Gay Asians Should Boycott HBO’s Looking

As a gay Asian man I’m outraged at HBO’s Looking and I’m calling for a boycott of the show by all self-respecting gay Asian men.

No Gay Asians in Looking HBO
No Gay Asian main characters in HBO’s Looking

Why should gay Asian men boycott HBO’s Looking

Where is Looking set? San Francisco.

What percentage of San Francisco is Asian? 33.3%

And how many of Looking’s main characters are Asian? Zero.

I can forgive Looking’s creators for lot of things – the contrived dialogue or the way they make San Francisco’s MUNI look like the New York Subway. I mean, you have to take a few liberties to make a show interesting.

But did they honestly think no one would notice that their characters don’t look like San Francisco gay men? That maybe they left out an ethnic group that practically saturates whole areas of the city?

You might argue that Queer as Folk, the groundbreaking gay drama that HBO debuted in 2000 left out Asians in addition to Latinos, Blacks and even dark haired whites. But America has changed drastically since then, and this is San Francisco, not Pittsburgh where Queer as Folk was set.

The fact is, gay Asians are an integral part of San Francisco’s LGBT fabric. We’re everywhere. So why don’t we deserve a main character? It would weave the whole rice queen-potato queen dynamic into the storyline which would make the show eight times more interesting.

HBO is doing the whole world a disfavor by leaving us out. For better or worse, the world looks to American culture to lead on a number of things, and gay culture is no exception. They could have used this as an opportunity to portray an Asian (or black) gay man struggling with his identity, covert racism, and eeking out a place for himself in the gay hierarchy. You know, like gay minority men do in real life. And it could have been inspirational to young gay minority men who struggle not only with their sexuality but how it clashes with their culture and puts their physical and mental health at risk.

We’re still at a point where gay isn’t quite 100% normal, and a show like Looking HBO makes waves far beyond our shores. HBO, you’ve disappointed me. I know it’s complicated to portray different races together and you’re just making an entertaining show that hopefully makes you money. But while you’re at it, please don’t leave out 33% of gay men in San Francisco and pretend like we don’t exist. We’re a part of this city and without us, you aren’t showing anything resembling gay life in San Francisco.

36 thoughts on “Gay Asians Should Boycott HBO’s Looking

  1. please don’t leave out 33% of gay men in San Francisco and pretend like we don’t exist. We’re a part of this city and without us, you aren’t showing anything resembling gay life in San Francisco. <—- this part so touches me!

    1. I don’t think so. It also wasn’t well received by critics. But that’s the power of white privilege! They will renew an unsuccessful show that has an all white cast than put on a creative new program that may actually have genuine racial diversity and progressive stories.

    2. I personally enjoy watching LOOKING so much. I feel the script is very down-to-earth. Even there are still some parts in the show, which I don’t quite understand, such as, Patrick’s parents’ attitude of Pat’s being gay, and whether Kevin really likes Patrick, or just tries to use him as a f**k buddy, because Kevin acted weird to me when they “finished” in the season finale. I look forward to see more episodes coming in season 2 which could tell us more stories.

      I like this series as it’s just telling us the real normal gay man’s life, at least to me, it is. As a Chinese gay man living in Ireland, when I was watching this show, I never had one single thought about there should be Asian gay characters also in this show. Maybe it’s because that I didn’t know the situation about SF at that time, of course the screenwriters should know. But they had to choose some representative leading roles. Things happened to white man Patrick, could also happen to an Asian man whose parents also live in the US and who lives in a life of American style, there is no difference. I really don’t think the show should be like, very focus on Asian’s life in SF, honestly is there really some racism? Or you just choose to believe so?

      Actually, maybe I’m being narcissistic, I feel like there are so many similarities in Pat and my personalities. But if I were him, I wouldn’t betray Richie, no matter physically or psychologically, IF I DECIDED to see Richie as my boyfriend.

      It’s just my own opinions about this show, I don’t like to present my ideas about things in my real life, or on the internet. But I really f**n love this show. So here it goes so many words.

  2. Seriously get over it. Does everything have to be diverse every time. So annoying, get over it or create your own show that you prefer to view. But quit trying to make everything, everything to everyone.

    1. Seriously? Why don’t you cut off your hands at the wrist and shove them up your ass so you can’t use a computer anymore?

  3. This show should be ignored for many reasons other than its ignorance of our racial/ethnic make-up (although that’s a big one)… This show is NOTHING like actual San Francisco…It’s some white L.A. queen’s fantasy of what he THINKS San Francisco is… No basis in actual reality. And thus just throws all of us up the proverbial creek…

    1. I don’t think the point of the show is to accurately portray San Francisco. Its portrayal is quite secondary to presenting the unique dynamics of gay friendships and romances. Anyway, I liked the show. It wasn’t particularly exciting to watch, but I could really relate to some of the characters in the situations they found themselves in.

