The sometimes serious, but generally frivolous, musings of a city girl now living in the woods.
Hawaii Five-O, 2010 Version
I am seriously embarrassed about this particular Guilty Pleasure. It’s confusing how much I like this show. I mean, first of all, it is a CBS crime of the week thing, and generally, you know…yawn. And also, I am generally interested in girls with short hair and saucy wits. But, man, those boys, well, they do something to the pit of my stomach.
It is not a great show, by any stretch, but it is beautifully filmed, and the stunts and such are really well done. The characters are pretty typical, really, but something about them is fun and, at times, well acted. The basics are thus: Steve MacGarrett, Navy SEAL and tightly wound fella, is in charge of a task force to solve difficult cases in Hawaii. (That’s him on the left, played by Alex O’Loughlin.) His partner is Danny –as in “Book ‘Em Danno–Williams, a talkative New Jersey native relocated to the 50th state to be with his daughter. (That’s him on the right, played by Scott Caan.) Danny and Steve regularly engage in flirting banter that seems like they are about to strangle one another, but they work together to solve crimes and take care of each other like nobody’s business. There’s also Chin Ho Kelly, a local guy who is the most upstanding cop you’ve ever seen, played by Lost alum Daniel Dae Kim. Last, and not least, is Kono Kalakaua, a BAMF rookie played by Grace Park in her second role in a remake that was previously played by a man. (I am talking about Boomer in Battlestar Galactica.) These four solve crimes, tease each other and traipse around the island, which looks luscious thanks to some incredible filters on camera lenses.
So why my obsession? Well on a basic level, each and every one of the cast is gorgeous. So there’s that. Also, and this is probably the real reason, Danny and Steve are playing the best gay couple on television. Except, not really. It’s just that they are super-close friends, they are always finding reasons to stare longingly at each other, and even, at times talk about their marriage. I am apparently starved for non-stereotypical representations of GLBT people in popular culture, because, sheesh, they are not officially an item, but they sure act like one. At the end of last season, Danny actually asked Steve, while on a phone call, “What are you wearing?” Finally, even my wife had to agree that they were in fact an item.
So, if I’m so hungry for good representations of GLBT community, why watch this show in which none of the characters are actually queer, flirting aside? Well, I think that they have hit another nerve with me that has to do with masculinity. See, I am hoping for some cultural change that gives men more room to be sweet and vulnerable and tender and, basically all those things that are only allowed of gay characters, especially those designed to be laughed at. I think Danny and Steve have a surprisingly tender friendship, in which they behave like a cross between lovers and brothers. Sadly, we don’t often see men in our cultural landscape being kind and loving toward one another, or women, for that matter. I learned how much this bugged me many years ago when I saw a movie called The Apostle, with Robert Duvall, wherein friendships between men took center stage. It was filmed during the heyday of the Promise Keepers and it took place in context of pretty fiery Christianity, so don’t mistake it for gay friendly; it just struck a nerve. In the intervening years, I have been searching for more clues that our definition of what it means to be a man is expanding. I want so much for the roles of men to expand as much as have the roles of women. It’s good for men and good for women, too.
A quick word about why I feel guilty about Hawaii 5-0. First, and unsurprisingly, while the women on the show are seldom damsels in distress, they are disturbingly thin and not totally central. Also, I think the people of Hawaii, and especially those involved in Hawaiian Sovereignty work, have deep misgivings about tourism in the islands and the way the entertainment industry depicts the islands, the traditions and customs therein and Hawaiians in general. There is so much being done to protect the environment, language, traditional ways of life and so much more, that making Oahu look simultaneously like it is criminal-infested and paradise might be a little misleading. Lastly, Hawaii 5-0 is basically a love letter to both the police and the military. I know that most of the women and men who join these professions do so in the name of country, safety, freedom and making a difference, and I can’t fault them for that. However these institutions are, at the very least, flawed and at their worst, are corrupt and part of the worst of American imperialism. I don’t need more TV shows with an uncomplicated view of these powerful institutions.
But have you seen those boys? Damn. Hard to look away.