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‘The A-List: New York’…

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…with an ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ aside

by David Goldberg

New York's 'A-List' includes (l–r) Rodiney Santiago, Mike Ruiz, Ryan Nickulas, Austin Armacost, Reichen Lehmkuhl, Nyasha Zimucha, Derek Saathoff, and TJ Kelly.

The A-List: New York is perverse, cheap, treacherous, and trashy. But most of all, it’s not to be missed.

Much of Reality TV could be considered “gay,” from RuPaul’s Drag Race to Project Runway. But The A-List is one of the first series to focus entirely on gay men. It is unfair to task any text with depicting a culture, community, or ideology (see some of the outrageous responses to Sex and the City as not representing enough women). However, The A-List can be said to represent all gay men—at least, our worst, most superficial selves.

The “Housewives with Balls” series returned this summer, and the bitches are back to their old ways. Austin Armacost, the Indiana Maleficent of the group, has agreed to take on a Playgirl shoot (and hasn’t ostensibly resisted fluffing), but everyone in the gang, including his husband, cackles at him because he is a little too “husky” to be exposing himself to the world. Not that the dignity of Playgirl requires defending, but Armacost is certainly not fat. Not nearly. But it’s unchallenged delusions like this that make The A-List world not only fascinating but fun to inhabit, at least for an hour.

The mostly jobless men of the group concern themselves with preserving perfect tans, smoking bodies, social status, and effortless, transient dream careers. Most of all, they have dignity—about what they wear, how they look, and who they sleep with. They worry about who they are seen with and how fabulous their parties seem. Some of them, like the dreamy Reichen, cannot seem to keep it in his pants, let alone off the Internet. In place of real personal development, Reichen takes on boyfriends like it’s his job, then is always shocked when his flirtations with others shatter his monogamy. Wouldn’t you love to see Reichen trolling around Grindr on a Tuesday night?

Beneath the scripted drama and the constant cattiness, there are some glimmers of truth in this bizarro world. When Brazilian Rodiney has to nervously explain to his female date that he is bisexual, one cannot help but feel bad for him. No matter how glitzy or twisted someone is, it is never easy to come out. And it is difficult to not want to pull Reichen out of his cyclical romantic catastrophes, no matter how predictable they are. Most of The A-List characters are given enough spotlight to bridge a connection from reality to the alternate gay universe.

Ridiculing and enjoying the characters of this series is half the fun; the rest is projecting ourselves onto them. Their indulgence of gay culture’s worst attributes may not only help us face our inner anxieties, but excise them. After all, who among us has not struggled with societal perceptions of beauty, class, and status? The men of The A-List certainly warp issues of vanity, dignity, and body image, but in the process they do their viewers a favor. They show us what awful things lie within us—and could manifest, if we don’t show some real dignity of our own.

On the subject of vapid materialistic queens, Absolutely Fabulous is now re-running on Logo. Jennifer Saunders’ beloved BBC series, which ran in the early ’90s and early 2000s, followed two aging alcoholic Bathshebas as they wined, snorted, and slept their way through the trendiest of lifestyles. The episodes, even the ones that are almost 20 years old, are shockingly relevant and true to the moronic trends of this day. Edwina and Patsy’s misadventures in dating younger men, keeping with their planners, and undoing aging prophesied an era of cougars, iPads, and age reversal. With a few new episodes set to air starting around Christmas, this barrage of reruns is a perfect way to catch up.

The A-List: New York airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on Logo (logotv.com).
Absolutely Fabulous re-runs daily on Logo (logotv.com).

David Goldberg is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.

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David Goldberg

David Goldberg is a queer journalist and the host of The Luminaries podcast. His work is collected at davidgoldberg.online.

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