The Curate's Cucumber?

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As It's a Sin, Russell T Davies' new series, is about to be broadcast, I thought it was about time I did the rewatch of his previous GGGay series, 2015's Cucumber. If you haven't seen it, it'll have plenty of spoilers.

Cucumber was described as a "spiritual sequel" to his earlier Queer As Folk series, and would be looking at middle-aged gay life, showing off RTD's "absolute mastery of TV".

Cuumber's title screen

Cucumber's title screen

The acting is great, the direction, camera work and editing are great, and the soundtrack is great too.

The problem, as ever, is with the script…

Episode one

It opens with a shot of the main character Henry in a supermarket. He's white, balding, bearded, grey-haired and 46. (A few years younger than me then, even if the visual look is similar.)

Cucumber's Henry

Henry in the supermarket

There's a voice-over which talks about an erection hardness scale. The whole basis for the series' title and those of its junior co-series, Banana and Tofu, isn't actually from a report from "an institute in Switzerland dedicated to sex", but from an article in a Malaysian newspaper, giving the food similes to the levels on the European Association of Urology's Erection Hardness Scale in order to push Viagra. I suppose calling this one 'Four' and the other ones 'Two/Three' and 'One' like the real scale wasn't edgy enough.

Anyway, he's looking around at the other men before going home to get ready to go out with his long-term partner Lance.

Cucumber's Lance

Lance

Or not.

"I hate gay men – why are we even going?"

They're off to a get-together with five other similarly aged, similar looking men they know in some bar with table service.

"This new bloke comes to [Alcoholics Anonymous] and we get talking. Turns out he teaches Applied Physics [1]That's Chemistry, isn't it? (ducks) at [Manchester] Metropolitan [University]. Married, he tells me after three hours, so that was a waste of time."

So the implication is that in the Cucumber world, married men are not interested sexually in other men. Oh, well that's news. This is a year after the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 came into force, so he could be married to another man too, but let's call it Minor fault: small example of bi erasure.

Good: there is an extremely funny scene where a young waiter they fancy serves them and just two seconds later, they've found his dating app profile confirming that he is interested in other men:

"Top, but will flip for the right guy, 18-25, no faceless torsos."

.. just not them. They're all too old.

Another couple of seconds, and they're looking at his cock pictures and cum shot video on another site.

I don't believe that anyone who's not a gay or bisexual man would / could have done that scene: you need familiarity with the gay scene, including the sites / apps, the explicitness, and the ageism. Mr Cute Waiter is 24 and will happily have sex with people three quarters of his age, but won't do anyone more than a year older.

Another minute on, they're talking loudly about the colour of their semen and no-one in this non-gay bar is batting an eyelid.

Before long, Henry is riffing to the group in a minicab office on how Ryan Reynolds masturbating himself makes Ryan gay, if only for a second, while the female dispatcher listens, mouth open, her fantasies going.. (or ruined?)

Cucumber's loving minicab ride

The first minicab ride home – Henry and Lance can't keep their hands off each other

There's a jarring moment when, after fondling each other in the minicab back home, and giving each other the 'sex, now' look outside the front door, the moment Henry and Lance get inside, they're off to different rooms – Henry to watch porn and masturbate rather than doing the emails he said he'd be doing, Lance to watch.. Ryan Reynolds? getting topless in something, and masturbate to that.

Next morning, Henry's told the neighbours can see him masturbating in that room via the silhouette on the blinds. ("If you had a thicker fabric..?")

He's soon at work and we see Freddie, with the series' slapping of a cucumber being the sign that Henry fancies him. Another few minutes later and he's by the air conditioners, being shown another co-worker's male chastity device, with some tofu showing he doesn't (or doesn't fancy the cage…)

Cucumber's Freddie

Freddie

Cucumber's Dean

Dean

Meanwhile at his work, Lance is also leching at a new colleague, Daniel.

Her: "He moved here from London. After he split up with his wife."

Lance: "Damn."

Minor fault: another small example of bi erasure, even though the woman he's talking to says "We don't know why they split up".

Cucumber's Daniel

Daniel

He later comes out to Daniel and we get this scene, the setup for one of the Major faults later:

Daniel: "We should go for a drink."
Lance: "Yeah."
Daniel: "With your boyfriend, too, not just you and me, that might freak him out. Though, don't get me wrong, I mean to a normal bar, yeah, not your sort of place.
  Don't want you leading me to the dark side.
  Well, not on the first night!".

