You might not like the idea of I Kissed a Boy – but that’s why you should watch it
BBC Three’s new dating series I Kissed a Boy is reality TV gold, but its real strength is its unfiltered depiction of the ways queer men live and love.
BBC Three’s new reality TV show I Kissed a Boy is essentially Love Island – only with fewer heterosexuals, a villa in Italy rather than Mallorca, and an abundance of jockstraps.
In the first episode, a group of 10 single queer boys are paired up and have to give their counterpart a smooch before a single word is uttered. Once they’re in their couples, chaos inevitably ensues, with the series unravelling into ‘Kiss-Offs’ (I Kissed a Boy‘s ‘re-coupling ceremonies’), partner-hopping, poolside tea-spilling and a healthy dose of reality TV drama.
Overseeing the games is host Dannii Minogue. In the two episodes that have so far been unleashed upon the viewing public, the icon has skyrocketed to somewhere between Beyoncé and Loreen on my ‘mother’ scale by sheer virtue of her Australian charm, fabulous wardrobe and genuine, heartfelt appreciation for the queer community.
While I’ve only watched the first two instalments of the UK’s first gay dating show, I’m already hooked. It’s not the Love Island formula, though, nor the sexy housekeeper Matteo, who will likely ascend to instant Instagram fame following his debut in episode two. It’s not even the hosting magic of Dannii Minogue or the voiceovers of Bad Education star Layton Williams.
So what is it?
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It’s 2023, and we can take things for granted when it comes to representation. Queer characters abound in the media landscape. Yes, Eurovision is practically the gay Olympics and Drag Race isn’t going anywhere – but what struck me, watching I Kissed a Boy, is that I have never seen myself, or people like me, represented so honestly on TV before.
In just an hour and a half of television, discussions about body-shaming in the gay community, ‘the apps’, religious trauma and more have been had. There are unashamed conversations about being a top or, as national hero Bobski puts it, “a raging bottom”.
The phrase ‘spill the tea’ isn’t used by a straight woman speaking to her first gay man, and I’ve seen more speedos than not.
There are references to douches, Gemma Collins quotes and Pride parties that show the cast wearing whatever they feel most comfortable in – whether that’s a button-down and shorts, a rainbow tulle two-piece and accompanying rainbow wings, or simply the aforementioned jockstrap.
And yet, at no point does it feel like anyone behind the scenes is saying: ‘Pick up this fan and clack it because you’re gay’. The LGBTQ+ representation is simply how these men live, and we’re lucky enough to be seeing it on the BBC. It may seem silly to include the above reasons for why the show is important, but they truly are. There’s no ‘writers room’, it’s just queer people existing.
To that point, the boys are snogging left, right and centre. And in a world where the most prominent example of a gay primetime kiss on a reality TV show I can vividly remember is Chris and Kem smooching as ‘banter’ on Love Island, I was taken aback by how much that honesty meant, and surprisingly grateful to the producers of the show, too.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been. It’s the name of the show, after all. But it’s no secret that gay men aren’t the least judgemental demographic on the planet – and a good few of us, myself included, could do with interrogating where that comes from.
Despite an overwhelmingly positive reception, a handful of Twitter reactions have not put the best foot of the queer community forward, which shows there’s a lot of work still yet to be done.
Not to give it too much credit, but I was also struck by the big stupid gay grin on my face at the end of the second episode. Forget checking over their shoulders in this masseria; here, these boys exist in a world without all relevant prejudices that may have otherwise stopped them snogging.
I want these boys to find love, because I’m invested in them as if they were my very gay friends. At the end of the day, seeing two boys kiss on TV will always make me smile – and it doesn’t hurt that the show is doing that with respect, care and encouragement. And Dannii Minogue.
The first two episodes of I Kissed a Boy are available to stream now on BBC iPlayer.
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