The Pursuit of Curiosity
Viceland offers us a glimpse of a possible television future with it's new show, Gaycation, hosted by Ellen Page and Ian Daniel. The show has created a lot of buzz and I finally got a chance to view it via streaming, with surprising results. This show is really about the pursuit of curiosity.
I found myself totally moved and taken back by the first episode, filmed in Japan. Anytime a travel show does secret interviews with people whose identities must be kept hidden, you know you are no longer watching The Travel Planet. The premise of Gaycation is that the hosts are traveling the world to explore LGBT culture in different parts of the planet. Honestly, I thought this would just be another travel show, with emphasis on gay destinations and was debating with myself if I would make it past the first break. Fortunately, this show was everything I thought it wouldn't be.
The hosts constantly asked tough, probing questions of the different guests they spoke with around Japan - including one location where the name and address of the establishment was unlisted. In fact, I thought both Ellen Page and Ian Daniel were most uncomfortable when having to play 'host', while most at ease when allowed to explore their curiosity. The questions they asked were deep, far-reaching, and relevant to society as a whole.
Japan is a complex place when it comes to LGBT issues. They are a 'collective' society. While there isn't the physical danger often associated with the USA, and places catering to the homosexual community are toleratedto a degree (one section of Tokyo has over 300 LGBT clubs in a 5 block radius) there is a deep societal shame attached to the lifestyle. Like I said, it is complex.
Two parts of the show were very moving. The first was a marriage ceremony given by a Zen priest and a catering company. Page and Daniel did the ceremony to have the experience. The ritual inside the ancient temple was very moving, quite beautiful. When the hosts asked about the religious implications, the priest explained that his religion doesn't believe in the universe staying the same. Life is constantly evolving, in flux, under change. The priest explained that his religion required he keep pace to reflect that change in people and society. A lesson religious organizations in the West could learn.
The second and tearjerker moment was when the hosts were asked to sit in during a young man's coming out to his mother. The young man went to a Japan service where you rent friends for special events. In Japan, this is common.
I won't give away all of this highlight but safe to say, the coming out was not scripted. It was a very human exchange. Cultures withstanding, it was a poignant moment for everyone in the room. The show was worth watching for this segment if for no other reason.
The example set here by Gaycation and Viceland is what I hope lays in store for the future of television - the pursuit of curiosity. I hadn't planned on watching all of episode one but now plan to catch the second episode.