Mark Keane is a writer and filmmaker based in Dublin. AWFUL GAYS is a new online web series produced and directed by Mark and shot and edited by his boyfriend. The series follows a couple, Maurice and Kenny, as they make their way around Dublin, interacting and arguing with a host of less awful gay and straight people: a new mother, a lonely older gay man, a freshly out teenager and a recently engaged gay couple. Here, Mark speaks with masc about AWFUL GAYS.
Where did the idea for AWFUL GAYS come from and why? It's a memoir! Just kidding. Although I do think that both characters represent – to an extent – part of my worst tendencies as a gay man, but are really exaggerated and pushed for comic effect. Like really exaggerated. I think a lot of the situations the characters find themselves in are [those] I've experienced in my own life, but made more absurd.
Specifically, I remember after the marriage equality referendum, there was this sense in some circles that everything [was now] fine. I personally didn't believe that to be true so part of the idea for the characters came from me wanting to poke fun at that. Also, after the swathe of slightly saccharine images of gays and gay couples in the media during the campaign, part of me just wanted to see something more balanced, more honest – gays who were flawed, maybe even gays behaving badly.
Can you tell me more about the title? It's literal, in that the show is about an awful gay couple. It's also meant to be ironic, because that's a term used against gay people [“them awful gays!”], and I suppose it's sort of a reclamation of that: "You want to see awful gays?! Well, here you fucking go!”
What are the themes AWFUL GAYS address and how did you arrive at them? It's a small satire show so we don't go too heavy on theme. I'd say every episode in some way or another is about poking fun at the worst aspects of myself, to specifically make a larger point about the worst aspects gay culture and identity. A big jumping off point for the idea of the show was that marriage equality hasn't fixed everything – we still have our own neuroses and hangups to deal with. Every episode is a version of them doing the most self-absorbed, un-self-aware, narcissistic thing possible.
To what extent are the experiences portrayed in the series reflective of real life? A lot of the situations the characters find themselves in have been ripped from my life but amplified and pushed much further. Take the first episode – we’ve all been jealous of an outwardly happier, sexier, younger version of the couple we're part of, right? Right?!
Who is an AWFUL GAY? Aside from Milo Yiannopoulos? I would say that I'm an awful gay! And that, if we're all being a little honest with ourselves, we all, in minor ways or not, are awful gays. We all have a little bit of awful in us.
Is being an AWFUL GAY rooted in insecurity and vulnerability? Absolutely. And when I say absolutely, I mean for me, personally, yes. It's rooted in insecurity and inferiority and apathy and fear and shame. Basically, growing up gay in Ireland will do it to you.
What can we do to be less AWFUL GAYS? Well, watching AWFUL GAYS and learning from their mistakes would be a fab start. I think we all have a bit of awful in us. The first step is admitting it. To be honest, I don't think I have any authority on how to tell people to better themselves – gay or otherwise. But… We can read. Educate ourselves. Know our history. Become politically engaged and involved. Vote. Be aware of what's going on in other countries around LGBT rights violations. Renounce Catholicism. Get therapy.
Are there any redeeming qualities to be found in AWFUL GAYS? In these particular two characters? Hmm. Certainly in Kenny's case. Truly his biggest flaw is his passivity. He's an enabler – he enables Maurice's awful behaviour. With Maurice? I will say that in a future episode he tries with the best of intentions to help a young, newly-out neighbour of his. You'll have to watch and see how that one goes. Maybe the most redeeming thing about them is their willingness to stick together as a couple through thick and thin. Although, maybe that's just because no one else would have them...
The title is AWFUL GAYS but the series is touted as LGBT-themed – will it venture beyond gay experience to highlight oppression directed towards LBTs by Gs? Not quite. The closest we come to something like that is in the second episode, Realistic Gay Films, where we expose, through Maurice and Kenny's political apathy and lack of awareness, the privilege they have over LGBT people in certain other countries. It could be something to explore more in a second season, perhaps!