Mainstream media portrays gay men in a very stereotypical manner: white, younger, more fit and thin, perhaps more on the feminine side, and usually financially well off. For me personally, this is normally what I do not encounter. And to watch it over and over and over again in different films and tv shows starts to becoming an annoyance. So when I found the web series Where the Bears Are, I was thrilled to find a series that showed a crowd that I am more familiar and associate with. The first season of the show focuses around 3 main characters that are part of the bear community. All three are more heavier set and not the normal "thin and fit" model of gay male representation. A murder has taken place at one of the main character's birthday party and they try to find out who the killer is. The show is a low budget series with cheesy acting, but I'm a sucker for low budget cheesiness. The first season is completed with the second season currently in development. Although I am personally thrilled that I found this show, there are several negative drawbacks to the show along with its advantages.
The criticisms I have for the show focus around several main issues I find with other shows that represent gay male individuals. The first is that the show is extremely white washed. There are very few people of color on Where the Bears Are, and those who are have very minor rolls. I would like to see more of a racial diversity within future seasons of the show. The next criticism I have is the type of guys the show idealizes. The 3 main characters, along with the series, idealizes and basically worships the muscle bears. A muscle bear is basically a very bigger guy who is very muscular and well built, usually has facial hair and some body hear, and with perhaps just a little extra weight but nothing too much. With a show like Where the Bears Are, I had high hopes that they would show a very wide range of what people in the bear community can be attracted to. Yet so much of the show focuses on the main attraction towards muscle bears. Another main criticism I have of the show is the lack of female characters. They are very far and few between. Although the main characters show some more feminine qualities, the show idealizes the attraction towards men who are very masculine looking and acting, which usually fits the mold of a muscle bear. So I would like to see more female characters in future seasons along with the show not putting these very highly masculine, butch muscle bears up on a pedestal.
I do not want to give the impression that this show is completely horrible and should be discounted. There are also certain aspects that I truly love and admire about the show that I do not see a lot with media's representation of gay men. One main praise I have for the show is having the main characters branch out a bit about what ideally a gay man is suppose to look like. It shows that there is a wide range of guys, from one character being very tall, very hairy, and having a few extra pounds to one character being shorter, balding, and heavyset to the other character being of a medium height and very heavyset. It shows a nice lead of characters that have very different body forms that normally are not given much attention to. Another main praise that I have for the show is that it shows that people can be attracted to individuals who are not this "thin and fit" model. Although the show places a great importance on the muscle bears, the 3 lead characters are very sexually active and find themselves being caught up in a whole sexual desire mess. I really admire this show for showing that larger individuals can be seen as sexually desirable and appealing.
So, I would recommend that you check out the show for yourself and I will leave you to make your own opinions of Where the Bears Are. I would recommend it to anyone who is familiar with the bear culture and wants to see a form of media that focuses around it this community. I would also recommend it to anyone who just wants to see a different side to the gay male culture. Also, if you are interested in seeing other media representation about the bear culture, I would highly recommend the film Bear City. There is also a sequel to the film: Bear City 2.
Below is a link to the home website for Where the Bears Are. Please feel free to check it out.