On Reality TV And What We Can Learn From Sheggz and Bella

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Viewers are about seven weeks into Big Brother Naija Level Up season, and so far, the show has not failed on delivering its usual drama. Keeping a group of adults together in a confined space for a certain period of time is bound to stir up some emotions, and over the years, we’ve seen housemates fall in and out of love, get rejected, recite theatrical lines of poetry, cuddle up under covers, fight over feelings, and have even witnessed a number of ‘untimely’ disqualifications. Chaotic relationships, some might say, are the spice of life — particularly in the Big Brother House.

Although there are already a few budding romances (or “ships”, as they are popularly called) this season, one couple, in particular, seems to be keeping viewers glued to their screens. But unlike previous BBNaija seasons, viewers don’t really seem to be rooting for the couple this time. If anything, Sheggz and Bella’s relationship has raised quite a few eyebrows since it began. 

Now, for the sake of context (and for those of us not fully invested in the show), Sheggz came into the competition as a natural fan favorite: the quintessential good-looking guy with a charming personality. And as a professional (albeit injured) footballer, he even garnered some affection from male viewers. Soon after the season began, Sheggz entered into a relationship with another contestant, Bella, establishing the union now dubbed by many fans as ‘Shella’.

In just a few short weeks, viewers have watched the couple oscillate between cinematic love-bombing and declarations of undying love , to frequent and increasingly heated arguments. Over time, it seems Sheggz has become possessive of Bella, giving her orders and restricting her from bonding with other housemates, particularly the male contestants. As a matter of fact, both contestants recently received a stern warning from the show coordinator, Biggie, for failing to contribute significantly to a particular task after they were paired with different contestants. Last week, a segment between the couple got netizens talking after the footballer hurled insults at his lover for failing to yield to his instruction concerning food. And just yesterday, there was yet another uproar when the sweethearts exchanged words over Sheggz’s controlling attitude and fault finding tendencies.

With the way things are looking, one wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that the whole relationship seems rather unreal (and dare I say, perhaps even scripted). After all, every good show needs a villain, and this is precisely the kind of drama that avid viewers of the show and lovers of reality TV hope for.

But perhaps what gives the situation a little more credence is the fact that Sheggz’s ex-girlfriend has called him out on alleged domestic violence, and the general consensus, at least online, seems to be that the footballer is a shady character — all of which has left Bella’s fans and viewers concerned for her mental health amid what now is being described as an unhealthy  relationship.

 

 

Over the last, five or so years, the Big Brother Naija reality TV show has become Nigeria’s most watched offering on television. Featuring a diverse mix of housemates gathered from various corners of the country, the show is essentially a social experiment that has viewers in a chokehold every year — and this year is no different. There’s been a lot of research done that suggest reasons why people love reality TV so much, but the unanimous answer is simply that it’s easy to watch. It’s the type of entertainment that doesn’t require effort from the viewer, much like aimlessly scrolling through social media or TikTok when you want to shut off parts of your brain. Simply put, reality television provides an easy and legal, way to peer into the lives of others. As such, the genre has widely been criticized as being nothing more than mindless entertainment. But that does not necessarily mean it’s a bad thing.

If nothing else, reality TV often promotes interesting discussions about human behavior. Scripted or not, the Sheggz and Bella situation, for instance, has opened the floor for dialogue about an important topic: emotional abuse and red flags in interpersonal relationships. While some fans have (predictably) blamed Bella for not leaving Sheggz or setting firmer boundaries, others have shared concerns, experiences, and even advice on abusive relationships.

 

By watching contestants make poor decisions, viewers develop their own opinions or thoughts while studying them in different situations. Viewers are able to compare and contrast their own lives with those on the show, and in that way, take stock of their own behavior and relationships. Watching Sheggz and Bella has triggered important discussions about the warning signs of emotional abuse (control, threats, blame, gaslighting, stonewalling, etc), the psychological effects  on people, as viewers shared their personal experiences with manipulative partners, and the fact that abuse isn’t always physical — abusive language is just as harmful.

 

 

There was even a little talk about victim-shaming, courtesy of Toke Makinwa’s response. And some viewers have gone as far as to call for Biggie to address the situation. In a world and society where conversations about emotional abuse are rare and often only whispered about, it has been interesting to see viewers put entertainment aside to talk about it. These types of conversations are often uncomfortable, but salient nonetheless, and perhaps, in the midst of all the drama, there are important lessons to be learned from the Bella and Sheggz situation. Lessons about our own relationship dynamics and communication styles as people interacting with others.

One thing is clear though: as entertaining as it is, reality television can reveal a lot about humanity. It is at once a window and a mirror, showing how real people react and interact in extraordinary situations. It also forces us to consider how we’d respond — and how we are responding to what we watch. With just a few more weeks left of this season of BBNaija, it will be interesting to see what transpires and becomes of this controversial couple.

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