Film & TV

HBO’s ‘Looking:’ An Accurate Depiction of Recreational Drug Use

Film & TV

HBO’s ‘Looking:’ An Accurate Depiction of Recreational Drug Use

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While HBO’s Looking, which documents a group of (mostly gay, male) friends living in San Francisco, has been both praised and slammed for its depiction of the “modern gay man,” there is one thing the show tends to capture quite accurately: drug use. Season two has upped the ante, depicting an ecstasy-fueled rave scene in episode one and a GHB trip gone horribly wrong (as they often do) in episode two.

The film and television industry seems to be in cahoots with the major network news channels when it comes to informing us of the supposed “horrors” of ecstasy (or, more recently, MDMA). These days, most onscreen molly use results in amphetamine addiction, a lifetime of worsening drug use, questionable sexual experiences and, most frequently, overdoses.

In the season two premiere of Looking, we find what MDMA often results in: an insanely fun evening of dancing (to uplifting disco tunes, not EDM) and the overwhelming desire to tell your closest friends how much you love them.

Appropriately titled “Looking for the Promised Land,” the episode has our main characters staying at a luxurious cabin. One evening, they attend a mystical party deep in the woods, at which they all take ecstasy and dance in slow motion to the delightful sounds of Sister Sledge’s “Lost in Music.” There are twinkling Christmas lights and smiling faces. All in all, the show makes the experience look so utterly delightful it might as well be an advertisement for ecstasy use.

Now, this isn’t to say that popping molly cannot go horribly wrong. The point is that most of the time, it goes horribly right, which is why the drug is so damn popular!

In episode two, we find a similarly accurate, albeit darker, depiction of taking GHB. Now, when I found out people were taking GHB recreationally, I was pretty flabbergasted. Isn’t that the stuff douchebags use to date rape girls at sketchy clubs? Turns out, G only has that “desired” disturbing effect (i.e. leaving its victim barely conscious) when mixed with alcohol. When taken on its own (and balanced with lots of water) it creates a sort of euphoric high (I’m told it’s similar to ketamine). I’m also told it tastes like battery acid.

When Augustín, Looking’s resident wild child, goes to a club to let off some steam, he runs into a friend of his ex’s. When Augustín asks the dude why he’s drinking water, he says he’s taking G, noting (very accurately), “It doesn’t play well with others.” Augustín, who has already done some drinking that evening, asks to take some. Cut to him passed out outside, vomit everywhere.

The contrast between the effects of recreational drug use in these two episodes is brilliant. Looking doesn’t aim to glorify or takedown casual drug use amongst young people (as most TV shows or movies do). Rather, it depicts a fairly truthful reality when it comes to attractive young people in a major city indulging in drugs and alcohol. Sometimes things turn out fabulous, other times things turn out totally fucked up, but in the end, no one ends up in a hospital or at the morgue.