Zankie, queerbaiting, and performative rhetorics of bisexuality
Keywords:Big Brother, Performance, Reality TV, Showmance
In 2014, two contestants on Big Brother (CBS), Frankie Grande and Zach Rance, began a showmance (ship name: Zankie). The presence of two men in a showmance, only one of whom was openly queer before filming, created ample conversation among fans and contestants about Rance's sexual orientation, as he seemed to be undergoing a personal bi-awakening narrative on live TV. The rhetorics of reality TV paint this both as a sincere struggle and as a joking game strategy, which occasions an overdetermined scrutiny of whether Rance is really bisexual or if he is queerbaiting the audience. Rance's performance of self on the show relies on queerbaiting, but he also deploys rhetoric surrounding bisexuality that allows him to participate in a same-sex showmance while still claiming heterosexuality outside the context of the show. His contradictory articulations of identity and desire reinforce stereotypes about bisexuals while also calling into question the heteronormative assumptions behind the showmance label.
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