Looking: Naval Destroyer
by MJ Lyons
Just when I thought I was going to get some work done today, next week’s episode of Looking was released early.
In this exciting new episode we explore Patrick’s career as a video game level designer! It’s quite sad how truly excited I am for this episode. The “gay guy video game developer” premise was what made me sure I would give the series a try. This episode starts at a wrap party for the video game Naval Destroyer, which Patrick’s studio has been working on.
“They keep telling us to expand our demographic, and then they force us to make a game where you can’t even play as a female,” Patrick says. “And I’m a guy, and I always play as a female, and before you say it, it’s not because I’m gay.”
Thank you, Looking. This exchange makes me think of the reasoning behind Game Grumps co-host Arin Hanson’s reason for always playing as a female character in video games, when the option’s there. I recall one episode where he says that there are so few female characters, so he always plays as one in hopes that developers will create more.
I will reiterate that a quiet show about the misadventures of an awkward, nerdy, somewhat idiotic white queer guy who’s into video games is pretty much my wet dream as far as television goes.
Anywho, Patrick drunkenly ends up almost sexually harassing his new coworker, who he believes is gay. He’s right, and his new coworker, who has a boyfriend, also turns out to be his new boss, Kevin (Russell Tovey).
Of course, I’m not suggesting that Looking is the height of good representation politics. I certainly appreciate, as far as gay culture goes, having one of the main stories be the relationship between Agustín and Frank, an interracial couple, and two very likable characters. Richie, as a desirable and sympathetic love interest is great too, even though Patrick blew it in episode two. A friend of mine and I were texting about that storyline, and I said, “[Patrick]’s supposed to be reprehensible! I think it’s a good thing!! Like, racist assholes don’t get laid! How amazing!” Justin Chao as Owen, as well, although a minor character (and heterosexual, I guess not everyone can be perfect) at least shows the show is a few shades in the right direction away from complete whitewashing.
Only one regularly speaking female character leaves something to be desired, but although another minor role, showing up to make a few clever, scathing remarks, Doris is still my favourite character, and like I said in my review of episode two, sh doesn’t follow the fag hag trope. Her relationship with Dom is loving, respectful, and equitable. Small miracles, I suppose, is what we have to take in the land of television.
I digress. There is a reveal of tension between Agustín and Frank over the former’s creative work (or lack thereof). This is exacerbated when Agustín is fired from his work with an installation artist.
Dom, on the other hand, is doing better than when we left him in the aftermath of dealing with his evil ex. He consults darling Doris about his dream of opening a restaurant (a Portuguese chicken restaurant, no less).
Patrick, meanwhile, is handling the situation with his new boss, who has been looking into Patrick’s work time search history (OkCupid, Mancunt Manhunt, I used to write my blogs for a gay scene magazine while I was at work in a theatre box office, wherein I had to search for info about some very interesting topics… I guess no one ever had to look into my searches about “gay ftm porn stars” or “susan sarandon cock”). In the fallout from this confrontation, Patrick has to think seriously about his career as an aspiring game developer. I suppose this episode establishes the main drama for the series… gay guys and their career ambitions.
I love this show, and a fear for it. I saw somewhere the show was referred to as “post-post-gay.” The show, purportedly, is beyond the narrative where the characters’ sexuality are central to the plot (what I’d call a gay narrative), where the characters’sexuality doesn’t matter to the plot (what I’d call a post-gay narrative), and in Looking, we find the characters are navigating their sexuality in tandem with trying to live their life in the cold, sexless, hostile world they’ve grown into.
I posit that people find this melancholy aspect challenging. There was one scene in episode three where Dom shares a sauna with Lynn (Scott Bakula), a Castro florist who quietly laments how the times have changed:
Dom: I bet it was cool back then.
Lynn: Back then… I suddenly feel like I’m a hundred-and-three…
Dom: Oh, I’m sorry.
Lynn: No, but it was, it really was… and then it wasn’t.
I think this is why I find the show as relatable as I do. My experience as a queer guy isn’t all snappy catch phrases and wacky sexual exploits, nor is it a world where my sexuality is secondary to spending the weekend with my boyfriend at my parents cottage and working as an assistant executive consultant. In my day to day life I’m worried paying off my student loan, and wondering what I’m going to make my boyfriend and I for dinner, and commiserating with a trans-identified friend about being misgendered, and trying to engage my peers in critical discussion about the lack of female representation in our field, and feeling horny, or tired, or horny and tired, and worrying about getting an assignment to my editor.
And writing a thousand words about Jonathan Groff’s new television show. I guess that’s my experience as a queer guy. Just when I thought I was going to get some work done today…
P.S. Other than the U.S. and Canada, my blog had a handful of views exclusively from Singapore in the last day, which both delights and mystifies me. To any readers from Singapore, thanks for checking it out!