It’s summer. School is over. It’s hot as your high blood-pressured dad’s bald head outside. Your hometown does not have a lot to do, but you have Netflix.
In early June after watching all of the Orange is the New Black possible, I had to indulge myself with the talked-about 10-year-old show – Queer as Folk. When I turned on the first episode and the theme started playing with the shirtless blue men in a psychedelic setting with electronica music in the background, I rolled my eyes, “this does not look like anything new…” I was hesitant before with the description as “five young gay men in Pittsburgh living life with challenges and..” yada yada yada. My friends talked enough about it though, so I watched an episode, but I still wasn’t pleased. But then I gave it another shot and watched another, then another, then another, and another. Queer as Folk gave me more of an understanding to the life and minority I was and am living in with its plot surrounding on living single in an already oppressing nation, chasing love, learning what affects others, and also learning cultural relativism.
It was my question in the beginning still “How is this not Looking,” but better yet “How is Looking not this?”
I started watching Looking online after months of seeing advertisements for the new gay show on HBO. I was excited by the preview as it gave snippets of Patrick, a young gay in San Fransisco, living and experiencing new adventures new for a “baby” gay like me. I was only four months out at the time. Patrick seemed to be me – a young, white-privileged, out-of-state gay facing a newer and better world with a bit of naivety.
In January after the season started, I was attached to the experiences shown to Patrick, the beautiful guys in the show, and the issues explored.
How are these two shows different though? Why make another show about gay men?
Well, first, why the hell not? The 1950s started the trend of shows inflated by straight men like The Andy Griffith Show (not including Golmer Pyle), Gunsmoke, and Bonanza, and then the TV industry took off into the 80s with Baywatch, MacGyver, and The A-Team, to now with Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and True Detective.
Second, the different ways queer issues are discussed, especially since one is set in the early 2000s in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and one is set in the present in San Francisco, California.
Queer as Folk is also more well-known in the LGBTQ+ community because of its outspoken continuing legacy, and Looking is more of the suggested or must watch show to other queers (more so gay men) that will leave its own mark. Because of this, I will describe 5 outstanding differences and/or qualities of the two shows.
QAF #1) Queer as Folk is the first show about gay men taken seriously and harder.
Will & Grace may have been started before QAF, but this time the gay men are real humans with real problems. W&G gives small representation to what is possible for gay men and how gay men really are. Queer as Folk is noted in articles this year because of its anniversary as the first performance to exhibit gay male sex and intense situations. In episode one, Brian confronts the young Justin for his time, takes him to his place, and gives him a very fresh and pivotal time of his life – the loss of his virginity. Episodes later, Michael has concern about being found out about his sexuality at work. A few episodes later, Justin stands up to his father with the words “I LOVE DICK!” Episodes later, Brian comes out to his abusive, homophobic father at thirty-years-old.
Looking #1) Looking is the new Cosby Show for queers.
On September 20, 1984, television debut the first African-American show in a post-racist world – The Cosby Show. The Cosby Show had a new mission for black television, and that was to show that black people are normal and can live successful, happy lives.
On January 19, 2014, television had a similar reoccurrence. Looking was and is the first gay show in a post-homophobic world….or San Francisco in 2014. The show talks less about the suffering of being gay and more about the adventures of being gay. It gives me and others the chance to see gay men live happy, successful lives. The main character, Patrick, is a well-rounded video game designer in a straight-dominant (but not dominated) industry. His friend Agustin (a supporting role) is a well-paid artist. His other friend Dom (another supporting role) is a restaurant entrepreneur. Looking gives a chance to its audience to see above their suffering and see another reality – a possible fun and leading future. It does not erase all problems gay men endure, of course. There is the cut vs. uncut debate, the occupation question, the uncomfortable past stories, the monogamy question, and etc.
QAF #2) Queer as Folk is more diverse in economic status and personality.
I was also hesitant before I watched the show because of how stereotypical it might be, yet it hilariously only has one character, who fills the individual gay stereotype. Emmett is a gaudy queen, who works in retail at a very effeminate low-class fashion store, and keeps the group alive with his big heart and extroverted personality. There is also Brian – the mankiller and successful advertisement agent. He’s the gay Don Draper minus the hairy chest and manners and with a pinch of extra total douchebag. Michael is the main character and core of the friend group. He struggles as the manager of the “Big Q” (some K-Mart like store) and is the cute, highly anxious leader. Ted is the not-so-attractive and boring accountant, who rolls his eyes at gay culture, yet is very promiscuous himself. He has a good heart deep down. Last, Justin is the teen twink evolving into a young adult, who goes to art school and learns about being openly gay. He is quite naïve, but he is the introspective and probably most dynamic member.
