Ryan Shea's picture

Were We Too Critical of 'Looking' When It Was on the Air?

I'll be the first to admit that I was extremely critical of Looking when it was on the air back in 2014 and 2015.  The HBO show was viewed by many in the community as our first real series about gay life since Queer as Folk (Will & Grace is a completely different ballpark), so we were laser focused on how it was going to turn out, and from my recollection, the negative outweighed the positive for the most part.

Looking ran for two seasons on HBO before it got canceled in 2015.  Luckily, there were some diehard fans that helped the show get an actual movie made, where we saw how several of it's prominent relationships conclude.  Since then, there hasn't been any scripted series made where the cast is predominantly gay, as there is still a trend in Hollywood of using us for funny supporting characters or having us intertwined with heterosexuals (Will & Grace, Modern Family, etc).

Did the show have its flaws?  Yes, plenty of them.  For me, the problem with the show was completely centered on its star Jonathan Groff (Glee, Spring Awakening).  It wasn't necessarily him but his character of Patrick, who falls in to that same thing that other HBO series do where the main character isn't exactly the protagonist of sorts but more of someone who is a real person with real flaws that don't always come across as you wanting to like or support their decisions when they are doing them. 

His aloof aspects to so many things throughout the series bugged the crap out of me, especially when you live in such a gay friendly city like San Francisco (not knowing how to douche or where to take an AIDS test are two major examples of this).  He also wrecked every relationship he was in, and that frustration for me continued with his character when he essentially got what he wanted in the end and wound up with Richie (Raul Castillo) and convinced him to move to a different state so they can start their lives together.  This was after he fucked things up with him in season one and relied on him in season two when he was going through all his crap with Kevin (Russell Tovey), much of which was his fault from the get.

I felt that his character should've ended up with no one, similar to how I felt Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) should've been single at the end of the Sex and the City series. Both characters were incredibly selfish and always put their feeling first.  They barely listened to their friends advice, yet still got what they wanted in the end.  I'm all for a "Hollywood" ending of sorts, but in this case Patrick should've found himself walking the streets of San Fran solo as opposed to jumping ship with a guy who could've done way better than him.

At the time, my frustration with the writing of his character overshadowed just how well done this show really was.  What made this show so great was the supporting cast members and their storylines, many of which I wish we saw more of.  The relationship between Doris (Lauren Weedman) and Malik (Bashir Salahuddin) was one of my favorites and one that was totally unexpected, as they really liked each other but there was something in the way that prevented them from them taking the next step IE Doris' insecurities.  The show should've been an hour long, as I wish we could've seen more of how the two of them operated.  

Same goes with the relationships between Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez) and Eddie (Daniel Franzese), who the latter literally saved the former's character from being one of the most annoying people on television ever and actually giving him a heart and soul that made their twosome so great when the series ended.  Dom (Murray Bartlett) and Lynn (Scott Bakula) also demonstrated the relationships between two men who are at an older age in life, where the former was willing to give up his sexually charged lifestyle for the latter but there were problems within that.  The acting with these six were really fantastic, I just wish that they could've been showcased more as opposed to the endless whining and complaining from Patrick.

Looking back (no pun intended), the show really was great.  Nothing is perfect, and gay men are very critical about anything that has to do with them, and in this case, we may have been too critical.  It's really a shame that we still have no long running scripted series that is totally about gay life and culture in 2018, and the hopes are that if we get another Looking type of show that we welcome it with an open mind and heart as opposed to being super critical from the get. 

 

 

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Hi, Ryan - since I don't see an email link to contact you directly, I'm going to leave this here:

I see a lot of gay men making fun of this story:

 https://www.queerty.com/straight-guy-shocked-goes-equinox-steam-room-lunch-hour-now-hes-suing-20180409/amp

...about a guy suing Equinox for not enforcing it's supposed "zero-tolerance" policy about inappropriate behavior, in this case - having other guys ogling you and jerking off in the steam room. If this were explicitly a gay sex club and a "safe space" for that activity, public masturbation would not be an issue, but it's supposed to be a gym. You may argue that by virtue of being in a predominantly gay neighborhood, with a majority membership of gay men, that this is simply "to be expected" - but not every gay man (let alone straight guy) wants to endure that behavior in a gym, and the gym management doesn't endorse nor even condone such behavior. In fact, the terms of the membership contract explicitly ban such behavior as inappropriate, so clearly anyone who indulges knows they are violating the terms of their membership.

 No doubt, if a straight man infiltrated the women's steam room and jerked off while ogling a woman, we'd all easily agree that's a form of sexual assault or harassment, but men (gay or straight) are suppose to accept this behavior as "no big deal" according to lots of gay men online. I think some gay men believe they are exempt from accountability for their toxic masculinity because they believe that if you're male and gay, then you surely must WANT such bold sexual overtures directed your way. And if you don't, they will relentlessly label you a "prude" or a sensitive "sissy" or the "PC POLICE" - oh the irony.

