HBO’s LGBT History: In Treatment (2008-2010)
Wednesday, January 20, 2016 at 3:00PM
Manuel Betancourt in Dane DeHaan, Gabriel Byrne, HBO, HBO LGBT, In Treatment

 Manuel is working his way through all the LGBT-themed HBO productions...

Last week we looked back at the 1990 1989 Oscar ceremony (it took place in 1990 but celebrated the best of 1989) and got to see an unfazed Jessica Lange and a blustered Charlton Heston, both things which are equally entertaining to watch. This week, we’re tempering our nerves over Haynes’s Oscar snub with a visit to In Treatment’s Dr. Paul Weston (Gabriel Byrne).

Developed by Rodrigo García (who we talked about briefly since he directed Six Feet Under’s “A Private Life”), this HBO show is an American adaptation of the Israeli series BeTipul. Aired as a five-night series, every episode follows a session with Dr. Weston. For today we’re looking at season three’s “Week 1: Jesse” where we meet Dane DeHaan’s character Jesse. And boy is he a testy one!

Playing an aloof New York City privileged gay teen is a balancing act: one false move and you teeter right into a stereotype. Thankfully, DeHaan is more than up to the task. His Jesse is the type of teen who mistakes his own self-awareness for introspection and the actor's cadence is spot on, every sentence oozing a put-on air of self-importance undercut by his nervous need for validation. The episode, which hints at his past troubles (selling drugs at his school) and his current unraveling (he’s just gotten a voicemail from his birth mother), are a perfect example of an LGBT character on screen whose arc is dependent but not exclusive to his sexuality. [More...]

“Ew, don’t do that. You know sports metaphors offend my delicate homosexual sensibilities.”

This is what we mean when we ask for diverse representations: multi-layered and complex examinations of gay people that don’t recoil from tackling sexual drives or from the type of witty humor that so often gets sanded over in the name of political correctness. Also, how topical that Jesse would flaunt his knowledge of a geo-based app where you can find people to have sex with (Grindr launched in 2009).

Perhaps it’s the fact that it takes place in the safe space of therapy giving the character ample room to dive deep into himself but Jesse may be the most exciting character I’ve come across in this history. Give or take a David Fisher, of course. Perhaps that Six Feet Under character offers a great foil and serves as a reminder of the great strides LGBT representation had made since the Alan Ball series first premiered, especially in the realm of cable dramas. Network is a whole different thing: the saccharine and well-meaning Glee, if you’ll remember, was at its peak at the same time that García and DeHaan were fleshing out this prickly teen. Though maybe it’s a matter of geography? After all, In Treatment’s Brooklyn office is focused on a very specific type of New York City dweller, which might very well be in a different planet than McKinley High.

Either way, all I know is I now desperately want need Jesse’s “trust me im a virgin” t-shirt.

Fun Awards Fact: An acting showcase, In Treatment won many of its actors nominations that cut across a wide swath of awards: Gabriel Byrne, Blair Underwood, Melissa George, (Golden Globes), Hope Davis, Fred Murphy (Emmys), Debra Winger (Women’s Image Network Awards), Russell Hornsby (Vision Awards) Mia Wasikowska (AFI Awards) though the only two to win at the esteemed Emmys were two veteran actors: Glynn Turman and two-time Oscar winner Dianne Wiest.

Next Week: We revisit Ryan Murphy’s The Normal Heart. It’s a fascinating case of a key cultural touchstone getting its big screen treatment a few decades too late though given the current conversations re: PrEP, Kramer’s script remains oddly timely.

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