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There is an ongoing debate in Hollywood about whether or not gay actors face discrimination when it comes to casting straight roles, but in the world of HBO's new comedy-drama Looking, things are slightly different. Frankie Alvarez, who plays Agustín, one of the show's three leads, has just come out as a heterosexual man. "I'm married, to a woman," he says, half-apologetically. "But you know, I went to college, I did make out with guys growing up. I'm a modern American man."
Set in San Francisco, Looking is entirely about gay men. It stands on the shoulders of its predecessors, but is very different to what has come before it. In fact, it has attracted comparisons not to gay-themed shows at all, but to Girls (they share an Instagram-ey hue and 30-minute episodes) and Sex and the City (Looking is also largely about a group of friends dissecting various degrees of romantic disaster). After the first episode premiered on HBO in the US this week, there has been debate around whether Looking was "gay enough".
Pop culture in general and HBO shows in particular are not my usual beat. However, I found myself unable to resist something that implies that we have arrived at a post-gay world. The branding of post epochs has been in vogue in heavy duty academic circles for sometime. There has been post-modern and post-industrial among others. Nobody ever seems to reach much agreement on what the terms mean right down to the burning issue of whether they should be spelled with a hyphen or not. The general notion is some sort of Hegelian dialectics signifying some sort of resolution of a great historical conflict.
Is this supposed to mean that the conflict about gay has been laid to rest? I remember when the road show of A Torch Song Trilogy came to San Francisco. There were passionate letters to the local gay papers demanding to know if the actor playing the Harvey Fierstein role was really gay or not. There seem to be similar complaints about this show.
I suppose that if nothing else the TV pundits can use this to meet some deadlines.