At 40, Grindr emails you a death certificate

[dropcap size=small]S[/dropcap]neaky-funny…” (The New Yorker). “..enticing…” (Hypable). “…wispily and magically sexy…” (Vanity Fair). Why is HBO’s gay TV show Looking getting such rave reviews in the US and the world around and what makes it different from popular predecessors like Queer as Folk and Will & Grace? Björn Birgir Ingimundarson takes a closer look and tells you why.

Steamy gay sex on prime time TV

In recent years LGBT characters have multiplied on screens big and small. Clear examples of this are TV shows like Ellen which paved the way for Queer as Folk and Will & Grace (both came out in 1999) and later Sex and the City, True Blood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ugly Betty, Six Feet Under, Gray’s Anatomy, ER, Brothers & Sisters, Pretty Little Liars, Orphan Black, Black is the New Orange, Modern Family and Glee – to name just a few – where LGBT characters appear, though more often than not, in supporting roles. TV shows solely based on the lives of gay men and lesbians are on the other hand still somewhat of a rarity.

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With its frank depiction of sex and drugs Queer as Folk raised a lot of eyebrow back in the day. And still does.

Queer as Folk (the UK version) is the first show I can remember seeing that falls into the latter category. At the time it was a huge breakthrough, not only for making gays visible but also for its honest portrayal of gay sex – who knew what rimming was before “those scenes” were depicted – which I was amazed a big TV channel like Channel 4 would air during prime time. That said, I never really identified with any of the characters, their wild lives and non stop sex, even though I spent time in Manchester on the very streets where the scenes were filmed when the show came out. And it was certainly not something that I could sit down and watch with, say my parents. Unlike Will & Grace.

Flaming queens or conservative lawyers, what USA’s Will & Grace did, it showed my parent’s generation how diverse gay people can be, basically just like anyone else. A very funny “harmless” fair you could watch with about anyone, ranging from your 5-year-old nephew to your 85-year-old grandma. It was actually so “harmless” that, unlike Queer as Folk, the

In Will & Grace gay men excel at being "the best friend" but are stripped of their sexuality.
In Will & Grace gay men do a great job being “the best friend” but are stripped of their sexuality.

characters, even as witty and finger snapping as they were, were never shown having sex, hardly even sharing a kiss. Actually, I couldn’t even imagine them having sex. The characters didn’t even do things you, well at least I, could wholeheartedly disapprove of, leaving me with the sense that they were both two-dimensional and hard to identify with. We all know that real people sometimes make wrong choices.

This is where Looking comes into the picture, truly different from many earlier LGBT shows as it “gives a glimpse of real gay life in San Francisco” as Indiewire puts it (actual shops and restaurants make the setting just like New York’s landmarks did in Sex and the City). Or as I see it, a glimpse into gay life that could be in any city in the Western world.

The appeal of Looking

Awkward dates, unglamorous sex  and “boyfriend troubles”. Unlike purely comedic Will & Grace or steamy hot and sexy Queer as Folk HBO’s Looking is all about real people with real issues. Nothing outrageous, just ordinary. People who sometimes make bad choices. People that happen to be gay. People that feel so real you can easily relate to them. Or as director Andrew Haigh (known for understated gay movie Weekend, 2011) recently said in an interview with the Guardian: “[What’s missing on TV] is the everyday nature of being gay. It’s watching telly and eating pizza with your boyfriend, or lying in bed and having a kiss and cuddle, or going to clubs and fucking in the ass.” And that is exactly what Looking excels at.

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Strong performances and believable situations make HBO’s Looking a convincing portrayal of everyday gay life.

The show focuses on the life of 3 gay friends living in San Francisco. Complicated main character Patrick (Jonathan Groff), a 29-year-old video game designer whose good at his job without being high-flying, nice without being extremely witty and finger snapping like the characters in Will and Grace and likes to think he’s managed his life even though he’s far from it.  His social skills are awkward and his most refining relationship, when we meet him, is with his mother. Agustin (Frankie J Alvarez), Patrick’s best friend from college is a failed artist, the other, Dom (Murray Bartlett), slightly older (40) and stuck in a dead-end job waiting tables, wondering where his life is going and whether he should make some major changes. Faulty characters you won’t fall head over heals for in the beginning but slowly grow on you with every episode.

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Looking has been hailed by critics as the “gay version of TV show Girls”.

The same could be said about the show itself. Nothing big and showy happens in the pilot and it isn’t till the 3rd episode that we had an idea where the story is going (up until then it feels a bit like an indie film) and things really start to get heated.

It’s a show very much about gay life today and benefits from numerous references to modern culture (Facebook, Instagram and OK Cupid), some quite funny and sarcastic like when Patrcik says “Instagram filters have ruined everything, I can’t tell if this guy is hot or not”, or when Dom elegantly tells his friends that “at 40, Grindr sends you your death certificate”.

A show that makes you wonder how gay people are presented in the media. How our straight counterparts see us. What it means to be gay and it even makes you re-evaluate your own life. And all these things combined is what makes Looking smart, sensible and interesting to watch. Or as The Wrap claims a show that’s rewards “viewers who can hang on beyond the first episode and can adapt to its much slower pace and more naturalistic shooting style.”

More of Patrick please!

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L  world is possibly the only mainstream TV series where all the major characters were queer women.

Despite a lot of good reviews Looking opened with low ratings in the US (maybe due to its realistic tone, somewhat slow pace in the first episodes and criticism for a lack of diversity in characters – most of the main characters are white gay males, youngish and strikingly handsome). But viewing figures steadily grew and it has been announced that HBO has picked Looking up for a second season (filming starts this year). Which is great because Looking is the first mainstream TV show that focuses on gay people since Showtime’s The L Word ended its sixth season run in 2009 (that’s five years people!). And great because we need more leading, believable and deeply compelling LGBT characters in film and on TV, characters which we care for, relate to and who can sometimes give us a little break from our own reality, work, personal life and politics (Looking doesn’t address LGBT political issues – the word “progress” is never used, which is maybe progress in itself). The first season of Looking consists of only eight episodes (!) and I’m already desperate for more.

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

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        Ísey skyr
        - once tasted never forgotten

        Our Story
        Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

        For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

        Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
        This is our secret and you are in on it

        You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

        Núðluskálin
        - noodle bar

        Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

        All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
        We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
        Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

        Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

        Seatours
        - adventure cruise

        Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
        and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

        The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

        600x400-seatours-tasting

        This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

        600x400-seatours

        The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

        Birds, possible to spot:
        -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
        -eider ducks
        -shags
        -kittiwakes
        -fulmars
        -white-tailed eagle

        The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
        Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

        Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

        Contact Us


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