Looking for Realism: Defending HBO’s “Looking”.

23 02 2014
(L to R) Murray Bartlett, Jonathan Groff, Frankie J. Álvarez

(L to R) Murray Bartlett, Jonathan Groff, Frankie J. Álvarez

If you’re not already familiar with HBO’s new series, Looking, I will assume one of two things about you… you’re either buried under a rock or you’re living a heterosexual lifestyle. I can’t judge you if you fall into the latter category. That’s your choice, afterall.

See what I did there? Sorry, I now digress…

Looking follows the lives of three gay friends in San Francisco as they search for love and their own identity in the City by the Bay. After five half-hour episodes, the show has received generally favorable reviews from critics who have praised both the unobnoxious use of humor and “authentic situations” that abound in the developing story.

Despite the overall critical acclaim, the show, itself, has proved polarizing with viewers. On one hand, you have folks who agree with critics the elements that make this series stand out from the pack of vapid television shows that have seemed to clog our airwaves over the past decade. The opposite end of the spectrum houses folks that have chosen to see the slow pace of the show as a negative aspect and even go so far as to frivilously whine about the lack of full frontal nudity and sex. If that latter complaint wasn’t shallow enough, some have even taken to denigrating the wardrobe choices of the main cast.

You don’t have to take my word as gospel. All one has to do is sign on to any number of gay blogs the morning after an episode airs to watch the lambasting comments unfurl.

To the viewers disparage the clothing, I am curious as to where you reside and if the gay community there is still trapped in the early 2000s. The Queer Eye laws of fashion that seemed to be etched into stone tablets during that time are not necessarily canon anymore. Areas like Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and Manhattan’s East Village are rife with gay men whose closets are stocked with vintage t-shirts, flannel button-downs, and skinny yet comfortable-looking jeans. They’re tattooed, bearded, and their look comes across as casual and effortless. If the wardrobe department of Looking was attempting to keep the authenticity regarding the physical appearance of San Francisco’s gay community, they hit the nail on the head. Sorry, nay-sayers, your argument for waxed bodies, manicured eyebrows, Prada loafers is invalid.

Russell Tovey

Russell Tovey

The disapproval of the way sex/nudity is handled on the show is worthy of nothing less than an eye-roll. The most common argument that has been tossed out on message boards is that other HBO shows, like Girls, don’t leave much up to the imagination when it comes to sex. This segment of viewers would do well with being reminded that just because two shows are on the same network, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they share any other similarities… or even SHOULD. Why should the merits of a television series rely so heavily on how hardcore the sex scenes are? With the episodes only being a half an hour long, we’ve still managed to see park cruising, a threesome, a bath house visit, a Grindr hookup. If you’re knickers are still in a twist over these scenes not being titillating enough, you may want to swap out this 30-minute time slot for another browse of XTube. It has all the uninhibited sex you could want without any of that pesky character development getting in the way.

With attention spans being as shot as they are today, “boring” and “slow” are other words that are thrown around when describing Looking. Apparently, there’s a segment of viewers who need over-the-top dramatics, toxic relationships, and insufferable characters on a television series in order to hold their attention. Looking is not Queer as Folk, Desperate Housewives, or any number of reality shows featuring wealthy (alleged) gold-diggers. The show doesn’t deal with a myriad of clichés that are often prevalent in any gay-themed visual medium (i.e. coming out of the closet, AIDS, etc.). It’s a show about a handful of men, who happen to be gay, living their lives. They go to work, they go on bad dates, and they spend time with friends. There’s no campy, dramatic crisis or standout villain. As monotonous and bland as that seems, that’s real life for a large segment of the community.

As much as many of us think we are as fabulous as Karen Walker or have lives that rival those of any random jet-setter, the truth is we don’t. The sooner that people realize that there’s nothing wrong with this fact, the sooner that shows like Looking will be appreciated for what they are instead of being eviscerated for what they aren’t.




3 responses

23 02 2014

Very well said. And to be honest I LIKED how realistic the characters and situations seemed because I could relate to them more. And it’s great how it’s now over the top dramatic. It’s supposed to be humorous and fun, and it works. And finally personally, it’s ABOUT DAMN TIME they showed gays on TV who aren’t plucked and waxed and look as appealing as a Ken doll!! Lol

23 02 2014
Kelly Lincoln

Thank you for putting that out there! Yes, I have heard some of my own friends complaining about how “slow” the show is. I have loved it myself. The episode that aired last Sunday that simply spent the day with Patrick and Richie was incredible in its simplicity. I have had days like that, lots of us have had days like that. Those times when you just let yourself be with someone and see where it takes you, they captured that perfectly. Yeah there are some things still missing from the show, but I think this is one of those shows, not unlike the reading of Tales of the City, where you need to let the characters envelope you and take you on that trip.

23 02 2014

Reblogged this on SoCalBear and commented:
I have been watching this show from episode 1 and have found it to be a great story telling experience so far. It reminds me of Tales of the City in some ways, not in the content, but in the storytelling itself. I already feel like I am peering into a group of friends that I just met, getting the chance to learn about their lives.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: