Looking: Thank you for being a friend
by Michael Lyons
Perhaps I’m making this judgment early, but I think my dream of what Looking could be is coming true. I think the show has something new to say, while striking a balance between wry, sarcastic, signature gay-humour and dark, quiet moments.
Certainly I’m not the first person to jump to conclusions prematurely. An artist who I really admire posted on Facebook asking if the first episode of Looking was worth a watch, and he received dozens of comments calling the show, in various iterations, garbage, usually preceded or followed by, “I haven’t even seen the show yet, but…” A decent metaphor for the gay community: making assumptions and judgments based on surface appearance. I’m not saying people can’t disagree with me on the numerous things I really like about the show. What I find maddening is when people don’t even give something a chance. I mean, come on… I watched almost a whole season of RuPaul’s Drag Race before deciding that it’s cons outweighed it’s pros.
But I digress. Episode two: Looking.
Dom: I give it three months.
Patrick: I give it five… maybe six.
Dom: When it all turns to shit I am not moving that fucker again.
First of all, I don’t think there’s a single person out there who hasn’t helped a friend move in with a partner and not said something to that effect.
I think I’ll always have my favourite “quiet moment” with the show. I think it’s one of the real powerful things about the show. This episode starts with Patrick and Dom helping Agustín move in with his boyfriend, the beyond gorgeous Frank (O.T. Fagbenle), before the above exchange.
The quiet moment is when Patrick returns home, spends a moment in his friend and former roommate’s empty room, and then immediately moves his desk in. That, I think, says so much about our protagonist. On top of my description of him last week, I think I’ll also add introverted. He’s not running around the streets of San Fran looking for a new roommate. This scene says loads about him; that he wants and needs his own space; that, instead of surrounding himself with friends every moment of his life, he likes alone time.
Grindr finally rears its ugly, Lernaean Hydra-heads in this episode. After subjecting himself through evil ex-torture, Dom finds a scary little twink on the hookup app. I remember saying to a good friend, who’s probably paying equal attention to the show as I am, that I was so glad they didn’t resort to Grindr in the first episode, it would have been too cheap and easy. This, of course, sets up a wonderful scene with darling Doris, my complete and total favourite. “Did you fuck the pain away with the cast of Wicked?” she snorts about the scary twink. I adore her, because she’s totally a heterosexual-life-partner rather than a fag-hag to Dom.
Another point my friend and I agreed on is that Agustín’s story was the weakest in the first episode, but he definitely hits his stride in the second. No histrionics, no cataclysmic event, but there’s already tensions behind the character. After this episode, seeing the dynamic between his friends, and his boyfriend, I am really looking forward to seeing how his storyline develops. Again, I think we’ve all had friends who have moved (in together) too fast with partners. I’m as guilty as anyone else of that. I was waiting for Agustín to find some damning text message on his boyfriend’s phone, or some other tired cliché of TV, but I forgot this show is more of a slow-boil than that.
Finally, Patrick goes on a first date with Richie, the super cute Mexican-San Franciscan doorman/hair stylist. Beyond exploring some racial politics in a really delightful/painful way, I don’t want to spoil too much about it, but I want to talk about something that’s really important to me. Patrick experiences OGS (Overenthusiastic Gay Syndrome), symptoms of which include clubbing with a vengeance, drinking ad nauseum, screaming, “I really want to dance! Let’s dance!” and constantly talking about all the sex you have/have had/want to have/could be having.
Since I came out and started a life in the big city (Toronto, in my case) I’ve learned OGS is a pretty common experience. Young or under-experienced gay guys come onto the scene with a number of ideas about what being gay means. We experience pressures from our friends, and the scene (I say “scene” instead of “community,” two very different things to me).
For a while I used to go out to clubs with friends with a particularly bad case of OGS before realizing I hated going out to clubs. They were too crowded and loud for my shy, introverted soul, and the crowds were usually too focused on appearing to be desirable while judging anyone who seems different, rather than actually having a good time and getting to know one another, which are two guarantees I need before deciding whether going out is worth it or not. Don’t get me wrong, I love doing out dancing. I’m just reminded of last spring, when my roommate, a trans-identified sissy-boy academic, and I went out to a club night, at a bar I really like, called “Sissyboy Hissyfit,” an event that was supposed to celebrate the glittering fun-loving fag within. We got there, both all made up, me in my “BUTCH QUEEN FIRST TIME IN DRAGS AT A BALL” shirt, and the crowd was mostly bored looking, barely shuffling, cookie-cutter gays standing around on their cellphones. We met up with some friends, chatted, danced for a bit, then left, fairly let down. I’ve had significantly more fun at board game nights.
Again, I digress. All I’m trying to say is that this episode resonated with me. There’s a lesson in Patrick’s story, which I won’t ruin, but I think it’s a really important one for young gay guys who are either fresh on the scene, or feeling frustrated by it.
In any case, there was some absolutely, fantastic dialogue, some really great character and relationship building, and, as usual, beautiful cinematography.
Also, Patrick is totally a Rose.