Arianators, fans of genius reality television, and general human beings, listen up: you really need to be watching “Big Brother” right now.
No, it’s not necessarily because this year features an excellent cast of future All-Stars, or because of Frankie J. Grande’s existence on the show, or even because there’s a character who calls himself “Beastmode Cowboy” while he wanders around in neon tank-tops, bath robes, and seemingly purposeless head scarves.
All of those things are great, but the thing #BB16 fans can’t stop talking about right now — and for very good reason — is the ambiguously sexual, game-changing bromance that is Zankie.
Zankie, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the self-coined shipper-term for the relationship between Frankie, who is openly gay and looks like a human peacock, and Zach Rance, a 23-year-old emotionally unstable “straight” bro who is seemingly madly in love with him.
No, not seemingly. It’s a solid fact. On Wednesday night, after a summer of cuddling, scheming, and will-they-won’t-they gay-straight showmancing, Rance was heartbroken when Frankie finally revealed his secret identity as Ariana Grande’s brother. Literally, this was his response:
“Frankie, you’ve built a house of LIES,” Rance shouted, in tears. “You have betrayed me, you have hurt me. Who are you?”
Rance then spent the remainder of the 42-odd minute episode stomping his feet, crying, and pouting, while Frankie repeatedly reminded him that they were playing a game that is rooted in betrayal. This sort of unprecedented “Big Brother” behavior is extremely entertaining — largely because Rance is a handsome overgrown frat boy who dresses like a 90-year-old grandmother but possesses the emotional maturity of an eight-year-old — but it also bears mentioning that this is the first time that CBS has featured a gay, or at least ambiguously sexual, romance on this majorly popular show.
Does the fact that Grande has a famous name contribute to his overabundance of screen time? Absolutely. Could CBS actually have hired multiple queer castmembers, risking the kind of sexual behavior that always happens between its straight contestants? Sure. [An earlier draft of this article stated that “Big Brother” hasn’t had two gay men on one season. Admittedly, I forgot about Joe and Neil’s existence since they were barely on the show. Fixed!]
But this doesn’t really take away from the fact that the strange, handsome, bananagrams insane showmance that is “Zankie” is totally happening, and entering the homes of the American public three times a week whether they want it to or not. And even if Rance does decide to ignore his obvious feelings for Frankie in favor of maintaining an easier position on the Kinsey scale, we applaud the fact that “Big Brother’s” first gay-ish romance should open doors for more queer casting down the road. Zankie forever!