"The show checked the box on adding more Black people, but they're not really standing behind it," Montgomery said.
Part of the avoidance, he added, may be due to a growing social media backlash from legions of "Big Brother" fans complaining that the show is endorsing "reverse racism" against whites.
"I think the show is afraid of losing viewers, so they just tiptoe around what the Cookout is doing," Montgomery said. "The show just let the Cookout happen, but they're not going to put their endorsement on it. It's noticeable, especially since this is a historical moment not only for the series but for reality TV. But it's not touched upon."
Before the season started, Chen Moonves said "Big Brother" had always been transparent about race: "We've never shied away from any racial issue that comes up."
In an email to The Times, Chen Moonves wrote that she and her Chinese American cousins felt that the Cookout's success this season was "also a win for us, as Chinese Americans, as fellow people of color. ... We are celebrating what the Cookout has accomplished." She added that she felt this season of "Big Brother" "could be a case study to be looked at and discussed in all schools starting as early as 4th grade on up … to look at the issue of race."
A spokesperson for the series said the Cookout had been and would continue to be featured during the network broadcast and on the show's live feeds.
Vince Dixon, a digital journalist who has been watching "Big Brother" since its premiere, said the production was addressing the Cookout in a passive way: "Instead of signing off on the narrative, they are allowing the narrative to be conveyed through the show. As a fan of the show, I get it, but I don't know if the casual viewer does."
No matter the reason behind "Big Brother's" framing of race this season, Dehnart said, "none of this can be an excuse for not being completely open about what has been achieved by the Cookout, regardless of race — although that is an important part of it. No other six-person alliance has ever made it to the final six. Strategy alone, that is [usually] big news on 'Big Brother.' The fact that it's not is very telling."
The Cookout is likely to be featured more prominently during Thursday's episode, when two of its members are set to be evicted and join the show's jury, which will determine the winner of the $750,000 grand prize.
But how the show positions them may not matter to members of the alliance, who are celebrating their triumph.
"This is a win for all of us," Cookout member Xavier Prather told the alliance soon after Lopez's departure. He added that no matter who the two finalists competing for the grand prize would be, "all of us can consider ourselves winners."
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