Thursday, February 6, 2014

Looking...For A Better Show: HBO Looking Review

A few weeks ago I read an article previewing the new HBO show "Looking". The article proffered the show as being different and superior to past renderings of non hetero life. Specifically, it claimed that it was a less stereotypical and "nothing like" Queer as Folk.

It probably seems like I'm incapable of saying anything nice or positive, but that's bullshit, as you will see in the next chapter. However, after watching the first three episodes, I can comfortably say that there is only a small handful of good things about the show from my perspective, warped as it apparently is.

What's good:

The acting is overall pretty good.
The overall production is good.
The plot lines, situations and characters seem fairly realistic.
General stereotypical behavior and appearance has been toned down substantially.

What's not so good: 

The main character is fairly annoying, bumbling, and pathetic. Sweet role model for young non heteros.

He's not insanely stereotypical, but still has this kind of "omg girl" attitude and air about him.

he's into eating and making sassy faces

omg this olive has a pit!

hehe, lol

The only good-looking main character is pretty old:

They also counter such stiffening moments above with dick-wilting ones:

Standard gay dude exercising, obvi~

Sure, Looking may have traded in the high-pitched lisps and frosted tips for deeper voices and beards, and replaced the tackily flamboyant garb with hoodies and business casual, but in the end it's largely more of the same. 

Looking tells the story of a group of gay friends that live in a city, who talk about and have lots of casual sex, essentially have no male hetero friends, and go to parties that look like this:

What do I want?

When I was 14 I looked to media to figure out what it meant that I was attracted to guys. And the message I received was more or less the above: being gay is about having a dude in a bear hat and jock strap rub his junk up against you, and/or being the sassy best friend of some insufferable girl.
"Welcome to the circus"
Yes, it's easy to criticize any TV show and I already commended the makers of the show on making some progress. However, what I want are TV shows and movies that depict non heteros in a variety of ways—as the multifaceted people they are. It's totally fine to exhibit the stereotypical slim cross-section that has been highlighted hundreds of times, but why not show other types of gay characters too? Ones that don't frequent gay clubs, or sex saunas or zoomba classes. The message should be that just because you're not hetero doesn't mean that you have to be or do anything besides like members of the same sex.

And don't fucking tell me that my hypothetical show wouldn't be sufficiently entertaining. There are many entertaining and successful hetero shows that do not revolve around licentious stereotypes. The show can have whatever action, tension or conflict present in other stories, just with the added intrigue of having homosexual main character.

I want this not just for me, but for little non heteros who are trying to figure themselves out and be comfortable in their own skin.

I'll leave you with a last bite of Looking's subtle imagery:

Interested to hear what y'all think of HBO's new show Looking. 


  1. I totally agree with your criticism of the entertainment industry's portrayal of non-heteros.

    That is why I would recommend watching 'Teen Wolf'. It is not gay per say, but it does have gay characters, and they are not stereotypical. I mean, they are werewolves etc, which is a bit unrealistic, but other than that they are just regular dudes.

    1. "I mean, they are werewolves etc"

      I chuckled haha.

  2. I don't normally tell people this, but a major reason I joined a fraternity in college was because of ABC Family's Greek. Other would-be TV shows should take a lesson from Greek's gay, black, fratty, football playing Calvin. It's so much better than Looking.

  3. Agree with the comments. I think the show stunk ? stank ? --regardless, I won't be making a point to watch it or record it. If I happens to be on, maybe I'll watch.
    I welcome Eric McCormack's character from Will and Grace. I found it to be non-stereotypical and quite likable [I mean, for a sit-com character]. But, that's not what sells advertisers. There has to be some kind of a gimmick or catch..something a show is known for and causes people to youtube-it and watch it. Gay shows are not what the new generations are watching. They could care less. To most of them, gay is no different than being of a different race or being born with no legs. Something you just have to live with.

  4. Bitch, bitch, bitch. Maybe the problem is that IT IS similar to many Gary men's lives

    Next you'll complain that the older guy would never user grindr for a hook up

    1. What's a Gary man?


    3. OP hit the nail on the head.

  5. This show brings the Portlandia skit "Put a bird on it" to mind, but in this case it's "Put a gay on it". It use to be that most gays would buy into anything that had a [gay] label on it, but these days more and more gays are better educated, more sophisticated and no longer allow themselves to be led around by their gay noses in that way. Shows like this are so transparently contrived, for the mere sake of milking and cashing in on $gay$, nothing else.

    A Pet Rock is more interesting than this show.

  6. The problems with Looking are many and they're fundamental. First... they say and do things that no gay men in their 30s (who live in San Francisco and have been out for long enough to be comfortable being gay) would say or do.

    - describes a bear as "he was gym teacher hairy." Which not only doesn't make sense, it's just not funny. It was meant to show that Patrick doesn't know "gay lingo" which, on top of being implausible for someone his age who's out and lives in SF and GOES TO BEAR BARS in Soma... isn't funny.

    - an average-looking doctor shows up on a blind date he made on OK Cupid to find that his date is as hot as Johnathan Groff. 10 minutes later, while the so-hot-he-could-be-on-Glee date is being all goofy awkward like Jack Tripper on a first date, he ends the date and is a douche about the bill. NO. If you play OK Cupid Dating Roulette and end up with someone as hot as Johnathan Groff... you're going to have sex with him. There is no way in this universe that date would have ended any differently.

    - a guy as hot as Johnathan Groff gets flirted with on a bus and has no idea how to handle the attention. Which is stupid. Anyone who looks like that gets flirted with by just about all gay men, everywhere he goes, and has since high school.

