Josh Wolk
February 24, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Don’t dis Frankie — she may be a tad depressed

For 13 seasons, I have reveled in ”Real World” housemates’ idiocy and lunacy. And yet there is a strange ethical disconnect which occurs when a character seems to not just be crazy in an ”I’m young and don’t think more than three seconds ahead” kind of way, but seems to have a clinically questionable kind of mental imbalance. Suddenly, making fun of them doesn’t seem right. Hence, I’m not sure what to do about Frankie.

Throughout the entire Feb. 24 episode, I was going about my usual business of thinking Frankie a twit. After fooling around with Adam, she said that she hoped Dave would understand, although ”we see things differently sometimes.” How many different ways ARE there to see what she did? I suppose if you really squinted and kind of crossed your eyes, with all her and Adam’s piercings it could look like a couple of robots mating. So there you have it: Dave would see it as cheating, Frankie would see it as an interpretive dance to the theme to ”A.I.”

Then there was her statement, ”Dave has taken me on a roller coaster from hell since I’ve been here!” Wait, so she called him multiple times alluding that she’d fooled around with someone — that is, when she could get a coherent sentence out before passing out in the middle of a conversation — and HE was the topsy-turvy one?

This gave me an idea for a new carnival ride, though: a roller coaster called ”the Frankie.” It just slowly chugs in a circle, but next to you is an animatronic robot who shouts completely contradictory things in your ear nonstop, and at the end screams at you for only liking to talk about yourself. It’s good for people who don’t like heights but still want that nauseous, headachey roller-coaster aftereffect.

This was all delightful nonsense, but then Frankie had a meltdown in the Confessional, moaning that ”no one hates themselves more than me,” and that she doesn’t care enough about herself to take the medicine that keeps her alive. That’s pathological and sad in a way that ”The Real World” is not equipped to deal with responsibly. There’s an uncomfortable imbalance when you have a house full of party-time pinheads? and someone who might be borderline suicidal, albeit passive-aggressively. This dose of reality — the real kind — is ungraspable in this element. It’s like if the bride on ”My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé” had lung cancer.

So when Frankie then searched for a way to prove to Dave that she loved him — and settled on having ”Dave Rocks” embroidered onto a hat, it just didn’t seem right to mock her. And when she ran outside, announcing that she wouldn’t leave the porch until she saw the moon — even if she had to skip work to do so (although the odds of seeing the moon during business hours would, I imagine, be greatly lower), I held my tongue and thought, ”Well, we all have our quirks!”

Fortunately, Robin seems to have no such deeply entrenched issues? and if she does, I don’t want to know about them, because she’s too enjoyable to mock. I’m still not entirely sure what went on in the bar, but Cameran was dancing with some guy, whom she possibly saw doing coke, and when she looked for Robin for support, she had vanished. When they all ended up on the street, they all yelled at each other, with each person taking the high ground about the others being irresponsible. It was like watching a bunch of dogs chastise each other for crapping on the lawn.

Robin enraged Brad because she broke his only two rules: ”don’t touch me? and don’t touch me.” I’m not convinced this was just repeated for dramatic effect; I suspect Brad thinks those are actually two different things. Kind of like if you ask him what his favorite foods are, he’d probably list ”beef and meat.”

Eventually Frankie sat Robin down and explained the problem: that she didn’t take responsibility for her actions. Coming from Frankie, this was?oh, yeah, can’tmakefunofFrankie… can’tmakefunofFrankie… can’tmakefunofFrankie.

At the end, Robin allowed that she needed to change. (You could tell she was sorry, because her speech was scored to acoustic guitars, the ”Real World” instrumental theme for penitence.) However, you know that by next week she will be back to her bullheaded drama-queen self again, because nobody maintains any self-knowledge from episode to episode. And taking that cue, I will likely go back to mocking Frankie again next week, as long as she doesn’t do anything to remind me of her deep-seated sadness. And don’t complain about it on the message boards, because I’ve got two rules: Don’t point out I’m a hypocrite? and don’t point out I’m a hypocrite.

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