To me, Frank and Charlie have the ideal relationship, because it transcends the social conditions that limit the possibilities of love. Unlike most of the coupling-offs you see on television, their arrangement isn’t a trope: No one could say, “Ah yes, that classic love between vulgar white-collar criminal and illiterate-but-low-key-brilliant paint-fumes addict who is probably the son he tried to abort.” Together, teamed up as The Gruesome Twosome, they express their love in deeply unconventional ways, whether by fishing for sewer crabs or eating cat food in the night. Love is not, however, always patient, always kind. In the episode “Frank Falls Out the Window,” Frank almost dies after—you guessed it—falling out the window, where Charlie makes him sit to fart.
They express their love in deeply unconventional ways, whether by fishing for sewer crabs or eating cat food in the night.
The first cohesive theory of the grotesque is often attributed to the Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin. The grotesque body, a trope in the grotesque realism of François Rabelais, hinges on the idea of degradation: “To degrade also means to concern oneself with the lower stratum of the body, the life of the belly and the reproductive organs; it therefore relates to acts of defecation and copulation, conception, pregnancy, and birth,” Bakhtin wrote in 1984. “Degradation digs a bodily grave for a new birth.”Frank and Charlie’s conscious, communal commitment to lives of degradation—to worshipping the gross comings and goings of a body, to finding joy in the curiosities of the unspeakable—makes space for the “new birth” that is them together, a single unit, unburdened by the social pressures (don’t eat cat food or let your friends eat cat food!!) and obligations of civility that would threaten their intimacy, if not render it impossible.Their love story is alienating and gross, but aren’t the best love stories? Other people can have their Seth and Summers, their Luke and Loreleis, their Ross and Rachels, but me, I root for these guys. I root for the freaks for whom romance looks strange but is no less special for it.The greatest loves of my life are the grimy ones: the ones I tweeze my nipple hairs next to (love you, Gaby), the ones who’ve received my ugliest nudes (love you, Holly), the ones upon whose couches I accidentally discharged on during The Bachelor (love you, Burt, and so sorry about that, and I guess your boyfriend knows now, hi Richie.) Free from the tyranny of traditional understandings of romance, so often stuffed into the oppressive, heteronormative confines of “fucking involved,” my loves are bigger—wider—than that which popular culture ever lets me see or imagine. That’s why Frank and Charlie mean so much to me.I told myself I’d never write about love, let alone write about it for Valentine’s Day, but Frank and Charlie’s love is one for the ages, one worth screaming from the tops of mountains and the depths of the sewers.“Charlie, he's my buddy,” Frank broadcasts in one episode, speaking to confused passengers on a tour boat he hijacked on the Schuylkill River. “We sleep together, we hang out together. Once I pooped in the bed. I blamed it on him.” There are stars in his eyes. He laughs, clearly in love.
Frank: Charlie, can I come in already?
Charlie: Well, that depends, Frank. Are you done farting?
Charlie: Well, then, you're gonna keep hanging your ass out the window till you're done, all right?