Big Brother’s “Zrankie” May Be A Lesson For All Of Us

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In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m going to admit that I’ve never watched a single episode of Big Brother in my life. To be completely honest, I have no idea what the show is about; in fact, it wasn’t until last season that I learned that it’s a competition of sorts (is that right?). All my knowledge of the show is limited to the racist and homophobic crap that’s always highlighted. While I understand that controversy drives ratings, and these offensive instances probably make up the minority of the show, it’s been enough to keep me well at bay. As such, I really don’t know much about this new homoerotic coupling of Zach and Frankie, aptly shipped as “Zrankie” or “Zankie”, of this season, but quite a few of my favourite blogs have been posting on and off about them. Today, I finally spared it more than a passing glance, and took a look at a few Zrankie videos on YouTube. Yeah, it’s apparently quite a thing.

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On the surface, the Zrankie relationship looks like any other reality show hook-up/coupling, except this one is a same-sex pairing. However, what’s really interesting about it is that, while Frankie is openly gay, Zach identifies as straight. By the end of my first Zrankie compilation video, I was all but convinced that Zach was gay – either closeted or he just hasn’t come to terms with his homosexuality. However, as I thought more about it I realised how incredibly narrow-minded I was being.

If Zach says that he isn’t gay, who the hell am I to argue otherwise? The only reason I even thought that he was gay was because he was so close Frankie. Really, what’s so wrong about that? Why can’t a straight guy be affectionate to a gay guy without there being some sort of sexual connotation insinuated? The messed up part is that, had Frankie been a girl, and Zach had insisted that there was nothing more than a friendship between the two of them, I would have believed him. But because he was bonding with a guy, I instantly sexualized/romanticized the relationship, effectively calling him a liar.

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 Note that I’m putting all blame on myself here. But I have to wonder why is it that I jumped to that conclusion? Why couldn’t I accept that a straight man and a gay man could have an affectionate relationship, without it being questioned? I think that it’s because we are so bombarded with instances of homophobia we find it difficult to believe that there are straight people out there who genuinely have no problem with us. Furthermore, straight guys are usually so conditioned to disassociate themselves with anything related to homosexuality, that I think it’s easier to assume that any one of them who doesn’t fit that mould isn’t really heterosexual. Now that I think about it, I realise how so goddamn stupid this is. Here we are constantly arguing that not all gay people are the same and that it’s narrow-minded to make assumptions about us, and I’m turning around and doing the exact same thing to straight people.

Maybe Zach is closeted. Maybe he hasn’t come to terms with the fact that he’s gay. But maybe, just maybe, he really is a straight man who found a best friend in a gay man. Would that be so weird? It’s funny how I don’t question my straight friends’ sexual orientation when it comes to their acceptance of who I am, so it seems that I’m under the impression that this phenomenon only exists in my little bubble.

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This Zrankie pairing that Big Brother has going on is incredibly impressive, and has the potential to break down ignorant and outdated notions of straight/gay dynamics, not only in the minds of heterosexuals, but also obviously in the minds of certain homosexuals (I’ll have several seats and hang my head in shame). This friendship breaks down stereotypes on both ends. Like I said, it shows that a straight man can connect with a gay man, and treat him with all the respect and affection that he would anyone else. Just as importantly, if not more so, it also shows that a gay man can similarly connect with a straight man, showing as much affection as he would to his boyfriend, while still respecting the boundaries of the relationship. Though the Zrankie relationship really does border on romance, there so far (at least to my limited knowledge of the show) have been no instances of Frankie fitting the offensively stereotypical image of the predatory gay guy pushing himself sexually onto straight guys. While I don’t doubt that there are gay men who do that, none that I know ever show an inclination to pursue a straight man.

This doesn’t suddenly transform Big Brother into must-see television for me, but I must commend the way in which they’ve portrayed it. It’s a refreshing change to have this aspect of the show more prominently highlighted than instances of a thin, blonde white girl making disgusting comments about her Asian housemates, only to later claim that she’s not racist because she once went to a school dance with a black guy. That’s a completely hypothetical situation, of course, and any similarities to an actual person is surprisingly impossibly purely coincidental.

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