He doesn't want the bar to be in [centre of Manchester gay village] Canal Street because..

"They'd all buzz around me.

Like insects."

Now, I'd be going "Red flag! Red flag!" at this point, but fancying straight men has been a Thing on the gay scene for decades.

It turns out that Mr Chastity Device – Dean – is staying somewhere with Freddie, and Henry's shown around the enormous warehouse unfinished conversion, including being shown..

Dean: "Freddie's bed. The Fred Bed. This is where it happens, all those lucky boys and girls."
Henry: "What, does he do both?"
Dean: "Well, I think so. He's kind of anything."

Major fault! What's one of the harmful stereotypes about bisexuals? Ah yes, "anything that moves". It's not even Freddie who says this, but his flatmate showing someone – without Freddie being there or his consent – his bedroom.

Of course, no-one uses the b-word about him. No-one in this series of eight hour-long episodes ever says the b-word except four times in the final episode as part of "gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans". In contrast, there are about forty five uses of "gay" outside that phrase.

It doesn't help Henry's state being told that Dean and Freddie had "crazy dog-sex" in one cold room, "just to see if it could be done".

As he's preparing for his date with Lance, unknown to him Henry's life is collapsing as a series of friends and colleagues try to call him with a series of bad news. And his phone runs out of battery.

The date doesn't go that well either:

Lance: "Will you marry me?"
Henry: "No."

Good: There's an interesting point made – again, one that someone who isn't gay/lesbian is unlikely to have thought about – that Henry, having realised he's gay as a child over thirty years ago has spent the vast bulk of his life "never, never, never" expecting he'll marry, because it simply wasn't possible until a year ago.

Henry's refusal to consider doing want Lance wants will end the relationship, but via a way that, again again, says where the writer has come from. Rather than go straight home, they go to a Canal Street club, and Lance wants a threesome. Tonight.

He literally bumps into someone, who turns out to be called Francesco and will do in more ways than one:

"Thing is, I came down from Halifax tonight, and this fucking bitch, she just left me. She was standing there, chatting all this bullshit, and then she was gone, and, honestly, I don't know one end of Manchester from the other, so…

.. do you know anywhere I could stay?"

I had forgotten about this one, but is this another bisexual stereotype? Prefers women, but will fuck men if necessary?

It's not explicit that Mr Off His Head isn't gay, but after a very-different-to-the-earlier-ride-home trip – both Lance and Henry look unconvinced this is a good idea as Francesco almost falls asleep between them – it's time.

Cucumber's minicab ride home before the 'never happens' threesome

.. the second minicab ride home, to the threesome that never happens

Henry, for a variety of reasons, wants to opt out, but Lance goes for pressing buttons by revealing that Henry's never fucked with him. [2]When the annual Gay (sic) Men's Sex Survey of gay and bisexual men in the UK was happening, about one in five men with only one male partner did not have any anal sex in the previous year – … Continue reading Francesco finds this funny and before long, Henry's telling the police that someone won't leave their home and he and Lance end up shouting at each other ("Learn to swim!" "Learn to fuck!") as Lance is arrested as well as Francesco.

Henry's response is to try and move in with Dean and Freddie in exchange for some legal work.

Episode two

It opens with Henry wandering around the supermarket again, but this time thinking of "Henry's test" for happy couples: read your partner's last twenty texts. Three couples are shown doing this, one set up as a m/m couple, one as a m/f couple, and one as a f/f couple.

Now yes, 'how do you show bisexuality without having three or more people' is a really interesting one..

.. but they could have had a bisexual t-shirt on someone, for example. Oh, right, no-one says bisexual in this series, even on a t-shirt. So I'm counting this as a Minor fault: bisexual erasure, particularly as it's noticeable that only the m/f couple 'fail' the test when she discovers something she's very upset with on his phone.

Freddie clearly knows that Henry fancies him:

"Don't go in my room and wank over my pants!"

Rather than respond to Lance's text, Henry sets about making the warehouse more homely.

Freddie: "Have you been in my room?"
Henry: [lying] "No."
Freddie: "I would, if I were you."

.. before doing a similarly explicit speech to Henry's one in the minicab office about how much Henry fancies Freddie and would masturbate about it.

Cucumber's Cleo

Cleo

I'm skipping some sub-plots, but before long we have..

.. Henry and his sister Cleo, and..
.. two teenage boys, Cleo's Adam and a friend, topless in the bedroom of one of them, and..
.. Lance and Daniel in a pub..

