When one looks back at the history of LGBT portrayals in the media, it’s often hazy. In a way, we’re used to watching shows filled with characters with ambiguous sexualities or performances with innuendos sprinkled in. There was always that one character we had our fingers crossed for, the one we only could hope and suspect wasn’t so straight after all *wink, wink*. But somewhere in between all the movements and political strides we’ve made as a community, we began to see ourselves reflected much more clearly onscreen as well.
In the more recent years we’ve gone from Ellen, to Will & Grace, to The L Word, to Glee, and luckily that list is growing. However, while it’s one thing to have shows that are inclusive in how they portray the LGBT community, it’s another to have shows that are dedicated to creating interesting storylines that also accurately reflect our lives and what it means to be LGBT. We’re turning a new corner in our contributions to the pop culture lexicon, so gone are the days of token gays! A prime example of this? Look no further than Michael Lannan’s Looking.
Looking, a two season HBO original series, is an unprecedented depiction of gay life. Though we only have 18 episodes to call upon, we get the sense that this show is about much more than just characters who are gay, it actually takes the extra step to act as a commentary about what being gay is like. It is a thorough look into these men as people, instead of writing them in as stereotypes or easily recognizable and recyclable tropes. The series delves into their relationships with care, ensuring that while this show deals with queerness, it is also a show that aims to tell a good story. Without a doubt, Looking is the best, most well-rounded representation of gay men to date.
This isn’t at all to say that Looking is THE show of the century or that it gets at the core of all gay experiences. That isn’t the show’s aim in the slightest. However, the fact that it represents a niche part of the gay community just means that others who don’t identify with the individual characters can find value in the storylines present, which at the end of the day drives home an even stronger message about equality and shared experiences in love and relationships that go beyond the labels of sexuality. It means that while Looking gives our community visibility, it is also pushing progress in terms that this series makes it clear that sexuality doesn’t have to be a defining characteristic.
If nothing else, Looking is the entertainment industry’s best step towards proving that it’s possible to make a good show that reflects the LGBT community that goes beyond the topic of being gay. While we may still be waiting for the day a show like Looking becomes a more common fixture in mainstream media, we’re happy that this series has started to get the ball rolling when it comes to shows about our community that the world can see themselves in. We’re sure to be on the cutting edge of stories that will shed new light on the lives of members of the LGBT community all around the world and all of the different variations of the stories we have to tell!