We’re six episodes into the eight-episode first season of HBO’s Looking, and still somehow in the expository stage of the storytelling relying on broad brush strokes when it comes to character development. The show’s creator, Michael Lannan, clearly had archetypes on the brain when he mapped out his San Francisco universe.
This is not unusual. Seems like gays are as easily categorized: Looking‘s serial antecedents, Queer As Folk, Tales of the City, and, especially, Will & Grace, relied heavily on archetypes, if not downright stereotypes.
We hope as the story progresses these characters will flesh out and feel more like three dimensional human beings, but that said, here are the tropes we’ve noticed so far.
Are these an accurate portrayal of gay life? What do you hope to see more (or less) of?
The Man-child – Patrick (Jonathan Groff)
The naif is on the slow track to emotional maturity, getting by on boyish charm and searching for answers that should have been resolved half a decade ago. He’s only ever had one boyfriend, and is like, totally open to dating, but always gets so flustered around guys and says, you know, the wrong thing, and acts like, totally, what’s the word, awkward. Oh, and he’s never really been fucked right, but he’s open to that, too.
Once he has some sense pounded into him, he’ll stop overthinking.
The Open Book – Richie (Raúl Castillo)
The perfect foil for the man-child is the open book. He hasn’t had an easy go at life, and his rough past has left him older than his age. He knows who he is, what he wants and has a foundation that can’t be rocked. What this guy lacks in a fancy title and a 401k, he makes up for with solid self-assurance. Nothing makes him squirm, and no subject is off limits — especially sex. If he doesn’t like how an encounter is heading, he has no problem pulling the plug, so to speak. But he has no time for bullshit, and can smell it from a mile away. He’s loyal to a T and will be your biggest advocate until you cross him.
Then you’ll be lucky if he ever returns your call.
The Art Fag - Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez)
The art fag is on a nonstop quest for creation, and his insatiable need for discovery may be his biggest flaw in the “real” world. He follows his heart, whether that leads him to move in with his boyfriend, indulge sexual fantasies, have a bite of meat despite being a vegetarian or even make a little spending money on the side as a hustler. But always following the hart can land him in hot water, especially when he’s easily seduced by a pretty smile and a confident demeanor.
Eventually he’ll find his own creative confidence but until then he doesn’t quite know who he is or what he wants.
The Accommodator – Frank (O.T. Fagbenle)
This people pleaser is everything you think you’d want in a boyfriend — kind, sensitive, sexy and madly in love/committed. He’s so in love that he’s willing to make minor concessions to make his relationship work, and knows if he pushed for monogamy it may cause a serious rift. These compromises start out small: a hot threesome here, a hotter threesome there…what could go wrong? But he’s really only setting himself up for eventual disaster and hurt. Even getting his man to abandon the temptations of SF for the quieter life in Oakland can’t save him in the end.
One day he’ll wake up and realize he’s given up so much that he’s lost sight of his relationship’s fiery core.
The Aging Stud – Dom (Murray Bartlett)
Since college, the aging stud has been living the sweet life carving more notches on the bedpost than he could ever hope to recall. Sex is his drug of choice, though he’s tried just about every other one for kicks. But something unexpected has happened to him lately — when he walks into a room, not as many heads turn as they used to, and that six letter word he’s avoided like the plague, career, is starting to make him feel inadequate. Young guys are not immediately hopping into his bed any more, even though he still has his share of conquests.
The aging stud is grappling with mortality for the first time, and if he puts half as much thought into making his dreams come true as he does into getting laid, perhaps he will find success and fulfillment.
The Fruit Fly – Doris (Lauren Weedman)
She’s sassy; she’s real; she’s always willing to tell you uncomfortable truths. The fruit fly is someone you’re lucky to keep in your corner for as long as possible. For the time being she’s perfectly content shaking up with her GBF (gay best friend) and putting up with his steady stream of tricks. Hell, she loves the entertainment factor of things like listening to them sing in the shower. But you can’t emotionally lean on her forever.
This career girl is no nonsense, and the day will come that she drops the Tales of The City act to forge out on her own or start a family.
The Young DINK – Kevin (Russell Tovey)
The young DINK (double income, no kids) holds down a job and a salary that most people twice his age haven’t reached. Add to that his partner’s equally large paychecks and you have yourself a seriously loaded duo. He works for a cool, hip tech company (duh) and from the outside has it all figured out. But delve deeper and naturally you’ll find trouble in paradise. Mo money mo problems, as it were. He may be plugged into the tech scene, the obvious home of the gay techie, but he’s very much an outsider when it comes to socializing outside the office.
If he drops the holier-than-thou routine he could have a hell of a lot of fun with the common folk.
The Institution – Lynn (Scott Bakula)
The institution has been around the block. And back. He’s accumulated wealth over the last few decades by settling down in the gay part of town and successfully owning and operating a small business. Like, oh, say a flower shop with a cutesy name like Buds. He is the evolution of the aging stud, if said stud ever manages to catch a break and get his shit together. While he’s certainly turned on by the aging stud, he also sees in him a younger version of himself and is happy to be his friend, mentor and if he sees a solid business plan, investor.
But he’s no chump. The only way to gain his respect is through hard work and elbow grease. There are no free rides, even for a pretty face.