In Defence of The Way We Live Now
Craig Seymour writes: “Unlike any show before it, Looking raises provocative questions about who we are as gay men. It invites us to apply these questions to our own lives. The show is filled with intimate conversations, but watching it also feels like having an intimate conversation, one that brings on epiphanies that are sometimes freeing and sometimes terrifying, but never boring.
Looking is the story of three gay men in San Francisco who are at some transitional point in life. Patrick (Glee’s Jonathan Groff), on the cusp of turning 30, is trying to figure out what he wants from life and love. As he tells one date: “I’m more of, like, a relationship person always, usually … ”
Patrick’s college best friend, Agustín (Frankie J. Álvarez), lives with his musician boyfriend but finds himself fascinated by a freewheeling male sex worker. And Dom (Murray Bartlett), a 40-year-old wannabe restaurateur, is struggling with what it means to be gay and middle-aged. He’s lost in a world where he’s no longer a desirable predator or valued prey.
I think the premise of a group of best friends gave folks the impression that Looking would be a queer remix of Sex and the City or Girls. But Looking’s tone couldn’t be more different. At its core,Looking is an unyielding dissection of a subject that is very difficult for people to talk about: gay shame. By this, I don’t mean guys who are ashamed to be gay. I’m talking about the residual shame that we all harbor, to some degree, simply by living in a society that still devalues us as men.
(If you don’t believe this type of thinking still exists, just look at how astonished people are that out football player Michael Sam has excelled in such a macho sport. This is the queer equivalent of remarking that a well-spoken African-American is “so articulate.” It’s a compliment grounded in a damning stereotype.)
Even the most well-adjusted among us sometimes struggle, not necessarily with the idea that being gay is bad, but that some aspects or ways of being gay are bad. Looking confronts this within two minutes of its first episode. Patrick tells Agustín and Dom about the time his cell went off while he was cruising in a park: “The minute my phone rang … I immediately thought that it was my mom … and she was calling to stop me from becoming one of those gays who hook up with people in a park.” Patrick has no problem with being gay, but he doesn’t want to be perceived as “one of those gays.”
Each following episode has uncovered the ever-deepening layers of Patrick’s shame, from the way he frets over a voice mail message (“It’s not gay; it sounds completely normal”) to the choices he’s made based on his perception of his parents’ approval. During the show’s brilliant fifth episode, “Looking for the Future”—a flirty, 28-minute dialogue between Patrick and his Mexican-American love interest Richie (Raúl Castillo) that A.V. Club critic Brandon Nowalk called “essentially a gayBefore Sunrise” — Richie asks Patrick, “Do you think you’d be embarrassed if your parents thought you were a bottom?”
Clay Kerrigan responds: “This man (Seymour) is so clearly devoted to HBO that it wouldn’t actually matter whether or not these shows were any good. They are stylized and pretty and pretend to take on the hard issues. They pretend, but they quickly swat them away. Looking’s famous opening scene, where Patrick goes to the park to see who’s cruising had so much promise until it slut shamed its audience. “I don’t want to be one of those gays,” says safe, normative little Jonathan Groff, who’s main problem will be finding a man. Of course you don’t, sweetie. And we don’t want you there, either.”
HOMO: We want to hear what other readers think of Looking. Write us at email@example.com
Read the rest here