.. all talking about Henry and anal sex.

Oh, and we get another clue that Daniel isn't entirely straight, but despite talking about showing his erection when 12 or 13 to other boys and getting a "give us a go on that, then!" response, he gets very upset when Lance wonders if he did:

"Why… why the fuck would I do that? .. They're my mates. I'm not gonna let 'em touch my knob.. I tell you something private and you just go and queer it."

Henry is suspended without pay after a work meeting. ("You don't have tables for a confrontation. You have open plan!" says his union rep, hearing about it.)

Back at the warehouse, Dean introduces Henry to someone's mum – "She's a lesbian too" – and she talks about someone else being trans. No-one gets ID'd as bisexual, obs.

Cliff, one of Henry's middle-aged friends, gets off with Freddie, as Lance flirts with Daniel.. even while Henry and Lance are in a hotel room to see if they can sort things out. (You know, with the condoms and lube that Lance puts on the floor…)

The phone test is tried, and both are annoyed by what they see, but Henry also calls Freddie "gay" – Minor fault: bisexual erasure because he knows he's bisexual.

Back at the warehouse, Freddie teases Henry with the fact that, yes, he did fuck Dean, but will never have sex with Henry. Even though Henry very much wants it. It might happen though…

Episode three

And it's back in the supermarket again again., this time being distracted by every younger man in the place.

"When does it stop? Is it ever going to stop?"

Which, funnily enough, is exactly what I was thinking, but about the treatment of bisexuality…

Anyway, in the warehouse, he's awake listening to Freddie fuck another young man. Later, Cleo turns up with Henry's stuff from the house.

It turns out that her son Adam is internet famous, with "I've met Adam Whitaker" badges for anyone who recognises him.. like the shag whose friend masturbates over his vlog that features Adam with a friend Beanie, both topless, doing things like covering each other in goose grease. The request for that came from someone with a female name, but given they're making about £500 a month, clearly the audience is not entirely female and they know that two thirds of their audience is middle aged German men.

"That's why we take our shirts off – it monetises."

We then get this amusing exchange:

Adam: "I get naked and they send me money."

Freddie: "Isn't that a bit like prostitution?"

Adam: "Yeah..

.. How much do you earn?"

Before long, we're back on the subject of Henry and (not) fucking:

Henry: "Just because I don't do… penetration, that doesn't mean it's not sex."

Cleo: "Oh, I've had plenty of nights like that. No penetration, just a quick little fiddle when he's fast asleep, and let me tell you, on nights like that, I'm very clear about one thing. I have not had sex."

Much that Henry insists otherwise, repeatedly saying throughout the series that 'sex' doesn't equal 'fucking', the message of this series seems to be that it is.

A bit later, Freddie is walking along when he spots and – despite his best efforts – is spotted by a male/female couple, getting their kids out of a car. It turns out that he was Freddie's teacher, Gregory.

He's invited by them for a coffee and when she disappears to do some clean up of their oldest – after Gregory's almost certainly deliberately spilt a drink over them – he is right out with:

"It's like I can smell that space between your legs. That stink. .. I have got such a massive hard-on right now, what about you? .. My wife is the nicest woman in the world, and I just want to split you in half .. I just want to fuck you one last time .. Right now."

Cucumber's Gregory (and baby)

Gregory (and baby)

It turns out they'd had sex, repeatedly, while Freddie was at school. Probably from when Freddie was 15.

He's holding a baby while doing this, of course, all the better to have Major fault: 'closeted cheat' bisexual stereotype! The child sexual abuser is just thrown in as a bonus! [3]Even if Freddie was over 16 (by then the UK age of consent) when it happened, clearly Gregory was in a position of authority over Freddie, and the age of consent goes up to 18 for that and it's … Continue reading

Before long, he's made a feeble excuse to be away from his wife for a few minutes, and he's at the art gallery, expecting to be cottaging [4] Having sex in the toilets. with Freddie. Instead, Freddie is off to the Warehouse doing laughing gas with a couple of app pickups and someone else.

Just in case you'd forgotten the 'anything that moves..' bit.

Next morning, Daniel is teaching Lance to swim and is open about his interest in doing other things too:

Daniel: "What are you looking for, then?"

Lance: "Oh, I dunno. I'm out of practice. I suppose someone who's sort of… well, OK.. someone like you."

Daniel doesn't turn him down in the same way he'd done earlier:

"Man, I wish. It would make my life so much easier."

