GETTING THE LOWDOWN FROM THE GUY THAT GETS THE LOWDOWN ON ALL YOUR FAVORITE BIG BROTHER HOUSEGUESTS


We recently had the opportunity to chat with queer-ally and man-about-the-internet, Taran Armstrong. We spoke about reality TV, casting, inspiration, and tons more. Dive into the interview and pop on over to his RHAP show’s page to get caught up on all theaural pleasure he has to offer.

WHAT ARE YOUR TOP 3 TO 5 REALITY COMPETITION SHOW FORMATS OF ALL TIME?

  • Big Brother
  • The Genius
  • Solitary
  • Survivor
  • Sasuke (if that counts)

WHERE OR WHAT DO YOU TURN TO WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF NEEDING INSPIRATION?

I definitely take inspiration from the people in my life. They inspire me to be the best I can be. Which is cliché, but whatever.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE THINGS IN MEDIA RIGHT NOW?

How long can you listen for? I’m always being swept away by one piece of media or another. I think they’re an amazing way of getting out of your own perspective and examine concepts and ideas you never could have otherwise.

I recently finished a lengthy fantasy series by Robin Hobb called the Realm of the Elderlings series. She’s amazing at creating believable flawed characters with depth, and it’s in getting you to love these flawed characters that you find her real genius.

For TV, Chernobyl was great, as was season two of Barry. Season two of Fleabag blew me away. Easily the best thing I’ve watched all year.

For music, I’ve been enjoying some of Hozier’s new album, Loving the new Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties, Beirut, La Dispute, the new Laura Stevenson is really great.

For gaming, I’ve been playing a lot of Apex Legends.

Oh, and I’m a big fan of the Saga comics, but I’ve just been waiting for them to start up again.

WHAT MAKES BIG BROTHER SO GREAT AND WELCOMING TO SUCH A LARGE FANBASE?

I think part of it is actually the lack of narrative structure. Sure, many of these shows end up being very formulaic, but they offer unpredictability in a sea of predictable scripted content.

Part of what made Game of Thrones such a phenomenon was how it managed to shock and surprise people by turning conventional narrative formulas on their heads, and more importantly, just kill off any of your favorite characters on a whim.

Reality competition shows offer that level of tension and uncertainty. The stakes are high because your favorite is not always going to get a satisfying ending to their journey, which makes it all the sweeter when they do. They really are like little sports, with the same kind of passion and dedicated following.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE SINGLE THING TO TRY AND CHANGE BIG BROTHER FOR THE BETTER, WHAT YOU IS BE?

Oh, I’d change so many things. Can I cheat and say that I’d change it so that it followed the formula of BB10 every season? No unbalanced game twists and bringing back the longer jury questioning.

ALL REALITY SHOWS CAST USING FORMULAS. AFTER SO MANY YEARS, WHY WON’T THEY UPDATE THEIR FORMULA AND SHOULD THEY?

I honestly wish I knew why the formula hasn’t been updated. I would love to see a shake up.

THIS APPROACH TO CASTING MEANS THAT EVEN IF YOU ELIMINATED HOUSEGUESTS AT RANDOM, YOU WOULD EVENTUALLY HAVE AN ORDER THAT GETS RID OF ALL THE PEOPLE THAT AREN’T WHITE FIRST. IS THERE ANY POSSIBLE THING THAT PRODUCERS SHOULD DO TO TRY AND COURSE-CORRECT FOR THE SAKE OF OPTICS AFTER THE GAME IS SET IN MOTION THAT WOULDN’T ALSO DEMOLISH THE SPIRIT OF BIG BROTHER?

I actually think producer interference is one of the primary causes of this issue. Many of the twists that they’ve throw into the game in recent seasons are (in my opinion) not well thought out when it comes to game balance. They tend to encourage (either directly or indirectly) a majority clique to team up and stay together while picking off the people that don’t fit in.

So obviously casting plays a role in this as well, but as these twists give the majority cliques more & more power and incentives to stick together, I think it’s clear to see how that formula might lead to some of the situations we’ve seen in recent seasons.

LET’S TALK LOWERCASE “P” POLITICS. IN ANY COMPETITION SHOW THAT INVOLVES BEING ISOLATED AND LOSING A PLAYER ONE BY ONE IN A WEEKLY SECRET BALLOT, WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD HELP YOU MORE:

  • AN UNDERSTANDING OF POLITICS AND GAME THEORY
  • AN UNDERSTANDING OF PSYCHOLOGY
  • AN UNDERSTANDING OF SOCIOLOGY AND GROUPS DYNAMICS

Game theory 100%. Group dynamics are important. An understanding of psychology is nice. But at the end of the day, you’re playing a game and the better understanding you have of the game, the better you’ll understand the driving force behind all of the group dynamics and behavior that you see.

I believe this is why no players who weren’t already familiar with the game prior to playing have managed to win the game in nearly a decade despite making up the majority of the casting.

THERE’S THE TOKEN GAY EACH YEAR ON BIG BROTHER AND THE ALMOST CONSTANT BARRAGE OF RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE… BUT, ASIDE FROM THAT, IT’S SAD OUT HERE FOR QUEER PEOPLE TRYING TO WATCH LOVE ISLAND OR WHATEVER INTERNATIONAL DATING SHOW FORMAT NETWORK X IS ADAPTING FOR NEXT SUMMER. AS A REALITY TV EXPERT AND LGBTQ ALLY, WHY AREN’T THERE MORE QUEER PEOPLE ON THE SCREEN?

I wish I knew the answer to this question. Honestly, I think it’s a big missed opportunity.

HOW MANY WEEKS WOULD YOU AND EACH OF YOUR FELLOW LFC MEMBERS (PLUS ROB, I GUESS?) LAST INTO AN AVERAGE BB SEASON?

We actually played a mini version of Big Brother at a live show once! I did a lot better than I thought I would considering the target on my back going in.

We used a random number generator to determine competition outcomes, and I had a 2/3 shot at getting to the Final 2 from the Final 3 (and winning), but lost it!

YOU GUYS HANDLE DISAGREEMENTS SO WELL. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE SECRET SAUCE AS TO WHY RHAP HAS EVOLVED SUCH A GREAT COMMUNITY?

I appreciate that! I think it’s important to understand that it’s all in good fun. The game, the show, the discussion, the point of it all is to have a good time. I try to remind myself and anyone else that I’m talking to or that is listening to us that if we’re not having fun, it’s perhaps time to take a step back and reevaluate what we’re doing.

Taran and #BB21’s Kemi
Taran on a hike.
Taran w/ legendary winner, #BB16’s Derek
Taran and cat.

/all photos of Taran Armstrong are via Taran Armstrong on Instagram

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