Looking #2) Looking is more racially diverse.
As I said, Looking is more opportunistic and gives optimism about the future. This includes working and dating people of different races. Patrick’s friend Agustin is a part-Hispanic hairy gay man (or otter), who moves in with his black boyfriend Frank. There are racial and class conflicts involving not blacks but Latinos, which is an underrepresented situation in American television. Patrick starts to date a Hispanic, fluently Spanish-speaking barber. The “well-established” Patrick has to deal with his own internal and external conflicts regarding his Hispanic, working-class boyfriend from financial to stereotypical concerns. Patrick’s token straight friend is also an Asian guy. For all the former, the show should be celebrated.
QAF #3) Queer as Folk represents more than one queer community.
Melanie and Lindsay are possibly the cutest, yet realistic television lesbian couple. They are the boys tie to procreation and child-rearing. Melanie is the proud feminist and “bad bitch.” Lindsay is the motherly and soft art teacher. They encounter other lesbians, deal with domestic issues, baby issues, family homophobia, and keeping the gay boys in line. Lindsay is Brian’s almost-beard in college and close friend, who intervenes into his stubborn affairs. Melanie is the Jewish protector and sexy I-don’t-give-a-f*** consultant for the queer community. Though, they are “the token lesbian couple” as my roommate calls them, they give room for more audience members. You have to love their power.
Looking #3) Looking is more age-inclusive.
In Queer as Folk, Michael dates a doctor, ten years his senior and Emmett dates a very old millionaire, but Looking takes the cut more seriously. Looking centers on two gay men in their late twenties and a gay man in his early forties. This is quite dynamic, since ageism is known to be a bit excessive in the queer community. Dom becomes a part of the friend group after a random hook-up with Patrick. He also exhibits a hook-up with a very young gay in the early episodes of the series. Dom later finds himself interested in a “daddy” in his later fifties or early sixties, who helps him start his restaurant. The concept of Dom gives more relevance to gay viewers on the possibilities of relations in different age latitudes. Who wouldn’t feel attracted to Dom, right?
QAF #4) Queer as Folk currently has a lot more episodes.
Looking, of course, has only begun with a season of eight episodes, but QAF had a total of five season troubles and aggravations, but some also get married, have children, and change in their character traits. Justin learns about love and its diversity yet difficulties, and Michael learns more about what he needs. Ted explores occupational opportunities. Emmett gets to know how special life is. It gets annoying how much you may binge watch the show in a night, and it gets exhausting. Yet, in Shakespearean terms, it’s a comedy, so there always comes satisfaction.
Looking #4) Looking is a lot more about life than pornography.
One whole episode earlier in the season was a date. Patrick and his boyfriend get to confess, free, and venture around San Francisco with each other. It involves sentiments about the past struggles for queer liberation, talks about past boyfriends, and family relations. Most of the show does not get very risqué. With QAF, you may find mutual sentiments in a few episodes like, “THIS IS THE FIFTH TIME IN ONE EPISODE!” or getting embarrassed while showing an episode to a friend. They have very detailed and sometime long scenes of just sex. Sometimes you might just fast-forward because the scene has no significance except pretty explicit depictions of butts and/or boobs. Looking involves enough to depict the situation connecting to another situation.
QAF & Looking #5) Both – Queer as Folk and Looking – have a lot of beautiful, gorgeous men.
There is Michael’s professor boyfriend Ben.
There is Michael’s chiropractor boyfriend David.
There is Justin’s violinist boyfriend Ethan.
There is even Justin’s bully Chris Hobbs.
In Looking, there is Patrick’s boss.
There’s Patrick’s boyfriend Richie.
Of course, there is one of the main roles (with a hot mustache) – Dom.
There’s the sex worker CJ.
And, of course, you can’t forget super cute Patrick.
Queer as Folk and Looking are both pivotal gay shows that emphasize empowerment and realism. They come through for struggling gay audience members to give them hope and lessons. Yes, there’s the funny gay quotes and the hot guys, but the characters delve into a community that has had no voice for too long. I highly recommend both shows (with some precautions) for different reasons and benefits.
Queer as Folk can be found on Netflix at any time, and HBO’s Looking can be found online. A new season is bound to be released early next year.