He also has an erection, though it's not clear whether that's because of the talk about blow jobs with Lance or the woman who's just walking along the other side of the pool.

Meanwhile, Henry is using Adam and friends to make some money fast by doing more of those videos:

"I'm not pimping, I'm directing you – There were hundreds of straight boys lip-syncing.. now shut up, take your shirt off and sing."

Adam and new co-star Tomasz have no problem adapting to the demands of the audience:

Henry: "Er… no, it's fine, honestly, but to be honest, if you really want to know, when I'm watching this kind of thing, I want them to kiss."

Adam: "We can do that. Happy?"

Tomasz: "No problem."

Cucumber's Tomasz and Adam kissing

Tomasz and Adam's topless video kiss to Katy Perry's "I kissed a girl"

Good: it's very funny too.

They're still, at this point, presented as straight, but we don't even hear 'heteroflexible' or similar synonym for the un-sayable 'bisexual'.

Freddie did some explicit comic strips of the relationship with Gregory and uses them to get him over later. During some enthusiastic sex where Gregory fucks Freddie, face to face, legs in the air, Freddie asks to fuck Gregory. He angrily rejects that and that's the end of the sex.

So.. if you ever wondered just how awful closeted cheating bisexual men are: they won't even take it up the bum themselves!

The situation gets worse when Freddie takes a photo of Gregory putting his trousers on, and they're soon in a fight over the phone, with Henry joining in (and Dean not) before Lance turns up with some more stuff and kicks Gregory.

Freddie sends the photo to Gregory's sister – because why not out someone, eh? – and before long has arranged a date for Henry. With a top.

Episode four

Back in the supermarket and.. there's no one else there. (Even though some obvious CGI has made it much bigger.)

For some reason only now no-one's around to watch can he go "wheeee" with the trolley. [5] Clearly he's not completely like me.

Everyone – Henry, Lance, Freddie, Dean, Cleo – has a date, and everyone is preparing.

Turns out Freddie's sold Henry as a 'power bottom'; Lance's date involves work talk; Dean's involves being 'kidnapped' by two men; and Cleo's one is with a friend who's cheating:

cheat: "That's her.. we've been together for six months."

Cleo: "She's absolutely gorgeous. Does she know about tonight?"

cheat: "No, do you think I should?"

Cleo: "Oh, my God, no. No way!"

Hmmm, is Cleo a bisexual who's OK with cheating?? Dunno, but she's not treated as worthy of being more than a supporting character, so we never know. We do see that his cheating isn't looked down on and he's not outed for it.

In Freddie's case, the date's with a woman, Anna. Who's fine with Freddie's bisexuality. Probably being the sister of a former boyfriend of his helps. And if she's not bi-curious herself, she's curious about bis:

Anna: "Come on! It's simple enough! I just want to know, what's the difference between men and women?"

Freddie: "Don't do this."

Anna: "I'm just asking!"

Freddie: "No, no, no, don't…"

Anna: "I mean, like now, sitting here, on a date, with a man, with a woman, what's the difference?"

Freddie: "All right. The one, obvious thing? If I was on a date with a man, right now… I'd be absolutely, 100%, cast-iron guaranteed to have sex."

Anna: "No. Can't see any difference."

Good: that's my second favourite bit of the series, because – with the exception of the last line – it is hilariously accurate in my experience. 99% of the time, anyway.

Of course, not all the sex goes well.

Henry opts out of being fucked via talking. Later – much later, about 2am – in a burger bar he ends up talking to another gay man about sex in the 80s, and being scared that any bruise a few days after casual sex was a sign of – then untreatable – Aids, and the performance pressure from porn.

"Oh, I love the front! But everyone thinks gay men just fuck, fuck, fuck!"

They end up in bed. With handjobs.

Freddie gets a bit upset when Anna says she doesn't do anal – not because he wants it, but because he wonders if she assumes that, as a bisexual man, he does. A conversation about straight men wanting anal because it means they don't need to look at their face – compare the face to face anal we saw him having with Gregory! – happens before they end up having sex. With her finding him talking about sex with men exciting.

Cleo needs to encourage her date. Who's not very good. And she gets upset when he mentions he has some erection drugs. When she gets home, she discovers Adam and Tomasz sleeping together.

Lance ends up in a 'two bottoms, no top' situation.. before being called over to Daniel's. Where Daniel insists on Lance sleeping in his bed, but with himself on the floor.

