Delphine de Vigan: “We have welcomed Big Brother into our house”

If Orwell imagined in his novel 1984 a society in which each member was under the totalitarian surveillance of the authorities, “Big Brother is watching you”, little did he imagine that it would be the citizens themselves who would do the task and welcome Big Brother “with open arms and a heart eager for likes ”, reflects Clara, one of the antithetical protagonists of the new novel by Delphine de Vigan (Boulogne-Billancourt, 1966): the kings of the house (Anagram/Editions 62).

Clara is an investigator for the Paris crime squad and in front of her is Mélanie Claux, a woman who has turned her life and that of her young children, one of whom is now missing, into a public spectacle through the networks. An eternal show in which each movement is choreographed and scripted for YouTube and Instagram, with children opening gifts paid for by large firms or performing challenges. There are five million subscribers to the channel and the competition with other families is tough. For Mélanie, everything is happiness, but for others, this treatment of children is domestic violence. Clara wonders about the success of these channels and about the vicarious lives that so many people choose to live with these videos.

“The problem with the algorithm is that it does not contradict us and makes us increasingly impervious to the other”

The author of Nothing stands against the night acknowledges that “we have welcomed Big Brother into our homes, pockets, bags, with smartphones, and we have given up protecting our privacy, although we know that if we have a mobile, they know what we do, what we buy, where we go, and what algorithms transform us because they constantly reaffirm our opinions and feelings. The problem with the algorithm is that it does not contradict us. It is a somewhat terrifying dimension, that is why I tell my children to inform themselves through traditional media as well. I am afraid of the algorithm that locks us into our own identity and makes us increasingly impervious to the other.

And he affirms that his “Mélanie is a woman in keeping with her time, she doesn’t question it, and she is very attracted to light, she needs people to look at her and put a ‘like’ on them to exist. There are so many Mélanies on social media.” But why do millions of people watch these channels? “When I documented myself for this novel I saw many family channels with these women who stage their role as mothers and there is something fascinating, to the point that in some cases it was hard for me to stop watching them. In these women who have inspired Mélanie, it is still difficult for me to know to what extent they believe in what they do, if they believe that they give a real image of themselves or consciously fabricate a character, ”she underlines.

“Child YouTubers apart from opening boxes are not good actors or know how to do anything, it will be violent when their fame declines”

And he believes that “it is a fundamental question in social networks to what extent the one who produces the content and the one who sees it let ourselves be deceived by all this, there are people who know that it is not true, that everyone shows the best part of themselves And yet they still watch it. The worst thing is who believes in this fictitious happiness and that others are happier, richer and surrounded by affection.

read also


And then there are the children. “To what extent do they consent to being two, four, ten years old, becoming a YouTube star? If they cannot consent sexually at the age of 12, are they old enough to measure the consequences of this exposure? It strikes me that parents feel they own the image of their children when they should be the protectors. And in my research I saw cases of real abuse, YouTube videos in which a father scared his daughters and recorded his reactions. It is expected that there will be a wave of complaints from children against their parents when they are older.

He acknowledges that it is not a different phenomenon than child artists like Britney Spears or Macaulay Culkin, “but they sang, they acted, they had some kind of competition, and it was still very complicated. The children YouTubers, apart from opening boxes, are not good actors nor do they know how to do anything, it will be violent when fame declines, like the stars of Big Brother, who in France only remember one, the one who won, Loana, and because it has self-destructed”.

Delphine de Vigan: “We have welcomed Big Brother into our house”