As you may or may not already know, there is a new show on HBO called Looking, following a group of gay friends navigating relationships in San Francisco. The main character is a ‘gaymer,’ so I knew that as soon as the show started I had to watch it and write about it. As of a few days ago, I’m fully caught up (there have been 5 episodes so far) and I have to say that overall, I think the show is just okay. I find that there are too many awkward scenes, there needs to be a touch more comic relief (the female roommate of one of the guys fills this role perfectly and is comedy gold every time she’s on screen but her part is not that big), and I basically want to murder the main character despite his gaymer status. So why I am writing a post called ‘In Defense of Looking’? It’s because this show is constantly being attacked online by various members of the gay community and I believe that most of these attacks are undeserved. The attacks are centered around two main points of contention: 1) That the show is boring, and 2) That the show puts gay people in a negative light by being overtly sexual. I will discuss each of these points in turn.
WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD
One of the most common things I’ve seen people post about is how they watched the first couple of episodes of Looking and stopped watching because it was too boring. Not every show is for everyone and I get that. My problem with the boring critique is that I think a lot of people are going into the show with a different idea than what the show actually is. If you go into the show expecting it to be a gay drama where boyfriends get into explosive fights with one another and a group of friends that are constantly fighting over the same guy, then you are going to be disappointed. Likewise, if you go into Looking expecting it be a gay Sex in the City-style comedy romp, then you are going to be disappointed. Looking is about trying to portray a realistic look at the modern gay dating scene. It’s about guys going on awkward dates with people they met online, hitting on gay coworkers and failing, going through a slut phase after a bad relationship, seeing the only guy you’ve dated for longer than six months getting happily married to someone else, trying to hook up with someone when all you really want is a relationship, getting too drunk and doing something embarrassing around the guy you’re trying to hit on, hooking up on grindr as a means of coping with depression/anxiety, and couples wanting to try something new to spice up their relationship. I, personally, have experiences with most of the things on that list, and, between me and my gay friends in LA, I’m pretty sure we have it all covered. While not everything is super realistic (of course one of the main character’s love interests has a British accent … urrgghh), I think it’s realistic enough to paint an accurate portrait of the gay dating community.
This actually brings me to next point. A lot of people put down Looking for being too sexual, and thus hurting the gay image in the media by being too stereotypical. Again, Looking is just trying to be accurate. It’s a show about gay guys dating so of course it’s going to have sexual themes. There is no way around that. I saw a comment recently on Facebook about the show, and the guy said that he stopped watching after the first 10 seconds because the show started off with two guys cruising in a park. Seriously? That is what you’re mad about? If you watched for literally another minute, you would have seen that one of the guys couldn’t actually go through with it and part of the episode was a frank discussion about whether or not cruising is even appropriate or right for that person. To be honest, I think the show actually needs more sex in it. If you’re going to go for realism then I think you have to take it all the way. Just speaking from personal experience, I’ve known a friend who got blown in public during pride last year, I’ve known friends who left parties I was throwing to go have sex, I’ve known friends who have left my house after hanging out to go on a grindr hookup with someone in my apartment building, and I’ve even heard tales of gaymer parties turning into literal orgies. Honestly, I feel like the show’s producers probably did tone down the sexual aspects of the show because they were anticipating some push back from the gay community. Granted, that push back happened anyways, so they should’ve just gone for it.
Thus far, there has been maybe one sex scene per episode. That is not that much and they’ve all been pretty tame. Hell, Game of Thrones shows more sex than Looking does, despite Looking literally being about guys trying to have sex with each other. Games of Thrones has even shown more penises and male asses than THE GAY SHOW ON HBO. Let that sink in for a second and then come back and tell me how sexual this show is again. And if Looking is still too sexual than what’s the other side of the spectrum? Does a show about gay people have to be like Modern Family, where the gay couple is so heteronormative than they could be replaced by a straight couple and it would literally change nothing? The gay community is so splintered with regards to how gay people should be portrayed by the media that is impossible for a show focused on gay people to avoid criticism.
Personally, I applaud Looking for even trying.