We even see a Fleshlight in Dean's scenario and it will have helped him come quicker than they want. It goes badly in the middle of the night, when he gets up to the toilet and is fucked by one of the couple.. only to be discovered by the other one who's not amused.

..

In the morning, there's a series of 'thinking how it could go / have gone' scenes.

Freddie suggests to Anna that they could see each other again but, as they're kissing, imagines her texting him several times a day and expecting him to – gasp – reply:

"Oh, this is the difference! You want to know the difference?! This is it!"

Lance imagines having gone down on Daniel. Or is it Daniel imagining Lance went down on him?

Cleo imagines being at her date's wedding, sharing their secret not-affair.

Henry imagines introducing his pickup as a new boyfriend to everyone.. at least until he says something Islamophobic.

Episode five

For once, Henry's lost in a wood. Oh, here's the supermarket again. Before long it's back to the wood with a shopping trolley.

Henry's turned his parents' old house into a not-porn-but.. studio where a succession of Adam's friends want to do the kissing each other for cash from gay men thing.

Cliff: "I am horrified to discover I have standards. We're being ripped off, Henry! Men like you and me are masturbating over those smart-arse kids, in all good faith."

Henry also did introduce the pickup as a boyfriend to his sister, who isn't impressed:

"You're going out with Theresa May!"

Lance turns out to have a folder – on his work computer – of pictures of Daniel semi-clothed. A female colleague wonders if Daniel is gay:

Lance: "Do you really think he might be?"

Her: "I think he might not know."

Minor fault: 'bisexuals aren't sure about their sexuality' stereotype.

The video boys are still utterly fine with what's happening:

Adam: "We're just snogging. Everyone thinks it's funny and the girls think it's hot."

Henry: "Ha! A new world."

Adam: "We do muck about a bit, you know?"

Henry: "Right. What does that mean?"

Adam: "We jerk off together."

Henry: "Oh, my God, don't tell me that!"

Adam: "Everyone does it .. He sucked me off last week, that was a laugh .. He wants me to suck him off now. We're going to this party, Friday night, he says we could go back to his and I could… nosh him off. I dunno, it does feel a bit gay."

Minor fault: bisexual erasure – come on, here was a screaming opportunity to have something on bisexuality. Even saying something about there being a word for people who enjoy sex with more than one gender… oh, right, the series can't use that word.

Cleo discovers what's happening and is very unhappy – not at any exploitation of Adam, but because her twelve year old daughter is now plucking her new pubic hair because of peer pressure from boys who've seen a game that features in Henry / Adam's videos. The effects of watching porn before having actual relationships is an aside really, because doing more about it would affect how we see the older men who consume it.

Meanwhile, Dean has a female friend – possibly a girlfriend given the context – Scotty, who's driving him to a naked barbecue in Crewe, before coming straight back herself. Is Dean bisexual too?

Spoiler: we find out later that, no, he isn't. She's just every gay man's best female friend. Loved, but not a real relationship. You know, the sort that involves fucking. (She's included in one of the men's description of "the lesbians" and we know lesbians never ever have sex with men, ahem.)

Just what the series thinks about bisexuals is reinforced when the outcome of Freddie sending the photo of Gregory is made clear:

"Left his job and his wife overnight, apparently."

Daniel comes round to Lance's. Watching TV, we get yet another indication that Daniel's bisexual ("I'd do him") before:

Daniel: "Do you fancy me?"

Lance: "It's kind of obvious, isn't it?"

Daniel: "Is that a yes?"

Lance: "Yes!"

Daniel: ".. Do you ever wank over me? .. I fancy Jane, at work, I toss off thinking about her, it's the most natural thing in the world. So do you? Wank? Thinking about me?"

Lance: "Well, of course I do."

Daniel: "Oh, man!"

Lance: "It doesn't mean anything!"

Daniel: "What do we do? In the wank?"

Lance: "[evades answering for a bit] .. then you fuck my arse, Daniel. You fuck me all over the house, all night long."

Daniel: "Never gonna happen."

But he's soon got an erection and masturbates in front of Lance, telling him not to do the same, before coming and telling Lance he can lick up.. something he gets from inside his trousers. Exactly what isn't clear, but was Channel 4 too reluctant to have something be too clearly semen?

Meanwhile, Freddie teases Henry by saying he'd "do" his first same sex partner again now, a publican who was in his 30s when Freddie was 14, even though he's the same age as Henry.