      Re: racial/ethnic make-up. Sure, i think tv is better for society when it is more inclusive of diverse people. On the same token, i’m familiar with loads of groups of friends that are racially homogeneous. The irony is that those homogeneous groups tend to be made up more of ethnic minorities than whites.

  4. It’s easy to be mad at a show that embraces part of you and ignores the rest. And that “rest” might be what defines you or the aspect that society defines you by. It’s hard to parse out the good things. As an African-American, I am more defined by that than by being gay. Even in the gay subculture, my race is more defining than any other aspect. So when I see another show about white gay boys navigating life in the city, I roll my eyes. It was easy to be displeased, annoyed, mad at a representation that doesn’t include me…

    …but I watched it anyway, and was pleasantly surprised. There was an African-American who wasn’t the tv-type homo-thug or sassy fashionista. He was articulate and well-grounded. The Latino boyfriend wasn’t a cheater or dumb. He was caring and insightful. The show did a good job of showing the very humanistic and commonplace issues in gay relationships (age, drug use, race). When you don’t live in a gay mecca, you’re not privy to the everyday interactions between gay men. As a young gay person in a limited city or town, you wouldn’t even see such portrayals of these interactions anywhere else. Will & Grace, Queer As Folk, Brothers and Sisters, Glee, the New Normal…these have been groundbreaking in their own ways. Looking is the same. It doesn’t capture everything. So few shows can. But it can show a particular aspect that resonates with many gay men in America regardless of age, race, or current socioeconomic station. Its importance in the grand scheme of representative equality shouldn’t be minimized.

  5. I am a gay, Asian, man. I avoided “Looking” because I was afraid this would happen. After reading the article my suspicions have been confirmed that again Hollywood is creating a false reality that the majority of the world is white people and ethnic minorities have been annihilated again in this fantasy. It sickens me that gay cisgendered men are only interested in progressing queer rights only to further their own white privilege! I am boycotting “Looking”!

    1. I’ve boycotted hollywood productions since 2009. even here in germany where I live it requires quite an effort to carry it through. but it is possible! I love the fact that nowadays non-anglo media outlets are way more accessible. one may then depend on subtitles, but it’s worth the numerous other advantages.

      1. I agree! I find the World Wide Web has been a haven for accessing alternative art forms you will never get on mainstream TV!

      2. So did any of you also boycott “Noah’s Arc” when it was on the air? Would you have? It took place in Los Angeles and none of the main characters were white or Asian.

        1. I actually had to google what “Noah’s Arc” was (same thing with “Looking”). I guess after 5 years of boycotting, or let’s say starkly reducing my consumption of hollywood products, I ended up being so out of date and much less interested about what’s going on there. :3
          so I don’t know if I’d boycott “Noah’s Arc”. I’m not that interested watching it in the first place. :/

        2. As a gay, Asian man I wouldn’t. I love seeing something about the gay experience that isn’t made only for a white gaze. Noah’s Arc was better than the same tired honky shit I get assaulted with on TV and in the movies! It was actually pretty hot!

          Again though in order to really progress and integrate racially as a society race and gender need to move beyond the binary “black and white” paradigm!

      3. I mean you don’t have to boycott it in that sense of not watching it, there are ways like instead going to cinema, just stream it for free illegally haha, that destroys Hollywood

    2. Agreed….excellent comment…..maybe it’s not deliberate or conscious. But
      the Outcome results in furthering / re-enforcing White privilege. it is the only experience that seems to matter and seen as Universal.

  6. THANK YOU for saying it on a public forum. It is a farce that there are no Asians in a show set in San Fran (apart from the dorky side kick who appears in 2 shots and has 1 line).

    This struck a chord with me particularly as I remember Margaret Cho saying in one of her stand up routines that her agent once said ‘noone wants to see Asians on TV’. Still stings for me to even think of that sentence because I look around and cannot help but think it is still true in 2014. Let’s not pretend discrimination towards Asians in the gay community isn’t worsened by a complete absence of positive representation in the media.

    ‘Looking’ was a prime opportunity for that and I am saddened by how much that show failed in that respect. If they set a gay drama in New York and didn’t have African Americans in the main cast, would we hear the end of it? Didn’t think so.

  7. I’m sick and tired of American media creating a false reality where only white people exist and everyone else has been annihilated without discussion or acknowledgement. The blatant disregard for the Asian, gay, community that is obviously present in San Francisco is offensive and an offence to humanity at large!

  8. I think the main issue is why are there no gay asian males producing films that are portrays asian men/women in San Fran or any other American setting. This is an open society, surely Asians or gay Asians don’t want to wait for the white men to come and swoop them up and be all protective and righteous and say yes, we want to make a series/movie that shows you guys in a positive light. If there are so many gay asians or asians in San Fran as you say, surely there are some who are in the film industry be it actors, producers, scriptwriters etc who can work together and make something good that we all want to see. Take the example of Shonda Rhimes, female/black and she put a female black lead in her new series “How to Get Away With Murder”. She is motivated by her own background. She isn’t going to put an Asian lead. Asians should make their own initiative like other races otherwise people would just stereotype asians as submissive, asexual, nerdy etc. I mean, don’t tell me all the gay asians or asians in San Fran are doctors, lawyers and engineers, because that would just confirm stereotypes.

