Andy Herren Flame (so to speak) Wars

1)    Andy’s a “bad” person in the house so he’s probably a “bad” person in real life.

I was a fan of the show for a decade before I was on Big Brother. I’ve spent a good deal of time with many former BB contestants. Many of my LEAST favorite people on the program ended up being awesome outside the house. Conversely, some of my favorite characters on the show turned out to be giant assholes when I met them. BB is not a reflection of people outside of the house. Period. Spend 3 months in a single dwelling around the same group of people. Sleep in airplane chairs, eat slop and take cold showers for consecutive weeks and then let’s judge YOU.

2)    We don’t hate Andy because he’s gay, we hate Andy because he’s a RAT!

A rat, in the context of the game, is somebody who uses information as currency, a player who coaxes others into trusting him and then slits their throat, a guy who will stab his best friend in the back to get ahead in the game, a contestant who is only loyal to himself. The characteristics of a “rat” sound like a laundry list of reasons to award Andy the money if he makes it to the final 2.

3)    We don’t hate Andy because he’s gay, we hate him for all the VILE things he’s said about everyone in the house!

In the house, you can’t watch TV, read, write, or talk to family and friends. BB contestants go stir crazy. You know what it’s like when you have a cold and you’re stuck in an apartment for a few days. Imagine THAT crazed feeling but on a much larger scale. Everything becomes magnified. People you normally would mildly dislike outside of the house become the exclusive object of your frustration and sadness inside the house. I get why many people who have played BB talk shit about one another when they’re in the final stretch of the game. I also think fans who spend several hours a day bashing a particular contestant in forums sacrifice their right to complain about houseguests bashing one another. As they say, “Doctor, heal thyself.”

4)    You think people only dislike Andy because he’s gay! THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.

This is perhaps the most ignorant statement a person can make. Regardless of whatever personal choice you make about homophobia, it will ALWAYS play a hand in how gay characters are read on Big Brother. Throughout television history, gay and lesbian characters have routinely been coded as villains. The earliest homophile movements in the United States largely focused on negative depictions of gays and lesbians on (wait for it) TELEVISION. As a television audience, we have been trained, since the inception of the medium, to mark sexual minorities on TV as deviant, without home, sad, lonely, and villainous. I wasn’t arguing that homophobia’s the only excuse for disliking Andy. That’s a reductive and intellectually lazy interpretation of my argument. My point was that homophobia plays a part in how ALL gay characters on TV are read, because homophobia, racism, and sexism aren’t just PERSONAL CHOICES; these things are SYSTEMIC, or built into the very structures of how we encode and decode messages.

5)    Why are you defending all the horrible things Andy’s done in the house?

I’m not defending Andy’s actions. I’m calling attention to a fan double standard as it relates to gay contestants. My problem isn’t that some fans dislike Andy, it’s that polls rank him as the most hated houseguest of the season when others in the house have committed worse social crimes. Amanda, for example, tried to crash a heavy door against Elissa’s head and she’s currently ranked 9 out of 17 on the Jokers poll. She also talked crap about Elissa’s family. Others spent the summer spouting a non-stop stream of racist and homophobic garbage. My issue is more a point of comparison. I don’t begrudge anyone the right to dislike a particular contestant.

6)    Are you upset about the mean things he’s said about Elissa?

Yes, because Elissa is the only BB15 cast member I know outside the house. She’s a beautiful, intelligent, gracious, and kind person. People talk shit in the house. I’m sure Andy will feel terrible for the things he said and the two will work it out without your intervention. Rachel and I became friends, DESPITE fans egging us on to continue disliking one another.

7)    Don’t you think there should be consequences for the horrible stuff Andy’s said?

Every person who plays Big Brother suffers more consequences than you can imagine. After finale, the court of public opinion holds each of us accountable for things we’ve said and even things we haven’t uttered. Remember when a group of “fans” made up a lie that I said Chima deserved to be raped. I’ve seen viewers go into public forums and post the phone number of Andy’s JOB and ask followers to call it and get him fired. That deplorable action is infinitely worse than anything ANYONE in the BB house has EVER said or done.

8)    Andy shouldn’t be a teacher. I wouldn’t let him teach MY kids after all the horrible things he’s said in the house.

Universities have a system to review on-job comportment and proficiency. College instructors undergo teaching evaluations conducted by colleagues and students.  By all counts, Andy’s fabulous at his job. As a side note, people tried to get me fired from MY job when I was on Big Brother. The semester before I went on the show, the Long Beach Post listed me as one of the 10 best teachers in Long Beach and California State University’s senior class named me the “most inspirational professor of 2010.” In other words, your dislike of Andy is not the measure of his work ability. From what I gather by informal reviews of his work, you (or your children) would be LUCKY to have him as a professor. Your feelings aren’t facts. Student evaluations are facts.  Check out Andy’s student reviews at

9)    But Andy hasn’t played a good game. He’s made no moves! He’s a floater!

Bullshit. A statement like this can only be uttered by a fan who has no understanding of gameplay. Andy has won 4 competitions: 2 vetoes and 2 Head of Households. He gained the trust of EVERYONE in the house. The first time he was HoH, his peers VOLUNTEERED to be have-nots so that he wouldn’t have to pick any of them. He’s largely responsible for his biggest ally (Amanda) leaving the house. Hands down, the most consequential move in the game was when he orchestrated Amanda’s eviction and pinned it on Elissa. You’re not floating when you call the shots. Somebody’s not a “floater” just because they don’t support the people you want to win the game. Floaters don’t make moves. Andy is tearing through that house like a wrecking ball.

10) You’re only defending Andy because he’s gay.

Wrong. I also wrote blogs supporting Shelly and Kalia when fans ganged up on them.

11) You’re only defending Andy because you want to sleep with him.

Hold on, you said you weren’t homophobic, right? Only homophobes believe that all gay people want to sleep with one another. I’m in a happy, monogamous relationship with the man of my dreams.

12) You stated your opinion. Why do you get upset when fans state THEIRS?

I don’t. Honestly. I encourage you to have an opinion. I only get upset when people put words in my mouth or misrepresent me. You would, too.

(P.S. I hope Andy becomes the first gay winner of BB. From a gameplay perspective, he DESERVES it.)

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. The essay is FREE TO VIEW for a limited time by clicking here.