Henry's new boyfriend is behaving like Freddie imagined Anna would do, and so Henry blocks him. He meets Lance, hoping to get back together, but cannot bring himself to say so because Lance is too hopeful that he will get further with (unnamed) Daniel.. and Henry is back in the wood, lost.

Episode six

Opens with Lance in the supermarket for once. "Lance Edward Sullivan" comes up on the screen and before the dates 1966-2015 appeared I knew he was going to die within it. I also suspected it was going to be a violent death. [6] The downside of seeing Rather A Lot of films and plays is that you get to recognise the structures and lots of things that are supposed to be surprises aren't.

After the credits, it's his birth, childhood, sex education from his father:

Young Lance: "I'm not doing that!"

Father: "I haven't described it very well. It's a lot more fun than it sounds."

.. and weighing down a bag with his copies of Playgirl and throwing them into a pond..

.. and having a girlfriend. Who he's together with for long enough to take home for Christmas, even if not until the end of his course. He's also being sexual with other men at university. By next(?) Christmas, it's the boyfriend who's taken home (albeit not past the front door thanks to his father's homophobia) and another one who's taken home another one [7]There's a single line saying the previous boyfriend had died. What of isn't said, but this would be the late 80s / very early 90s.. so if you noticed it, you're likely to think it was with Aids. This … Continue reading (ditto, ditto, ditto over a series of Christmases…) until he and another boyfriend are finally invited in.

Now, I absolutely accept that at no point does he identify as bisexual, but this is the Major fault: 'just a phase' stereotype, isn't it? Especially as he says he "loved Suzie Carlisle" later and it was an important enough relationship for Suzie for her to turn up at his funeral.

What could have been done: having something about the pressure to choose monosexuality, that being gay is seen as preferable to being bisexual. Is there anything whatsoever like that? No, instead it's presented as Lance being gay, trying being straight, and admitting he's gay gay gay again.

Anyway, a bit later, he's moved to Manchester, had a series of relationships, and ends up meeting Henry at the bar of a club… After sex, both want a "next time", then end up in a long term relationship together. Even if it doesn't involve anal sex.

By about half way through, we're at the start of the series' timeline with Henry's "I hate gay men" line, then it's fast forward through their split and the start of the thing with Daniel before the meeting that's the end end of the relationship, just before the evening's date with Daniel.

This involves, at Daniel's insistence, going to some gay bars, where (Red flag 1,001) he falsely accuses someone of touching his arse before encouraging them to touch his cock. Before much longer, he's being very loud with some of the other men to Lance's discomfort.

random gay: "Daniel says he's a diver. Trouble is, he's a muff diver!"

Daniel: "Hey, don't knock it if you haven't tried it." [8]Also from those Gay (sic) Men's Sex Surveys: when they asked about this, about 10% of the gay identified men had been sexual with a woman in the previous year which was more than had done, say, any … Continue reading

Despite saying that what happened between them in the previous episode is not going to be repeated, they're going back to Daniel's. (After he's let a woman on the street grope his cock, obviously.)

Before that happens, it's time for a series of signs for Lance – first a removal van with his surname, then talking to a ghost, Hazel Tyler from Davies' earlier Queer As Folk. She suggests he go home and, while I do not believe in ghosts at all, if I had one telling me to go home, now, I'd listen. Especially if the alternative was someone like Daniel.

Cucumber's ghost of Hazel from Queer As Folk

The ghost of Hazel

Lance, of course, does not listen. At the flat he's reinforcing my view that he counts as part of the representation of bisexuality:

Lance: "I think it won't matter one day. A thousand years from now, anyone will sleep with anyone. No-one will care."

Daniel: "You'd have to sleep with women."

Lance: "OK."

Very shortly afterwards, he goes to leave (and another Red flag) Daniel makes him an offer he doesn't want to refuse:

"You can suck me off."

I knew it was going to be murder – rather than, oh, heart attack or traffic accident – while Lance and Daniel were masturbating. When it got to Daniel offering to go down on Lance, I knew it was going to happen now, and the only question was how awful the portrayal was going to be.

'Very', is the answer to that. Daniel freaks out after coming – someone might find out what he's done!! – and beats Lance with a golf club, shouting "Look what you've done to me now!" After another series of flashbacks over four minutes, a few too many of which involve women laughing at him, the screen fades to black as Lance dies.

Episode seven

No supermarket or voice-over this time, just Henry preparing for the funeral. Freddie's only interested in going because of the paid time off, adding to his stereotype.

Henry: "Bloody Tomasz?! He can't ride in the funeral car, he's not family."

