One major reason is that minorities aren't in television writers' rooms. The Writers Guild of America released a study in 2013 which found that minorities only make up 15.6 of the writing jobs in television. Further, the WGA found that almost one-third of shows did not have a person of color on staff.
Right off the bat, Looking is not going to buck those numbers. Two of the show's main characters are white, while one of the main characters is Cuban. And for a city with a large, Asian/Asian-American community (33 percent) it's a little bit surprising to see only one Asian character on screen (again, in the first four episodes), in a minor role. (Granted, there is also a surprising lack of Beyoncé, so maybe it's a dramatization of world where "XO" never exists and nothing makes sense.)
That's not to say that the show doesn't tackle the topic of race and racism in the gay community (where it still thrives). It does. But it's still coming from the perspective of a white lead character and under a lens of apologetic naivety or accidental racism (at least early on).
Sex and the City
In the first three seconds of Looking ,we have one of the few (maybe the first?) sad gay handjobs in television history. One small handjob for a gay man ... one giant leap for those who want to see gay sex or some permutation of it on television. After all, it's been a battle just to get Modern Family to show its gay characters, Mitchell and Cam, give each other pecks on the cheek after a full season of them raising a daughter together.
Jonathan Groff, who plays the show's lead character, has said that he's hoping the show depicts the reality of gay sex. "I hope that our sex scenes are sexy — and I think that they are — but I think even more than that what we’re trying to display is a reality of gay sex as opposed to the salaciousness of gay sex," he told Out. "We’re trying to get as close to reality as we possibly can. Hopefully, when people watch it, you’ll think, Oh, I’ve had that exact experience. I know what it feels like to be intimate with someone in that way," he added.
I believe there may be many men who would love for the gay sex on Looking to be their reality. Everyone's good looking, slim, and the lighting is pretty good. Even the computer nerd (Groff) has muscles on top of his muscles (if you would like to see this, please don't miss episode four). Everyone's eating greasy, creamy Thai food, drinking beers, engaging in sweaty white-boy dancing, and still have some steamy gay sex afterward. Gay sex that doesn't involve full-frontal male nudity.
But, well, at least it's there, right? Perhaps the more important question here is how it's depicted, rather than the imagery.
Growing up, I was always told from people who were supposed to be older and wiser than me that gay men are promiscuous and incapable of having monogamous relationships. The gay community, to this day, still has to fight this stereotype against bigots who like to perpetuate it (most notably as an argument against adoption and gay marriage).
One of the strongest aspects of the show is that there's a constant question of what kind of love the show's characters should be looking for versus which conflicts with what they are looking for. And while there are references to cruising, Grindr, OkCupid, and ways to find whatever that is these gay men are looking for, there's no clear answer, and it comes without judgment.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.