Saturday, December 04, 2004

Big Brother Croatia Update: A Boost For Valentina

Last night's Big Brother eviction upset has created some conspiracy theories about vote being rigged. Some are concentrated on the family and business ties between Antonija and RTL Televizija. Others into consideration business interests of T-Com. Both Antonija and Ana were either unpopular or able to draw huge emotional response from their fans, thus guaranteeing huge number of votes and close unpredictable contest - an ideal situation for phone company to make money. If Ana have stayed, next round of nomination would be the more predictable and, therefore, less profitable contest between Valentina and Ana. With Antonija staying and being nominated with Valentina in the next round, T-Com can expect another phone vote bonanza.

However, there are some rumours and speculation claiming that Ana's Friday departure, rigged or not, actually saved RTL Televizija from PR disaster. It seems that strict Big Brother rules about manual washing of clothes, housemates' liberal attitudes towards personal hygiene and their habit of using each other outfits have created some sort of biohazard in the House. So far the only victim was housemates' pet dog Biggy. After consultations with vet, Big Brother have informed housemates about Biggy becoming victim of fungal infection. The worst news was the fact that one of Big Brother humans was the source of infection. Biggy's condition could have worsened and Big Brother could be faced with a prospect of country's most popular pet dying in front of TV cameras and show's main assets taking the blame for it. So, Biggy had to leave the House and the easiest way to do it was to co-ordinate his departure with the housemates most attached to the dog, in this case Ana.

Ana's eviction, predictably, led to the nomination of Antonija and Valentina. This again proves to be another T-Com's delight. Both women are unpopular, both have fans of the past evictees set against them and both, for different reasons, annoy show's fans. The contest between them is going to be close. Although first snap polls gave formidable lead to Valentina's eviction, less than 24 hours later the contest seems to be more even.

The reasons for that could be found in Valentina's handling of the situation. At first, she was shocked and even used a little row with Saša (Sasa) to cry. But in the morning she seems recovered and she is nowhere near the train wreck that was Ana one week ago.

At first, Antonija didn't take nominations very lightly. She even accused the housemates of double standards ("You feel bad about Alen being nominated for the third time, but you don't feel bad about me being kicked out one week before finals"). Her mood improved when she heard a single supporter that chanted her name immediately after Ana's eviction. Nowshe is utterly convinced that she is nation's favourite daughter and that she won't get evicted. But that doesn't prevent her from taking comfort in Valentina's company. Both women channel their frustration towards Marina.

The reason why the lead for Valentina's eviction is shrinking could be found in a factor which was usually neglected in almost all Big Brother considerations – her ethnic and cultural background. Valentina speaks with heavy Herzegovina accent and that could harm her, especially in more urban areas of Croatia where Herzegovina accent is usually associated with Western Herzegovina Croats who used to rule Croatia in Tudjman's years at the exepense of Croats from Croatia proper.

On the other hand, Valentina's accent might serve as her asset as well as liability. Valentina's physical appearance is very much in line what certain areas of Balkans see as a female ideal – tall, muscular Xena-type woman. And those areas of Balkans also include areas of Croatia or, at least, areas from where many of Big Brother voters came from in past decades or so. For them, Valentina is their kind of woman and they would always give her preference over Antonija.

Those areas of Balkans, usually associated with Dinara Mountains, are also known for their social conservatism. And Valentina, despite her friendship and links to Antonija, Sanja, Ana and other "progressive", "hip" Big Brother characters, always remained loyal to conservative social mores. She, for example, always took shower in bathing suit rather than risk being caught naked by camera. Again, if we apply US political terminology to Croatian Big Brother, Valentina is Red State, while Antonija with her embrace of "anarchism", "antiglobalism" and other fashionable Limousine Left causes, as well as more than liberal attitudes to sexuality, represents Blue State. The contest between Željko (Zeljko) and Sanja shows what majority of Croatians who vote in this contest think about Blue State values.

Valentina's support is not limited to Croatia. Apart from her native Bosnia-Herzegovina she apparently enjoys some kind of popularity in Serbia, at least judging by this fan page. So far, Valentina is the only the third Big Brother housemate to have a fan page.


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