A noted gay humorist has pooh-poohed any objection to this phenomenon on social media, saying "We used to have a name for that sort of inappropriate steam room behavior: We called it "fun" and guys of every sexual orientation seemed to like it," once again attempting to shame anyone who objects into silence, and paint them as the minority whose rights should be subjugated by a majority lowest common denominator. I’m sure smokers preferred the olden days, too, when they could light up wherever they wanted, and straight men who felt they were entitled to catcall women and harass them at work. But I personally don’t want any uninvited second-hand smoke OR spooge at the gym, and I don't remember signing any membership agreement for coming out as a gay man that requires me to partake of public masturbation in health club steam rooms.

I believe narcissistic sociopaths, be they gay or straight men, will always blame and ridicule the victim when their aggressive and predatory behavior is rebuffed. But the #MeToo movement is making slow progress in exposing such hypocrisy among gay men, who need to respect reasonable personal boundaries in public spaces that are not explicitly reserved for their sexual encounters.

What are your opinions on this issue?

Sincerely,

MyLifeInPlastic

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Michael W -- You are spot on in your response. I absolutely hate when gay men excused immoral or illegal activity in the name of some vague "right" or freedom (actually neither of those apply) ... there are gay bathhouses and sex clubs available for those who feel their needs are above those of the general public. 

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I loved this show, but not right away. The first season was not great. The second season was really great though. I enjoyed this show because it wasn't a bunch of white guys doing drugs in club bathrooms and getting fucked in random backrooms at clubs. There were men of color in this show. The show covered issues like HIV, depression, self-destruction, complicated relationships, complicated families, open relationships, and ultimately the freedom to choose our families in our community. I think the show may have picked up more viewers if they were given a third season. It didn't stereotype us. It gave a variety of representation in the characters: bears, otters, twinks, jocks, older, younger, HIV positive and negative men. It really is a shame this show was cut so short.

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Good lord, it’s just a show. I don’t think there is one show that targets every single person watching, and I Don’t expect to see me in a program. I expect good entertainment and a juicy storyline. Write your own show if you’re rehashing this program. 

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If you're gay and white, oh and love to sit down to a bland spaghetti dinner, then this show was for you.  But to say were "we" too hard, implies that all gay men cohesively either like or dislike any given think as a group and its just not the case. Every week I was just hoping and praying and begging for it to get better, it just didn't hit the mark.

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Yes..people were too critical..why is there not a broken hearts club serie's. Great film.

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No I don’t think we were too hard. It wasn’t a great show. Full stop. It could have should have and needed to be better. It didn’t need to be will and grace or queer as folk. It just needed to be better than it was. We def need a great new show to fulfill that but with excellent characters we can care about. That show was lacking in too many respects. Good and fair question to start the article but we don’t deserve poor quality just to have “something”. We deserve far better. 

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The show was "meh." I always called it "Lacking" - you know, interest, drama, engagement, plot, action, etc. Weekend" it was not, weakness it was." It's pathetic how critics/zines keep trying to apologize for or defend it. It was canceled because it was dull, mind-numbingly dull.

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Jesus Christ, I tried reading this article but the spelling and grammatical errors (and just plain laziness) are just too much. Seriously, Ryan Shea, are you a high school student doing this on your phone at lunchtime? No wonder Looking wasn't taken seriously enough, if this is the level of discussion that it had to endure.

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The problem was the half hour format.  Two many characters and story lines for half an hour.  Barely anything happened.

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I never mistook 'Looking' for anything but a slice-of-life look at a set of gay friends in San Francisco, which the show runners did with seamless flourish and art, for which I invested fully my critical heart and appreciative balls, only to be thrown under the bus by trolls and haters who wanted "universal" and "diversified" representation. Gaaaachh. Was so invested AF in team Patrick-Kevin!

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Yes yes yes.  And how DF are you not on twitter? lol  I wanted to just tweet at you but I guess I'll just leave a comment.  But I work in tech and Jonathan was literally so many gay guys I know in tech.  Awkward af, know nothing about Rupaul or RPDR or anything related to gay culture.  So the show to me was so Seattle/SF and so my life and friends.  I hated that everyone hated on it so much, I guess it was to niche scene to my life and friends that most of the gay scene didn't get it.  It basically was mumble core set in SF, super indie and a part of the scene not often shown.  So when it comes down to "were we to hard on it" yes because the show capture perfectly that awkward Seattle/SF tech scene and I loved it!  BTW tweet at me if you are on twitter :)  twitter.com/officialgaygeek

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