    - The three gay men who live in a city that's about 35% Latino men have never seen an uncut dick. They have to Google it. Really? Three gay men, one of whom works with computers, and none of them have seen a Bel Ami movie? Again... not in this universe.

    - the "older" waiter who, William H Macy in Fargo Mustache aside, is hot and in great shape, is getting turned down by younger men. Not when you look like him. He's now a "daddy" and the younger guys throw themselves at him. That's how it works in SF.

    - a guy as hot as Russell Tovey, complete with dreamy British accent is almost written off as a potential date because - get this - "big ears." You tell me any gay man who'd look at someone that stunning and charming and think "oh... his ears are too big." Not in this universe.

    But the most condemning thing about Looking is that while it isn't a less-sterotypical Queer As Folk, it's that it's a gayer but less-funny Sienfeld. A show about nothing. Other than watch goofy people make asses of themselves on dates and smoke pot, they don't really DO anything. Give me a show with private detectives in SF but they're gay.. that could be interesting... a show about doctors at a hospital in SF but they're gay... a show about paranormal investigators for the FBI but they're gay... Those are shows people would watch. this is just three boring, unlikable guys that nobody is going to want to emulate being.. boring and having bad dates. That's not entertaining, even if you "put a gay on it."

    1. I mostly agree with Glasshole. The show is an unfunny joke.

      It hasn't been engaging. Nothing about the show feels real to me. The characters are dull and two-dimensional and the stories are a weird mix of what's supposed to be shocking (but isn't) and nonsensical. The whole thing comes off as if it was written by a fag hag in Cleveland, a woman who spent a few weekends with her gay best friend in San Francisco and now suddenly thinks she understands the hidden under-currents of modern gay life.

      HBO has produced a lot of quality stuff in recent years...I can't believe this dreck was the best they could do for a show about homos.

  7. While I understand some of the flack about the show, I still can not quite grapple with the above and beyond expectations, in terms of displaying "atypical" homosexual behavior. (In terms of humor, I can definitely understand.) In the past decade alone there have been more and more gay characters, regardless of their demeanor, in TV shows, movies, etc. Two decades ago, such a stunt as having an all gay male lead cast would have been unthinkable and downright stupid from a marketing perspective, but in that time attitudes have changed and people, not only heterosexuals, have become more receptive.

    What I am trying to say is that a great deal of the complaints around this show seem to revolve around the fact that "while the behavior of the leads isn't completely obvious and reprehensible, they're still unabashed stereotypes." Then it continues to encompass the usual gripes addressing the lack of masculine, normal, take what adjective you will, gay men in this show, which is an awfully hackneyed and absurd argument coming from gay men who don't seek to identify themselves as gay men, but just men that happen to be gay. One moment I hear that "my sexuality is not an important part of my identity", the next moment I hear you being down in the dumps that your "kind" isn't portrayed in these sorts of shows. What is it you actually want? You can not simultaneously want this anonymity, while at the same time debasing a show that doesn't portray you. If you want your story to be heard, you will have to get out there and make it heard, and inevitably have your sexuality connected to you, however strongly or weakly.

    Also, I have never understood this oft-mentioned "influence of the media" in portraying gay characters as raging queens or a girls catty best friend. I have heard the same shtick numerous times that upon turning to the TV, a mass of stereotypical gay images were thrown at young John Doe and his eyes seared with flaming hot tears realizing he would be subject to this life and only this life. Maybe I some how lucked out, but I never saw my life or my future through the lens of only these gay characters. I can appreciate that the media is a powerful tool to meld peoples opinions, but its bizarre for me to think about a young boy thinking that liking sports, being a queen, and liking cock are incompatible.

    Finally, I have never quite grasped this desire to just be another one of the heteros. Maybe this unquenchable desire exists in other communities, but I do not understand how it is so wrong that there is a show composed of an all gay male lead. There have been numerous black shows with an all black cast, hispanic shows, and so on. This hetero-assimilation among gay men is shocking and distressing and the whole point is to show the heteros that we're just like them- a point I find utterly revolting. I don't see why we need to grovel to our straight overlords and show them we're similar.

    Apart from that though, the show is pretty lame and unexciting. A failed attempt at making a gay version of "Girls," a colossally botched effort.

    1. Well you can like it or not be we are "just like them".
      Yes we're all individuals, that what makes us different, that what makes every gay guy different from other gay guys and that's what makes every straight guy different from other straight guys.
      No race sexuality or gender comes with a blueprint of what every member of that group is like and sadly it's still important to point that out.
      I also don't get how it is contradicting in your eyes to not define yourself by your sexuality and at the same time would like people with the same attitude on telly. How is that wrong?
      The thing is the show promised all that but didn't deliver. All the characters are still very much wrapped up in their sexuality, all their issues and problems are based on, evolve around or are solved with sex. It's laughable that the makers pretend it isn't so.
      Then again TV has to obey certain rules so for some indie film makers thinking they can change the powers that be is a mission impossible.
      A gay show will always evolve around it's character being gay otherwise it has fortified it's justification to exist.

  8. "Also, I have never understood this oft-mentioned "influence of the media" in portraying gay characters as raging queens or a girls catty best friend."

    This is because like religious cult members; your kind do not realize you that are one of what you claim doesn't exist.

    Quit drinking the Kool-aid and quit making excuses for this garbage of a show.

  9. Wow! Times really have changed, when I was growing up, I never imagined a guy wearing a bear head as my introduction to being gay, What a sheltered life I had. Jockstraps for sure, though but no dancing stripper bears.

    As for the show, haven't watched, probably won't, so I can't really comment on your observations. They still are valid for you and others though.