Re-Evaluating, Re-Looking

It is 8 Weeks ago that the series Looking began. Initial reviews were mixed, verging on the negative over the positive. Admittedly, I was lumped in with the ‘negative’ reviews. All I saw were blatant, unbalanced stereotypes and a negative portrayal of gay men and their lives. I would formally like to admit how wrong I was to judge the show off that one episode.

I’m not going to recap everything from the entire series, but there are some stand out moments that are entirely revealing in terms of reception of the show. Recently, I’ve started following the official Facebook page for the show and it’s being highly received by fans. Particularly revealing is the wide-sweeping international audience, especially Latin American viewers. Whilst this is interesting in and of itself, one of the most intriguing reactions to the show is the Twilight-esque groupings emerging in the fandom. What I mean is that, like with the horrendous Twilight where the world was introduced to Team Edward and Team Jacob, there is a new team dynamic: Team Richie or Team Kevin. Ostensibly, this presents a dynamic that highlights issues of race, income distinction and a plethora of binaries to equally divide Richie (Latino, barber, spiritual, arguably poor) and Kevin (white, domineering, rich, homonormative). However, I think the most interesting aspect of the fans’ willingness to rally support for one over the other falls down to a simple act of fidelity.

The show positions Patrick in a wily predicament: to cheat or not to cheat. Granted, Patrick and Richie have their own problems, but there is clear chemistry between Patrick and Kevin. There is a moral dilemma present for both the character and the show’s viewers, but the visible elements (soft lighting, central framing of both Richie and Kevin, obligatory shot-reverse shot) and the aural ones frame the spectator in a light that equals Patrick’s. What this means is that Patrick and the Spectator are one and the same. In spite of the Spectator’s ability to feed answers to Patrick or make his decisions for him, the Spectator is firmly rooted within Patrick’s sensibility and thus, the Spectator must blithely accept the direction of the story through Patrick’s choices. This no doubt emphasises the moral ambiguity presented regarding Patrick’s desire for both Richie and Kevin, but it also problematises the notion of infidelity and the power of lust. Intermeshed within this problematic quandary are the uncertainties of Patrick and Richie’s relationship, particularly in that Kevin and Patrick are more aligned in terms of what their characters represent (white, homonormative, wealthy, etc…) and Richie represents the binary opposite of Patrick.

Returning to the original point, the notion that fans have rallied behind Richie and Kevin highlights how the normally amoral act of cheating has become a point of contestation not just for the fact that it is conceivably wrong, but the act of not cheating represents a social transgression in that Richie and Patrick are united. Social transgression may not be the most accurate definition of Richie and Patrick’s relationship; however, it certainly goes against White America’s archaic same-race relationships. Perusing the comments for many of the posts, this becomes highly apparent as some users talk about how he should ’embrace the latin lover’ or ‘leave the ugly mexican’ (I’ve altered the comments so as to hide the identities of the users). I’m not trying to argue for one or the other, but it is interesting to highlight how these two present a morally ambiguousness within the Spectator’s mode of reference and how that Spectator may or may not respond to both infidelity and/or interracial relationships.

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