a so-called “Vip” version which is now in its seventh edition and which is conducted by the editor of the weekly Who Alfonso Signorini. The two programs are identical, except that those who participate in the VIP version have a certain notoriety, or have had it in the past.
Marco Bellavia, who conducted the show “Bim bum bam” for over ten years, is 57 years old and even before starting his participation in the program he had told the production that he had unspecified mental health problems. He then spoke openly about the same problems once he entered Big Brother’s house, calling them “mental pain” or “depression”, also showing their symptoms.
While participating in the program, Bellavia had also explicitly asked for support from the others and the other competitors: «It is true that I am not well and that I had my son as a point of reference outside. But I’d still be happy to stay here. I count on being able to move forward if you give me a hand. Because if one person is in need and the other 22 help her, she will make it. He can’t do it alone, ”she said on live television. She also explained that she wanted to bring an important and common problem to many people to the attention of the public.
– Read also: The term “mental health” is overused
In fact, however, Bellavia was verbally attacked, stigmatized and marginalized by most of the people who participated in the game with him for weeks (the program started on September 19) by implementing dynamics that have been defined as “pack”. Bellavia’s decision to abandon the program was then made public on Saturday 1 October.
Marco we are all on your side.#gfvip ❤️🩹 pic.twitter.com/G0ilz0RPgS
– 𝘭𝘶𝘥𝘰𝘷𝘪𝘤𝘢 (@xbrsmile) September 30, 2022
In the meantime, on social networks Bellavia had begun to receive a lot of support, the hashtag #iostoconbellavia was born, and many and many have relaunched the phrases said against him by the other competitors.
As a person who has been bullied, hearing and reading these things have reopened enormous wounds … I hope they do not go into oblivion and serious measures are taken #iostoconbellavia #MarcoBellavia #GFvip pic.twitter.com/cFAjnaeHLK
– Mariagrazia (@ Mariagr54789383) October 1, 2022
The conductor Alfonso Signorini, before leaving the Bellavia program, had communicated “that the staff of Big Brother” wanted to “go deeper into this expressed discomfort. A team of psychologists collaborates with us ». After that Signorini had announced measures against the participants, which were then communicated in the episode of 3 October.
In his introductory speech, Signorini said: «What is about to begin is not an easy bet for many reasons. (…) Marco Bellavia has shown a psychological fragility that has worsened over time ». Signorini then explained that “bad images have been broadcast, horrible images”, that Bellavia’s exit is linked “to her discomfort” but, addressing the other participants of the program, he specified that the exit was also caused from indifference, from “your not giving a damn about his pain. (…) And this has outraged millions of people, all of Italy speaks only of this. We were all wrong, I am the first, tonight we have to retrace what happened to try to get out of this horrible page of television ».
After quoting the psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung as “Yang” and after apologizing for not fully understanding Bellavia’s situation, Signorini announced the disqualification from the program of Ginevra Lamborghini, sister of the singer Elettra, for having pronounced , in his opinion, the most serious sentence of all, namely: “He deserves to be bullied.” Finally, a televoting was opened to ask the public who among the competitors should have been saved and was therefore less guilty of isolation and bullying against Bellavia. Giovanni Ciacci, costume designer, image consultant and columnist, was eliminated.
Meanwhile, some sponsors linked to the program have decided to make public their disagreement with what happened. Amica Chips, a food company, wrote in a press release: “We obviously disassociate ourselves from what happens inside the Gf Vip’s house, we disassociate ourselves from the people who allow such behaviors and who support them, which we do not do as sponsors of the program but neither advocates nor supporters of what the protagonists do and say ». The company that produces TooA ice cream machines has defined the behavior of Big Brother Vip’s competitors as “unacceptable and harmful”.
The production’s handling of what happened has been heavily criticized. Because there was no intervention while the facts were happening, because, only at the end, scapegoats were identified when the dynamic was rather generalized, because a serious inadequacy in dealing with the issue of mental health was demonstrated, and also for the representation of Bellavia itself, whose images and speeches made in an emotional state of great fragility have been repeatedly broadcast.
Federico Mascagni, for example, has dealt with the affair several times by writing on Everyday occurrence how much does the fact that we are talking about a television show “where pain is exploited to arouse emotions and gather interest” does not matter: even if it is a representation, or perhaps precisely for this reason, “Big Brother Vip has provided public opinion with the stigma of disorders as entertainment, providing a stage for some unspeakable attitudes “without knowing how to transform what happened into an opportunity to speak adequately about mental health.
“We take the broadcast not as a show but as a cross-section (albeit not at all edifying) of, or rather of one, reality: the Gf Vip was able to transmit the reaction of a part of the community (the less informed , the frightened and violent one) that every day negatively conditions the life of a large number of people with frailty (children, adolescents, the elderly) by exercising the violence of prejudice and injustice ».
It is not clear what mental disorders Bellavia suffers from. The spectrum of mental disorders is broad: it includes psychotic disorders (such as schizophrenia), mood disorders (such as bipolar disorder and depression), anxiety disorders, anorexia and nervous bulimia. However, mental health problems are a major public health problem. Monday 10 October will be the world day of mental health and many have suggested that the next episode of Big Brother Vip could become an opportunity to insert a moment of correct information.
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