Cleo: "Well, is he? I don't know. Are they boyfriends or not?"

Henry: "Well… have you asked? "

Cleo: "I did. He said, 'Mum, don't be so old-fashioned.' And then he asked me for twenty quid.."

It turns out that Daniel's trying the 'homosexual panic' defence, which might get him convicted of manslaughter rather than murder. (They'd all be happy to murder him.)

It also turns out that Adam and Tomasz are both dating the same girl. And Lance's university girlfriend arrives, for about a minute. (Can't have her there longer, people might be thinking what having relationships with more than one gender says.)

In a deliberate echo of the scene from the first episode, Freddie tries to pick up one of the waiting staff from the wake, but sadly for him..

"He doesn't do over twenty-one."

Midway through, the old friends are in the toilets, examining the shafts of their penises for hair. (It's the excuse for a close-up cock shot.)

There's drama over the house and bank account Henry shared with Lance, and Freddie offers Henry help to get over it all via sex with someone younger:

"I might have to throw myself in as part of the deal, then he'd be interested."

The person they're after is moving around the Manchester area, and along with Dean they track him via Grindr's 'how far away are they' feature. Just as they get to the final destination (oh, it's the Canal Street area again), it starts raining heavily so they're back in the car talking until the downpour ends:

Dean: "I always think it sounds like a sandwich, 'LGBT'."

Henry: "Yeah, it does, doesn't it?"

Freddie: "Lettuce, gay bacon and tomato."

Dean: "They've added a Q… we're supposed to be LGBTQ these days."

Henry: "Lettuce, gay bacon, tomato and… quince. No, not as funny."

Note the script keeps the g for 'gay'.. and even has bisexual Freddie suggest it.

We do get some bisexual chat, mostly to make it clear that Dean and Henry aren't:

Dean: "I went out with Julie Bisme for three years. But we never really did anything. We'd lie on her bed and fumble. Then I'd go home. What about you?"

Henry: "No. Snogged a few, that's all."

Dean: "Can I ask? Is it easier with a girl? Like when you have sex properly? Cos my mate Terry says, 'You can deny it all you like, but men and women are designed to fit together properly.' Is that true?"

Freddie: "Well… slightly. .. We're not supposed to say so, the lettuce and gay bacon police will have me arrested, but… yeah, you kind of… click. Then again, that's the best thing about sex with men. It's harder to fit. It's the battle, d'you know what I mean?"

Henry: "Lance had a girlfriend. Only the one, when he was 18. But he always said he loved her."

.. yes, I'm going for Lance being part of the series' representation of bisexuality.

It ends with some revelations and pain and laughter as they reject the man they've been chasing because he's only interested in Freddie.

Late at night Freddie arrives in Henry's bed, only to be (to his relief) rejected.

Next morning, they're evicted. But, ah ha, more people to pay for somewhere to live means that Henry doesn't need to lose the house he bought with Lance. Before long, the downstairs is like a mixed gay club…

Episode eight

Back to the supermarket opening – Henry's cruising, more in hope than anything else. He sees someone, follows them out, does the 'follow that cab' thing, gets on their train, follows them across the snowy countryside… where they're welcomed by their wife.

Fantasy? Possibly, but he's got snow on his shoulders when he starts following someone else. Yet another Minor fault: 'bisexual men aren't worth it'? Definitely.

The previous night, Cleo got off with Cliff to the great sexual satisfaction of both – no-one uses the b-word, of course, so yet another Minor fault: bisexual erasure – and Freddie had a threesome with two other young men.

Henry has a revelation:

".. we could have our own little world. Not a commune, but a collective. A great big collective of gay, bi, trans, queer…"

– that's the only use of 'bi', I think.

It doesn't last. Amongst other things, the gay men are too misogynist and make too many rude comments about lesbians, but it lasts long enough for Henry to get his old job back, via threatening his employer with a homophobic discrimination case:

Henry: I've brought [Freddie] here today as the official spokesman for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Other Collective.

– this, repeated a couple of times, is the only use of 'bisexual' in the entire series. (It doesn't get said in Banana, either.)

Soon afterwards it turns out that another man "kind of copped off with Daniel" a few months before the murder. No gay panic defence for him!

With just Freddie left living in Henry's house, late one night Cliff's fucking him on the kitchen units, with Freddie being deliberately noisy and messy before disappearing off mid-fuck, somewhere else. Turns out disappearing from lives is "what he does".. oh, isn't being unreliable and not staying in relationships another stereotype of bisexuals?

