Girl meets boys: Fox tests one woman’s gaydar on the guess-who’s-not-gay dating show Playing It Straight
Spotting the queen in the crowd is hot as simple as checking out the tightness of his jeans, especially in this age of Queer Eyeinfluenced metrosexuals. So it’s no surprise that purveyors of reality television would take advantage of the mythic gaydar and create Playing It Straight; premiering March 12 on Fox, it focuses on one beautiful woman ferreting out the gay guys among 14 sexy men. “Essentially it’s the Bachelorette with a twist,” explains executive producer Ciara Byrne. “If she selects a straight guy at the end of the whole program, then they split a million dollars–but if the gay guy wins, then he wins the whole million.” Straights leading lady is Jackie, a college student from Appleton, Wis., who’s brought to Elko, Nev., for an unknown adventure. “I wasn’t told the promise,” Jackie says. “I figured it was something like a dating reality show with the questions that were being asked, but it isn’t necessarily.” needed, once the twist is revealed, Jackie focuses on the game and on having fun.
At first glance this all reads like a slightly altered version of last year’s Boy Meets Boy–on which a man tried to pick out his fellow queers from among a pool of gay and straight suitors–but according to Byrne, Straight was sold to Fox before Bravo’s hit queer reality series was announced. And while Boy followed a “traditional” dating show format, Straight is a contest that is much more humor-based with the addition of quick-witted comedian Daphne Brogdon as host.
“It’s good they east the nice virgin to weed out who was gay and straight,” observes Brogdon. “Had it been me, I would’ve put them to the Daphne bedroom test. Brogdon explains that not all of the bachelors do well in this reality setting. “It made for some hairy situations,” she says.
“I thought the twist was hilarious,” says one of the show’s straight bachelors. “I was in no way worried or concerned about being amongst homosexual men. I found the whole process to be intriguing.”
For one of the gay contestants, the reasons for being on Straight were much simpler. “To make a million dollars and get some face the on TV!” he says. “I thought it would be great to trick the chick! Especially since she seemed like a naive gal from the Midwest.”
But do any of the gay bachelors hook up with each other? Brogdon offers a devious laugh, then says, “All I’ll say is, it’d be really stupid for them to do it. They’d be tipping their ‘hand raid potentially throwing away a million dollars.”
Realizing gaydar isn’t foolproof, Jackie conducts such tests as shopping trips and bathing suit competitions, but these backfire as well. “[Jackie] has a very interesting transformation throughout the show,” says Byrne. “She has all these various assumptions, but they don’t always pan out.”
Detractors will argue that Straight places gay men back in the closet, but Jackie explains that after the twist was revealed, “[we all] had the choice to leave or stay, and we all chose to stay because we were open to this premise.” Byrne adds that each bachelor is given ml on-air opportunity to say why he participated. “The people who [were] most uncomfortable were the straight guys,” Byrne says. “They were struggling all the time to prove themselves.”
Says the straight bachelor. “In the beginning, I thought the line that divided me from homosexuals was a very clear and distinct one, yet in the end that line had become so blurry that it was hardly visible.”
Ultimately the viewers will decide the educational value of Playing It Straight, but for Brogdon, this idea of turning sexuality upside down is very appealing: “For people like Jackie who come from a small town, 0ris will be one of their first exposures to gay people, so I think it’ll be good. It removes stereotypes.”
Andreoli also writes for Los Angeles Confidential, Instinct, and Playboy TV.
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