Big Brother 2's Kent: Will America’s Real Sweetheart Please Stand Up?
by Stacey Allison
When Big Brother 2 started, we all saw the potential conflict: the older right wing redneck and a bunch of young studs. But Kent has moved out of the stereotype and into the limelight as one of the few people on the show who are actually likeable.
Oh, he’s still a curmudgeon (a self-proclaimed “fuddy duddy”), long-held beliefs don’t change overnight, and he’s as abrasive as ever. Kent is sarcastic, tells crude jokes, and generally lives up to the stereotype of a right-wing, chain-smoking Southerner.
Yet he has become fast friends with the house’s only homosexual resident and has proven to be genuinely kind-hearted, mature and principled. He has risen above the pettiness and nastiness of the house and refuses to compromise his values. Kent’s quiet dignity in the face of the behavior of the other houseguests and the BB2 producers has been a pleasure to behold.
When the producers cast Kent, they were clearly looking for a bigoted, older man to serve as counterpoint to the younger houseguests and to add fat to the proverbial fire.
At first, it seemed they had hit the jackpot. He quickly revealed his homophobic outlook (homosexuality is “deviant and perverse”), and internet message boards were generally rabidly anti-Kent.
Yet as the weeks passed, and the truly despicable, hateful behavior of the Chill Town (CT) contestants came to light, Kent proved that he wouldn’t suffer fools, nor sociopaths, gladly. As Kent proved his good nature and showed disgust at the other contestant’s behavior, his popularity amongst internet fans skyrocketed.
He was vocal in his opposition to CT, and also was the first (and seemingly only) contestant to determine fellow contestant Krista’s true nature. She has proven to be hateful, conniving, and downright cruel, yet still pulls the wool over the eyes of the other players (not to mention most of North America due to CBS’s shamefully-biased editing).
The most surprising development has been Kent’s unlikely friendship with Bunky, the house’s only homosexual. Since coming out to Kent, the two have become the “odd couple” of the house, sharing a touching, humorous friendship. Thus proving that despite Kent’s long-held homophobic beliefs, he ultimately judges people based on their actions and has shown that he’s willing to broaden his horizons. It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but Kent has been game. It’s clear his homophobia is born of ignorance (which is more common than we’d like to think), not hatred.
In a recent conversation, Kent told Bunky “you’re not a freak,” and stated that Bunky is the only person he has any interest in seeing again after the game ends.
Understandable, given the fact that he has been isolated by the other houseguests and has been insulted on a very personal level. Krista even tried to convince fellow contestant Mike to verbally attack Kent’s children and family, thus inciting him to violence (and an automatic banishment).
This may come as a surprise to viewers who aren’t privy to the internet live feeds. CBS has shown a highly-edited version of events, choosing to portray Krista as a sweet southern belle, while the truth is it seems there is no level to which Krista won’t sink.
Meanwhile, CBS seems to be strangely bitter that Kent hasn’t turned out to be the hateful bigot they were hoping for. When Kent was Head of Household, he wasn’t given all the benefits that the others had been, and CBS has been waffling on whether they would give him more cigarettes now that he’s run out. (At one point, producers amusingly called Kent into the DR and warned him to stop calling them cheap. Seems CBS can dish it out, but can’t take it.)
Kent has steadfastly refused to sacrifice his morals to play the game. One night last week he delivered a thoughtful soliloquy to the camera:
“So whether you're watching on the internet or just an audio guy. You're only as important as the people you care about. If you're able to reach out and care about people it will come back to you thousand fold. You don't have to be religious, it's just how you live your life. Fame and fortune are fleeting; the love a child or a mate, the love of a friend is something that lasts forever....I'm not perfect. Ask my wife she'll tell you. But I care about people and I care how I treat people.”
Those sentiments will most likely cost him his chance at the $500,000 prize and Kent’s days in the BB2 house are undoubtedly numbered. Yet he will be able to return to his family with head held high. As he has said, it’s not when you leave the house, it’s how you leave.
Stacey Allison is an advertising copywriter living in Toronto.