Some loose ends are tied up over the next months and years – Daniel is convicted of murder, Henry spots a somewhat out of it Francesco from the original disastrous not-threesome and lies that he's still with Lance, but loses it himself when he gets home, and (far enough in the future later that it still hasn't happened yet) sees Freddie watching a (very good) busker.

What happened after he left?

"Ended up in Barcelona, cos of this girl. Got married. That turned to shit."

And Freddie fucked Tomasz. Bisexuals.. you just can't trust them, eh?

At the very end of what's the most rushed episode of the series, Henry finally fucks, but still hasn't fully come to terms with being gay.

The end.

The verdict

So, to summarise, the gay men in the series are far from perfect, but they're clearly written about with love. Henry lusting after Freddie was treated as sweet and as a joke, for example, an excuse to wave a cucumber about to represent him getting an erection.

The representation of bisexuality, on the other hand, is a series of Major faults:

Freddie – "anything that moves" stereotype

Gregory – "closeted cheat" stereotype, with "child sexual abuser" thrown in as a bonus. It's not 100% TOTAL FAIL – he's shown as checking Freddie is ok at every stage of their on-screen fuck, for example, and Freddie is clearly shown to have wanted their previous sex – but it's not far off. Perhaps 99%.

Lance – "just a phase" / "gay really" stereotype

Daniel – obnoxious self-loathing murderer

.. as well as all the ones I've marked as minor in comparison.

Any one of those faults would be ok.. had there been some actual positive representation of bisexuality as bisexuality in the series. And there isn't.

The nearest I can think of is the eagerness of Anna to fuck Freddie in episode four, no 'OMG you're gay really, get lost'.. but (almost) everyone wants to fuck with Freddie and Freddie is willing to fuck with (almost) everyone.

You might just perhaps, given how much the show celebrates male-male sex, try to make a case for Lance's father's description of male/female intercourse as "a lot more fun than it sounds". Quite a lot of the men in the series don't realise that, after all.

Argh! Parts of Cucumber really are, to use the joke Punch magazine stole, excellent. But when it comes to the representation of bisexuality in a series that proclaimed itself as "quite a political piece of writing, exploring sexuality in a powerful and frank way" it really, really stinks.

This is what bisexual erasure and stereotyping looks like.

And as well as the award it was given for the editing by the Royal Television Society, America's GLAAD nominated it for their 'Outstanding TV Movie or Limited Series' award.

From Wikipedia: "On March 24, 2013, GLAAD announced that it had formally dropped the 'Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation' from their name and would now be known only as GLAAD to reflect their work more accurately; the name change was a commitment to incorporate bisexual and transgender people in their efforts to support the LGBT community in its entirety."

Ha.


Discovered while writing this: Wikipedia has a 'list of countries ordered by volume of cucumber production' page. ("Gherkins are included as they are a variety of cucumber.") In case you're wondering, the UK is 50th…

Notes

Notes
1 That's Chemistry, isn't it? (ducks)
2 When the annual Gay (sic) Men's Sex Survey of gay and bisexual men in the UK was happening, about one in five men with only one male partner did not have any anal sex in the previous year – when it comes to sex between men, oral sex is far more common.
3 Even if Freddie was over 16 (by then the UK age of consent) when it happened, clearly Gregory was in a position of authority over Freddie, and the age of consent goes up to 18 for that and it's treated just the same.
4 Having sex in the toilets.
5 Clearly he's not completely like me.
6 The downside of seeing Rather A Lot of films and plays is that you get to recognise the structures and lots of things that are supposed to be surprises aren't.
7 There's a single line saying the previous boyfriend had died. What of isn't said, but this would be the late 80s / very early 90s.. so if you noticed it, you're likely to think it was with Aids. This is confirmed later as Lance is dying. I suspect it's also why both Henry and Lance are a few years younger than RTD (born in 1963): people started dying of Aids in the UK in December 1981, so this way Lance will have been 15 and Henry a couple of years younger then. Any older and both would have been on the gay scene at just the wrong time to start fucking with men – the big shift to men using condoms for anal sex in the UK wasn't until the summer of 1983. This way, HIV/Aids has always been part of their adult lives.
8 Also from those Gay (sic) Men's Sex Surveys: when they asked about this, about 10% of the gay identified men had been sexual with a woman in the previous year which was more than had done, say, any BDSM play. It was higher for the non-gay identified respondents.

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