How many times have you typed a witty and intelligent reply on Grindr – only to delete everything and type:
‘Top or Bottom?’
The way we portray ourselves online can often differ from the way we really are. But that can have consequences beyond just our own sexual health and mental health – it can affect but others too.
And that’s what a new film from London sexual health clinic 56 Dean Street is exploring.
It follows Joe, played by Denholm Spurr, who despite his online persona of popularity and happiness – is actually quite lonely. So when he turns to Grindr to fill the gap, he gets more than he bargained for in his hookup Adam (Taofique Folarin).
In an exclusive first look at the three-part series, we see what happens when Joe dons a jock strap to host Adam – the versatile discreet Grindr hookup that took him by surprise:
Gay Star News spoke to the writer of the series Patrick Cash about what he you to take away from his story:
Even with just his jockstrap on pretending to be confident, Joe is in a state of vulnerability.
GSN: Joe puts on a persona for Grindr, typing what he wants to say only to delete and ‘Grindrs’ his text up anyway – Why is that important to show?
PC: ‘I think we’ve all been there, haven’t we? Writing something that you think is too honest or sad, and then re-editing to what you think is more sexually attractive.
‘And in the case of Denholm’s character Joe, all the stuff that he’s really feeling – he’s feeling lonely, he’d like some company – he can’t bring himself to express because he assumes the other guy won’t be interested in such a loser.
‘So instead he edits it all to sex talk. It’s funny, I hope, but also there’s a bit of pathos as I think it mirrors some of our interactions in real life.
‘Joe’s obsession with his “public image” puts him at odds with what he actually feels quite a lot. This is something a lot of gay and bi men, indeed – all LGBT+ people, find difficult. Why?
‘Joe’s got this big, vivacious life on Insta, with loads of followers and likes for his topless selfies flooding in all the time. And then we see him in his bedroom and it’s just him and his phone.
‘There’s this element everywhere in society now: ‘Insta models’ sometimes write exposes of how they took a hundred photos to post one good shot. But for LGBT+ people, in particular, not expressing feelings might also relate to hiding away in our teenage years in the ‘closet’. We learned not to.
Adam has a lot of sex – but has never been tested for HIV
Adam is actually quite naive to sexual health and gay relationships. He says ‘I don’t sleep with people who have HIV’ – why did you build this kind of thinking into his character?
‘This is a really important narrative as there are loads of guys, particularly from the BME (black and minority ethnic) community, who are using Grindr on the ‘down low’ and not identifying as gay/bi.
‘And because these guys aren’t accessing gay/bi spaces, or magazines or websites, they don’t get the safer sex and testing messages. 56 Dean Street often see these guys testing late, sometimes only when they’ve got symptoms.
Is the nosy neighbor actually a ‘pervfest‘?
The film includes Jonathan Blake, who is one of the founding members of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. He was also one of the first people in the UK to get an HIV diagnosis. Joe is very dismissive of Blake’s character, does the series explore more about the dynamic of learning from older members of the community?
‘Jonathan is one of the most amazing, inspiring people I’ve met and then I have to ask him: “Jonathan, will you be in this film where you get told to piss off as a ‘pervfest’?”
‘Luckily, he’s such a good sport he takes it in his stride. But he only features briefly in this episode where it establishes the dismissiveness of Joe towards him as an older gay man.
‘He will feature a lot more in episodes two and three, and there’s definitely something Joe could learn by listening to him… Especially about navigating relationships.’
Who is the boy in Joe’s photograph?
‘The relationship between Joe and Rob in the photograph is explained as the series progresses. Definitely, something has happened there, but the viewer isn’t sure what at this point.’
– Easter Egg, it’s also a picture of writer Patrick Cash –
The series is produced by Leon Lopez’s Brown Boy Productions. You can watch more from the series during Digital Pride 23-28th April here on Gay Star News.