  9. it’s hard to find an asian who can act on screen. we are mostly medical professionals and engineers. we don’t settle for the drugged up world of acting.

  10. ABC’s Selfie has a male asian lead (I recently found out). How come gaysians are not raving or supporting it. Asian male lead, check. Social media reference, check. Rom com theme, check. Or are gayasians not into asian men??? The show is not going to be renewed for another season unfortunately,…so now is the time to show your support and are not being hypocrites.

    1. They did. But plugging in one Asian male in an all white cast is NOT diversity. Plus, the masses don’t control the media. It’s the white men in suits.

  11. I know I’m jumping in a little bit late on this discussion (just starting season 2 of Looking), but I totally agree with you on all points… as do most of my friends who do live in in SF… about the blatant lack of gay Asian characters in this show. A friend of mine who’s white and from South Africa and lived in SF even commented that it was ridiculous. It’s shameful that they’ve pretty much ignored a whole subculture that is generally known to be there (not just for people who live in SF, but all around the world… which should be their target audience).
    There is some ethnic diversity in the show, I give it that, but just now 4 episodes into season 2 with not one gay Asian character even pop up is just ridiculous. Or maybe the three main characters are just racist? Haha… kidding… or not. And as you mentioned, it could have opened up a whole new amazing story arc of gay Asian struggles of acceptance by family/the community and overcoming stereotypes (or being faced by blatant stereotypes that we all know about), especially for American Asians.
    I otherwise enjoy the show on just a very shallow level of the drama and the writing is funny (plus the gay references are fun to catch). I just hope they really represent a little bit more this season… Otherwise, I’ll just stop watching.

  12. LOL YESSSS!! I refuse to watch Looking! I know I would get upset and shit. I am a very bitter gaysian. I feel like gay romance is just things on tv/movies and isn’t real. I just started reading your blog, I don’t know who I can talk to with my conflicting feelings about dating and such. oh well.

  13. As a gay Asian, I don’t really care.
    Asians have higher standards, and we don’t live that way. I really don’t see why we should strive to be embraced in the mainstream culture. We are excellent and live by excellent standards. There is no need to portray Asian like everybody else. After all, we are the model community.

    1. I love your comment so much.
      Gay Asians DO have higher standards – in general, they don’t waste their lives like the pathetic characters of this very pathetic show do, but work very hard to achieve a decent future.
      This is not portrayed, nor will ever be, because it is unmarketable to the gay majority/masses in the U.S. In a way, the author should be grateful that Asians were left out, as they are clearly above such utterly terrible programs as this one.

  14. There’s also no Middle Eastern, Brazilian, African, Pacific Idlander, blah blah blah main characters. Dont leave everyone behind!!!!!
    Get over it lol

  15. @ Josh. Seriously get over it. Does everything have to be diverse every time. So annoying, get over it or create your own show that you prefer to view. But quit trying to make everything, everything to everyone.
    ——————-

    this is exactly the kind of comment that comes from a place of White privilege. first why are you commenting on this blog if you are not even sympathetic to the issues of race and gay identity on this blog. Second, you fail to understand how you have won your rights as a Gay represented quite frequently in the mainstream and would probably complain loudly if you were misrepresented in anyway in the mainstream media. You fail to understand that Gay sexuality isn’t / shouldn’t be about White people. But if you believe in your ‘superiority”, then please don’t start talking shit about being inclusiveness or that diversity exists in the Gay community. Clearly, there is only exclusion. And maybe Gay Asians should create their own show and watch White gays crying foul cause they aren’t represented. the Centre has been taken away from them.

  16. Have you ever noticed how Asian men are rarely, if ever, represented as Hot or sexy daddies /gandpas…?

    Does this mean, that once an Asian man ages that his sexual marketability / desirability greatly diminished.. ?

    Whereas, White men can go on for quite some time…they can be Bears with pot bellies, hairy beasts, sagging pecks, chins and ass and all, they don’t even have to posses average dicks, and they still merit visibility….This is part of the tremendous Privilege of representation White men possess. How does this occur…? well, I guess many Asian men just arent out their in Porn or willing to pose nude…regardless of the reason, it works only to posit White men as Hierarchical and Central to our understanding of the category Gay male.

  17. I watched Looking and it was boring as fuck. I didn’t really care about the characters at all. But I agree, if you’re going to make a show, please make it represent the city that it is located in. Even that other show, Hunting Season, had a minority character.

    But I will say that Looking proves that being gay can be just as boring as being straight.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *