Photo: HBO/John P. Johnson.
I read an essay this week that was incredibly eye-opening. It was called "On Gay Male Privilege," and it accomplishes what Looking doesn't. This isn't a bad thing, though. Writer Rohin's essay deals with the treatment of women and gays by gays in a way that ignorantly seems like it pertains to East Coast — specifically New York City — gay men. For, since last week's premiere of HBO's Looking, I've had many a conversation regarding the show's legitimacy, and most end in a resounding, "Oh, it just doesn't get it." To which I respond (genuinely, I might add, as opposed to sassily), "Really? Unpack that for me."
The reasoning is varied. Some say it's just boring. Others want Agustín to shave his beard/neck situation, but almost everyone has said something along the lines of, "It's just not New York enough." I don't know which exit we all took down the road of such city selfishness, but having New York City as a prerequisite to a plot line is bullish just because the story follows the lives of gay men. Regardless, it makes me think that perhaps New York isn't the problem (it really isn't), but it's the relative tame road Looking is traveling down.
When we finally (well, finally to me) got to see the shirtless Dom that we (or I) casually hoped for last episode, it's during a Grindr hookup that, although graphic, wasn't graphic enough. I've seen Samantha Jones go balls-to-the-wall nude, and yet, there's no sign of a penis anywhere throughout the entire 45-second sex sesh. And, this isn't even coming from some pornographic urge, either. You'd think that a show touting itself as something new and provocative featuring gay men would, you know, show the anatomy of a man. Even during Patrick's innocent Google image search of "uncut latin c*ck," the screen is blurred enough to render the pictures into flesh-colored rectangles. (Side note: I wonder if he went incognito for that search. His friends seem nosy and would probably dig through his history when he's not around). Heck, even the penis in the painting collage that Agustín's boyfriend wants to hang, which was supposed to depict a "c*ck in a unicorn," doesn't get camera time.
The writers of Looking seem to have enough knowledge of the gay experience to introduce topics such as the f*ck buddy, stereotypical genitals, and the definition of open relationships, but they, like the whole nudity thing, aren't taking it far enough. When Agustín makes the claim that all relationships eventually open up and Patrick tries to challenge his statement, nothing progresses. They instead consume the very designer cupcakes Agustín left San Francisco for Oakland to escape. The opportunity to really challenge a notion the gay community (and any "community" for the matter) toils over was there, but it slipped away like some manhunt trick in the middle of the night.
But, perhaps that's the entire point. When we look at Looking, we're really looking back at ourselves and the surface fodder that the majority of gay conversation entails. In his essay, Rohin writes that the reason he distanced himself from the stereotypical gay community is because of "the fact that I could never actually carry a conversation with anyone else because (1) the music was turned up so loud we couldn’t hear our own voices; or (2) they simply had no yen or ability to carry a conversation [so I] couldn’t justify how much time and money I was spending at these establishments." A situation demonstrated by Patrick's embarrassingly drunk courting of his token-uncut "Mexican f*ck buddy." (Spoiler: Richie happens to not live up to the stereotype; cue the womp-womps.)
Dom's story is the only one that seems believable. He's well aware of himself, even though he's still disillusioned and into his ex-meth-head, abusive, Refresh-drinking boyfriend. He admits that he's a cliché to Doris, the strong and empowered gay BFF television's been missing. It's actually quite endearing to hear the character who's the most markedly gay (physically, I mean) say those observations. It shows that someone's thinking and not just sitting comfy in his now one-less-roommate empty apartment, eating post-hookup mac and cheese and complaining that said hookup wasn't up to par.
Oh, well, maybe it would've panned out better if he had asked for a pic first. But, then the whole meet-cute wouldn't be so meet-cutey. Or, maybe it just needs to be in New York.