Finding Prince Charming premieres on Logo—where RuPual continues to pay the light bill—next Thursday night. "Pretty much The Bachelor with gay dudes," says TV Guide, which goes on to call the show "long overdue."
There was something I wanted to say about the show when I first heard about it—something short and sweet and obvious to me but somehow not obvious to the producers—but scandale overtook the show before I could get to it. Turns out Robert Sepúlveda Jr., the gay bachelor being pursued by thirteen gay suitors, used to work as an escort, may have discriminated against black clients while working as an escort (a charge rests on the word of one anonymous wannabe client), and made a few porny videos back in his escorting days. (The Internet never forgets, commenters never forgive.) And today Logo execs threw their prince charming under the bus: Sepúlveda's porny/escorty past wasn't uncovered during the a background check, panicked Logo execs told The Wrap reports, and they presumably wouldn't have cast him if it had been.
I'm not really interested in the scandal—sex work shouldn't be scandalous and dating shows are a kind of sex work—and I strongly disagree with the anonymous commenters at Queerty and elsewhere who've called Sepúlveda "a disgrace to the community," "a pervert also in the eyes of other gays," and no one's "Prince Charming." (Always sad to see gay men engaged in sexphobic slut-shaming and bashing of sex workers.) But I strongly agree with E. Alex Jung, who wrote up the scandal for New York Magazine, where he argued that Sepúlveda and Logo are reinforcing the stigma around sex work that's biting them on their asses:
In the first episode of Finding Prince Charming, [Sepúlveda] says that he’s looking for marriage and the “white picket-fence dream.” Moreover, he says he wants a man with “good family values.” And while all of this may be true, his lack of openness [about his past] only further stigmatizes sex work because it suggests that the desire to settle down is somehow inimical to it. A writer for Str8upgayporn (it should go without saying that the link is NSFW, but here’s your warning anyway) got to the core problem: “Contrary to what Logo would like their audience to believe, not all gay men are looking for 'family values' (an obscene, anti-gay dog whistle used by the religious right to rally voters). In reality, gay men shove things up their asses, and gay men swallow cum.”
Finding Prince Charming wants to have it both ways: They wanted a bachelor who looked like a porn star to activate the trashy, libidinal desires of gay men, but they didn’t want him to talk about it once they realize he might actually have been one. It’s the Madonna/whore complex, but for gay men. Indeed, what may make Finding Prince Charming interesting isn’t Sepúlveda himself, but rather the era the show represents: when marriage is not just a possibility for queer people, but an obligation.
Now before I get to what I originally wanted to say about this dating show—and any future dating shows featuring gay men—let me vomit these points out quickly: There's nothing inherently trashy about gay men's libidinal desires. A lot of great gay relationships (some lasting hours, some lasting lifetimes) owe their existences to two (or more) gay men acting on their libidinal desires. And gay guys? Marriage is not an obligation. I have two older brothers, both straight, one married, one not. If marriage isn't an obligation for my long-partnered-but-unmarried eldest brother... it's not an obligation for us either. And if my straight older brother has the testicular fortitude to resist the ring despite the crushing expectations of history, the heterosexist patriarchy, and our mother... we can surely resist whatever Logo throws at us. And a porn star present isn't inimical to settling down either. And you know who else sticks things up their butts and swallows come? Straight people! They're just like us! Kinda! Some of them can even spell "come" correctly!
Okay, finally... here's what I wanted to say about this gay dating show and others like it...
On a straight dating/fucking/marrying show there's one bachelor and a bunch of female suitors who wanna
get famous get married or one bachelorette and a bunch of male suitors who wanna get famous get married. These shows rely on scarcity—engineered scarcity, bullshit scarcity, perceived scarcity. Producers create an imbalance between supply of pussy/cock and demand for pussy/cock, lock everyone in a big house, break out the box wine, and turn on the cameras.
But put one gay bachelor and thirteen interchangeable, blandly attractive gay suitors in a house—suiters who can be interchanged not just with each other but also with the "star" bachelor—and what's to stop the gay suitors from running off with each other?
For a gay bachelor-style show to work, for their to be an actual competition, the producers need to engineer a different brand of scarcity. They need to create a supply-and-demand imbalance that isn't about gender or genitals—and you know what? It really wouldn't be that hard. Just cast one exclusive gay top as your bachelor and thirteen gay power bottoms as your suitors. Or vice-versa. That's all it would take.
But if you really wanted to have some fun with the intricacies and subcultures of gay male desire...
Cast a hunky older bear as the bachelor and thirteen skinny twinks who are exclusively attracted to hunky older bears as his suitors. Or vice-versa. Or cast a hot leather/BDSM Master as the bachelor and thirteen leather/BDSM slaves as his suitors. Or vice-versa. (No switches!) Or cast one skinny guy into big guys as the bachelor and thirteen big guys into skinny guys as his suitors. Or vice-versa.
Added bonus: Gay people know these complications exist, straight people are fascinated by them, and including/mining them would make for a crazier, more informed, and interesting show.
Without some other form of scarcity, without creating a different supply and demand problem, there's nothing to prevent the suitors on Finding Prince Charming from running off with each other or (more likely) winding up in a writhing heap on the lawn. Unless the suitors are all sexually incompatible in a fundamental and insurmountable way and the "star" gay bachelor is their only sexual/romantic counterpart—the gay suitors are all pots, the gay bachelor is the only lid.
The trailer for Finding Prince Charming hints at suitors hooking up with each other and/or making passes at each other. This might be the source of some drama and justification to toss a drink in someone's face. But whatever drama is gained by suitors finding each other attractive—or sneaking off with each other—isn't worth the corresponding loss of perceived scarcity, the tension it creates, and the competitive desperation it instills.
And, I'm sorry, but a show with one bear being pursued by thirteen twinks would be so much more fun to watch.
UPDATE: Funny or Die diagnosed the problem with a gay bachelor show a couple of years ago...
...but, unlike me, they didn't propose a solution!