The dating game

Meet reality TV’s Gay Bachelor Number 1—and find out why some are concerned about the straight twist in Bravo’s Boy Meets Boy

BY Rick Andreoli

June 24 2003 12:00 AM ET

Surprises on
reality television are so cheap and common these days that
most new twists and turns generate little more than a
cynical chuckle from seasoned viewers. So when word
leaked out in May that the Bravo cable network was
producing a new dating-themed reality series about a
gay bachelor choosing the perfect boyfriend from among 15
eligible men, it sounded like simply a queer take on a
preexisting idea.

But in a move
worthy of Joe Millionaire, Boy Meets Boy takes the
surprise factor one step further, because neither the
“leading man” nor his best gal pal nor
all of the 15 potential boyfriends—called
“mates”—know that sprinkled among them
are some heterosexual contestants. Initial reaction
has been polarized, with one overriding question: Will
this be a groundbreaking portrayal of gay romance on
television or a sordid example of setting up gays as
the butt of one big, degrading prank?

“In some
ways, [Boy Meets Boy] has the potential to kind of
subvert the whole notion of how people conceive of lesbians
and gay men,” observes Stephen Tropiano, author
of The Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and
Lesbians on TV,
who sees the show as a natural
outgrowth of gays’ presence in television.

Tom Shales of
The Washington Post agrees: “On the
surface it would seem like a healthy development, on
the grounds that visibility is healthy.”
However, with this praise Shales adds a note of concern
that’s common among many who hear of the
straight twist. “We don’t know how much
ridicule or derision is going to be a part of it,” he
says, “so a lot depends on how it’s
done, whether it’s going to be leering or above
board.”

Airing in July
and August, Boy Meets Boy is hosted by
Extra’s Dani Behr and was shot in May in Palm
Springs, Calif. The show features handsome leading man
James (the participants’ last names are
omitted), 32, who works in human resources at a major Los
Angeles law firm. What drives an obviously attractive,
successful gay man to subject himself to what some
consider a very wide-reaching video dating service?
James, who came out at 22 while in college, explains,
“I tend to meet guys who are interested in sex
first and then maybe something more if the sex is
good.” That said, James wanted to challenge himself,
better understand what he wants in a relationship, and
affirm his values as a modern gay man. He also wants
America to see that the caricatures on most scripted
television shows don’t accurately represent gay
culture. “We are normal people with normal jobs
[and] normal friends, looking for love and happiness
just like everyone else,” he says.

Not that everyone
thinks that normalcy is what’s going to come across
on Boy Meets Boy. “It sounds more like
How to Date a Hustler, because the motive
[of the contestants] is to be emotionally and
physically attractive to the gay guy,” observes Brad
Gooch, author of Dating the Greek Gods.
“The straight guy is trying to act like trade
in this case.”

Confining the
other 15 singles in one house sounds like the makings of a
gay porn video, notes Derek Hartley, who dispenses
relationship advice at PlanetOut.com’s
“FantasyMan Island.” “The only reason I
would watch the show is to see the 15 bachelors ignore
the lead guy and hook up with one another,” he
says with a laugh. But Hartley and viewers like him may be
disappointed.

For one thing,
also living in the house will be James’s longtime
best friend, Andra—a married heterosexual woman
who’s there to help James choose. “What
was amazing about James and Andra right from the start was
their rapport,” notes supervising producer Kirk
Marcolina. “They were finishing each
other’s sentences right from the get-go and really
had that relationship we were looking for.”
This dynamic, so indicative of the relationships of
many gay men and their straight women friends, should
help provide a hook for straight viewers while giving the
show some oomph.

James affirms his
friend’s importance. “Andra was the voice
behind many of the decisions,” he says.
“If she wanted me to keep a mate, I did. If she
wanted me to have a one-on-one date with a specific mate, I
did.”

Tags: Commentary

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