We sit down with Andrew Haigh – the man behind seminal gay film Weekend, and HBO series Looking – in the new issue of Attitude, to talk about gay representation on screen, the end of Looking and his new film, 45 Years. In this snippet from the full-length interview, Haigh reflects on the uphill battle Looking faced – even from LGBT viewers…
With the arrival of a major HBO show centred around gay men, anticipation was high for Looking, which promised realistic portraits of modern American gay men in an insightful drama, with shades of humour. But, as has been the typical reaction to recent gay TV (see also Cucumber, Vicious), it seemed people were less interested in watching the actual show than they were in debating whether or not they saw themselves reflected in the characters and plots.
“I completely understand the desire to be represented on screen,” Andrew begins. “For years, I wanted to see myself represented on screen. But it is frustrating when you create characters, whose stories you are trying to tell, and you come up against all of this anger and hatred. I had so many people saying, ‘I hate that Patrick character, he is awful, he is just not me!’ And I’d look at them and think, ‘You do know, you are actually Patrick?!’”
It goes without saying that to present enough characters for every gay audience member to feel represented is an impossible task, and it’s certainly not something Andrew felt he could do in one show. “I would love it if there were more shows with different types of gay people, but I couldn’t do that with Looking. What is frustrating is that gay people complain that there is no representation on screen, but then when we made Looking, not many people actually watched it. We had really low viewing figures and got cancelled!
“A lot of people seemed to talk about it without actually watching it. So many people said ‘I didn’t watch your show, I didn’t like it’, but they’d admit they barely watched the pilot. So you’re making a judgment on two seasons of a show after watching just five minutes, and turning it off because somebody was being jerked off in a wood and you didn’t like what that said about gay people. I do think it is rooted in a fear where we want representation in the world, but only of the best of us. Now, it is of my feeling that if we want true acceptance, then we should be accepted fully, as shitty people, who have emotional baggage and who do find it hard to be gay. I have no problem with those characters being on screen.”
With the announcement that Looking would be cancelled at the end of the second season, there also came the news that it would be sent off with some sort of finale. “It’s a TV special movie, I’m not exactly sure of what the right terminology is but it’s like an hour and a half, extended movie thing. We’re writing that at the moment and that’ll come on air sometime next year I hope.” Can he tell us anything about it at this point? “I can tell you nothing! Look, it’s not going to be massively different from what you’ve seen before, there’s not going to be aliens or anything over dramatic but I think it’s a nice way for us to bring the stories to a kind of semi-conclusion and wrap some things up – to have a final chapter to it.”
You can read our full interview with Andrew in the new issue of Attitude, in shops on Wednesday August 19. It’s available now for digital download from Pocketmags.com/Attitude and you can subscribe to the print version at newsstand.co.uk/Attitude.