On this chapter of The Queerest Things I Watched Last Week, it was a quiet week for new TV, so I decided to do something I’ve been putting off for months — write about two shows I didn’t like, Hightown and We Are Who We Are.
I’m usually a “If you don’t have anything nice to say, keep your mouth shut.” type of person when it comes to queer-centric shows. We have so few, and if I don’t like it I don’t want to be a jerk because I’m sure it’s someone’s cup of tea. But there are two shows I watched in 2020 I should have liked from their premises, but did not — Hightown and We Are Who We Are. If you’re a fan of either these are my personal opinions and I apologize in advance!
- Hightown – Season 1 [Live]
On paper, Hightown sounds amazing. It’s a crime drama starring out queer actor Monica Raymund as Jackie Quiñones, a lesbian National Marine Fisheries Service Agent in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Jackie is a hot mess who makes her way through queer female tourists coming through town every week like a revolving door. Before the show aired, I said “sign me up!” But as we started watching my wife and I were like, “Wow, this is bad.”
I think showrunner Rebecca Cutter wanted to make The Wire Cape Cod edition
I love Provincetown, my wife and I have been going there on the regular since the 90s. It’s a tiny beautiful town on the tip of Cape Cod and the queerest place on earth. At night especially, queer folks make up the majority of people walking around and it’s glorious mix of queer women, drag queens on bikes, gay dudes, queer couples with kids and everyone else on the gender/sexual orientation spectrum (unless it’s Bear Week, then it’s mostly bears).
I’m not completely naive, I know Cape Cod has been severely affected by the opioid epidemic, and the Cape is not the same place in the off season as it is in the Summer, but the show makes Provincetown look like Hamsterdam. As a visitor, the only thing you hear about is bike theft (looking at stats, theft is the number 1 crime in Ptown). However, Jackie finds a dead woman’s body on the beach in front of The Provincetown Inn.
Showrunner Rebecca Cutter’s idea for Jackie was like a lesbian Don Draper.
I was literally just driving and I kind of got the image of this queer female Fisheries Service Agent who’s kind of like Don Draper as a woman with these real appetites and unapologetic and really tough.Rebecca Cutter, Showrunner
Unlike Don Draper, Jackie does not try to hold it together on the outside. The girl’s a sloppy mess. She wakes up in the morning and washes down some pills with a beer left out on the counter from the night before and ends up drunk and high with a different girl every night. I loved a flawed protagonist, but Jackie’s a wreck. One night she crashes a car while trying to drive with one hand and bang a girl with the other while drunk and high on coke.
Where would you be driving off to after the bars close at 1am in Ptown? There’s no where else to go. There are plenty of sneaky spots to have debaucherous shenanigans in Ptown, you don’t need to drive off to another place.
Jackie’s fish police partner Ed bails her out, but things are not looking good for her.
Ed tells her going into rehab is her only chance of a judge not convicting her with a felon. Jackie is surly about it, but she does goes to rehab against her will.
Meanwhile Cape Cod Interagency Narcotics Unit (CCINU) detective Ray Abruzzo (who I like to call “offbrand McNulty”) is investigating the murder of the woman who washed up on the beach because it looks to be drug related. He is also involved with Renee Segna played by Riley Voelkel from The Originals. In Hightown she doesn’t play a bisexual witch, she plays a stripper who is the longtime girlfriend of incarcerated drug kingpin Frankie Cuevas Sr.
I was like, “Does Cape Cod even have a strip club?” I Googled and found there was one and it closed June 2019.
Why I didn’t like Hightown
My wife and I hate-watched it every week. I feel like this show was a queer bait and switch. I tuned in for a hot lesbian cop lead and got a very male-gazey show focused more on the straight characters and story lines. Also, the show loved to put Jackie in proximity of naked dudes. And not in a fun, gay Ptown way, it was a creepy “Let’s put a ween near a lesbian’s face because that’s hilarious, right?”
The dialogue was downright terrible and too much time was spent on offbrand McNulty who I could care less about. There were also more explicit straight sex scenes than queer ones. In my opinion, the show was like, “Yeah we have a lesbian lead, but we’re going to work hard to please straight viewers who don’t want to see gay stuff.” I tried finding evidence of anyone queer involved with the writing of the show, but I couldn’t find any. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but the show feels like a queer show written by straight people.
I have to admit though, I still like Jackie even though she’s pretty terrible.
My wife: “You like a messy butch disaster.”
She knows me well.
- We Are Who We Are – Season 1 [Live]
Again, on paper this show sounded up my alley. Chloë Sevigny plays Sarah, a US army Colonel (where she’ll enevidably be in uniform a lot) with a hot wife named Maggie played by out queer actor Alice Braga. They move to an Italian military base with their teenage son Fraser where he makes friends with another army teen named Caitlin and together they navigate queerness and teen army life.
I’m not going to be polite here, I hated it.
It was created by Luca Guadagnino known for Call Me By Your Name. That should have been my first clue, because I didn’t like that movie. I feel like Luca fancies himself a brilliant cinematographer, but in my opinion the random freeze frames and uncomfortably long slow motion scenes were like something from a senior film school project. I would be more forgiving if the story and characters were engaging, but I found them to be unlikable and creepy.
Fraser and Cate/Harper are supposed to be 14 years old (that’s my kid’s age). I don’t think it’s okay to have 30 year olds involved with 14 year olds. But looking at Luca Guadagnino’s cinematic history, it seems to be something he is into.
Maggie is the only voice of reason regarding their son.
Sarah on the other hand, is practically pushing them together.
I think Fraser is a more realistic portrayal of an angry teen than, like, Tess on This is Us, but he is over the top horrible to Sarah.
Sarah never does anything about it. Every time he is awful she doesn’t discipline him at all. She also lets him drink a lot of wine. It’s weird. I really disliked his character.
Maggie does have an affair with Cate/Harper’s mom and that’s interesting.
But the affair doesn’t really go anywhere and Sarah’s almost lethargic in her feelings about out. Which is fine, but everyone’s indifference towards each other left me feeling not emotionally attached to anyone on the show.
The only character I did find interesting is Cate/Harper. The queer teens are very label-less when it come to sexual/gender orientation, and it’s in line with my kid and their friends (or they use ALL the labels). In my opinion, watching Cate/Harper navigate who they are was the best part of the series. Also they are played by Jordan Kristine Seamón, who is from Philly. I’m always psyched when an actor is from Philly!
I usually try to stay positive in general regarding queer content, but I would like those 8 hours of my life back.
This week: Thank goodness Station 19 is back this week! I am going through Marina withdrawal.