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Big Brother 15: A Cesspool of Homophobia and Racism

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"No one's gonna vote for whoever that queer puts up."
--Aaryn Gries, 22

The "queer" this Texas college student is referring to is 26-year-old Andy Herren. They're both contestants on the 15th season of CBS' Big Brother. This soundbite was caught via a 24/7 live feed that the show offers up to its superfans. Those tuning in (and there are many) were able to catch other shards of homophobia, such as 28-year-old real estate agent Amanda Zuckerman calling Andy "Faggoty Ann," and 31-year-old railroad conductor Spencer Clawson dubbing him "Kermit the Fag."

Then there's the racism. GinaMarie Zimmerman, a 32-year-old pageant coordinator, said that housemate Helen, a 37-year-old political consultant, "should be kissing our ass and serving us some fucking rice." An equal-opportunity offender, she was caught in another instance saying of the two black contestants, "You know two blacks stick together. They're like tokens."

Entertainment Weekly picked up the story, as did Us Weekly and The Hollywood Reporter, and a slew of other outlets. Pressure mounted on CBS to make a statement, so they offered this:

"Big Brother" is a reality show about watching a group of people who have no privacy 24/7 -- and seeing every moment of their lives. At times, the Houseguests reveal prejudices and other beliefs that we do not condone. We certainly find the statements made by several of the Houseguests on the live Internet feed to be offensive. Any views or opinions expressed in personal commentary by a Houseguest appearing on "Big Brother," either on any live feed from the House or during the broadcast, are those of the individual(s) speaking and do not represent the views or opinions of CBS or the producers of the program.

Let the backlash begin.

Gries' modeling agency, Zephyr Talent of Austin, Texas, announced that it had released her from her contract in a statement posted on Facebook:

Aaryn, season 15 cast member of Big Brother, revealed prejudices and other beliefs that we (Zephyr Talent) do not condone. We certainly find the statements made by Aaryn on the live Internet feed to be offensive. Any views or opinions expressed in personal commentary by Aaryn, either on any live feed from the House or during the broadcast, are hers alone and do not represent the views or opinions of Zephyr Talent. Upon much consideration, we have decided to release Aaryn from her contract with Zephyr Talent.

Big Brother 12 contestant Ragan Fox penned an open letter to CBS stating:

What's the point of casting racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities if production's going to edit out the racism, ethnic discrimination, and homophobia that these people encounter inside the house? Moreover, why do historically marginalized players have the exclusive burden of narrating past acts of racial, ethnic, and sexual brutalization when we see this sort of discrimination enacted INSIDE THE HOUSE?

A Change.org petition urging CBS to oust Gries has even begun circulating.

With a twist added to the current season that allows viewers a say in each week's eviction, it remains to be seen whether CBS will air this footage, and if so, whether it will have any impact on the game.