A Scholarly Examination of and by Big Brother’s “Sob-o-teur”

My latest article, “‘You are Not Allowed to Talk About Production’: Narratization on and off the Set of CBS’s Big Brother,” was recently published in Critical Studies in Media Communication. CLICK HERE for a fee copy of the essay.  Routledge will release an extended, book-length examination of my experiences in October 2018.

An excerpt:

Season 12 was dubbed Big Brother’s ‘‘Season of Sabotage.’’ Upon moving into the house, Julie Chen announced that one of the contestants was a saboteur. ‘‘Their [sic] mission is to sabotage your game and wreak as much havoc as possible. This person can sabotage an individual, a group, or all of you.’’ Before the thirteen of us moved into the house, producers selected Big Brother 12’s only lesbian houseguest Annie to be the first saboteur of the season. She was ultimately eliminated from the competition in the first week. In week five, U.S. viewers voted for me to become the season’s second saboteur. The saboteur role extends a history of gay antagonists in film and television. Media critics have documented how gay, lesbian, and bisexual characters tend to be depicted as villains (Gross, 2001; Raymond, 2003) in Disney movies (Dundes & Dundes, 2006; Morton, 1996), witches and psychos in canonical films (Doty, 2000), and perverts and child molesters in the news (Streitmatter, 2009). Not surprisingly, both production and viewers cast the only gay and lesbian characters in season 12 as villains who, by default, had to disrupt gameplay and antagonize their roommates. Regardless of producers’ and audience members’ motives, homosexuality has been used throughout TV history to ‘‘establish an additional level of deviance for [villainous] characters’’ (Dow, 2001, p. 129). Annie and I, like so many gay and lesbian characters before us, were situated as ‘‘a problem disrupting heterosexuals’ lives and expectations’’ (Fejes & Petrich, 1993, p. 401) and an ‘‘evil to be destroyed’’ (Fejes & Petrich, 1993, p. 398). Everyone in the house knew about the saboteur and wanted him or her gone, but none of the contestants knew his or her identity.

Video Supplements 

If you assign the essay in a class you teach, you might consider showing your students the videos embedded in this entry. The first video features a montage of crying scenes I detail in the first half of the article. The second video focuses on themes explored in the second half of the paper, like the tropes of gay contagion and the gay pretender.

Trope of the Crying Gay Man

Trope of the Gay Pretender