The Grass Is Always Grindr, a web series exploring dating life and sexual health in London has had hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube.
Those thousands of views show there is a thirst for stories about gay men. But also what it’s like navigating the dating world in the 21st century.
The Grass Is Always Grindr is back for a second series and follows on from where the first series left off.
Adam (Taofique Folarin), the handsome closeted boxer, is struggling to reconcile his recent HIV diagnosis with his athletic career. His kind of new lover, Joe (Denholm Spurr) has started taking PrEP (preexposure prophylaxis), an effective HIV preventative medication.
The men are trying to make their tentative romance work, Joe’s having problems enjoying sex, and it’s not immediately clear why.
Love, sex and PrEP
Series creator Patrick Cash spoke to Gay Star News about why made a second season of the web series.
‘We didn’t want to just present gym-toned young men as the only sexually active people in the gay male community,’ he said.
‘So, as well as our two square-jawed leads, we’re delving deeper into our older character Francis’ sex life – played by legendary HIV activist Jonathan Blake, and exploring sexual health worker Ryan’s Matthew Hodson past.’
Cash and his creative partner, Luke Davies, have always created works on issues important to the gay community. But moving from theatre to producing web series has given the pair a lot more flexibility.
While the show focuses on gay life in London, Cash hopes it resonates with audiences everywhere.
‘An essential strand we explore is HIV prevention and challenging HIV stigma, and I hope that’ll resonate with most gay men,’ he said.
‘At the film’s heart is a story about two men trying to find intimacy together, and not quite having the tools to be successful by themselves.
‘I think, in a nation where same-sex sexual and relationship education isn’t available in schools (and people get so obsessed with the ‘sexual’ part they forget about how important the ‘relationship’ part is), many gay men might identify with the complexities of making a gay relationship work.
‘But what we also want to show in the film is that in places like 56 Dean Street, and within the gay community and intergenerational knowledge sharing, there’s help and support available. It’s an old adage that everyone’s fighting their own battles, but it’s also true no one has to fight alone.’
Cash spoke extensively with Dr Alan McOwan at 56 Dean Street, London’s main sexual health clinic in preparation for writing the series.
‘A sexual health clinic is a great place for real stories as sex gets to people’s truth, and I feel we’re deserving of a well-produced, realistic drama about modern gay sex lives, and the complications that can arise, cutting through stereotypes: how many times have you seen a gay man described as ‘cock-obsessed’ or similar?’ Cash said.
‘When you get under the bravado there’s so much more layer and nuance of the gay experience beneath.’
Therapeutic effect of art
For actors Denholm Spurr and Taofique Folarin, the series can sometimes reflect their lives closely.
‘I’ve played the character of Joe for three years now and it’s never ceased to surprise me when the writer sends me the next script how many parallels there are with my own life,’ Spurr said.
The actor related to Joe’s struggles with his sexuality, his relationship with his parents, his dysmorphia and his predisposition to self-medicating drugs.
‘I think that’s because I’m not alone in these experiences: Joe’s Story is an everyman story. That’s what makes The Grass Is Always Grindr such a great series as there’s very few other film, theatre or art reflecting the gay community back at us so vividly and bravely,’ he said.
Folarin said while the show explores some issues more deeply, he hoped viewers would ‘experience the same therapeutic effect I also had from working on it’.
‘Adam’s story is one that mirrors the lives of many but yet lacks the visibility on our screens: to be a vessel for this story, our story, was an honor,’ he said.
Author: Shannon Power
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