Why Sterling Archer Is My New Straight Boyfriend
I guess I have a bit of explaining to do. Given that PFC’s demographic apparently skews thirty to forty-five, most of our readers might not be aware of the salty adult animated comedy series Archer currently in its fourth season on FX. (‘Salty’ is my new favorite adjective since our contributor Eric Baker referred to this site that way as a warning to the readers of his own blog before linking them here.) I should also explain the straight boyfriend and how that dynamic works in some niche parts of gay culture.
I don’t think all Gheys have had straight boyfriends. Guys like me who tend to straddle Homolandia and the straight world seem to have more, and as the taboos drop and the lines become smudged, I suspect that many bromances will be recognized as real romances. Or they should be.
That’s what a straight boyfriend is, in essence: a bromance between a Ghey and a Str8. Sex is rarely in the offing, and then only if the straight boyfriend is very drunk and experimenting, or trying his best to please the lover he isn’t attracted to physically, but for whom he feels an intense emotional connection akin to his love for a female companion. (There is also the love between a fag hag and her Ghey, but that’s not germane to this piece.)
Yes, if incarcerated for a long period—and I mean a long period, not just a few months—a Str8 will use a Ghey as a surrogate for a woman, but he will never drop the chick for the guy in the non-prison world. That would mean he isn’t really straight to begin with.
I’ve had at least a dozen profoundly romantic relationships with Str8s over the years, almost all never consummated. Like most romances, they tend to peter out in due course, usually when the Str8 partners up with a woman, in which case I’m one of the first things in his life to go; it’s like she can smell ‘other woman’ on me the minute we meet. It seems that a woman needs to eject her new mate’s male girlfriend at the point when she and my now ex-straight boyfriend begin to nest. That’s okay, straight men often do find themselves losing elements of their bachelor life when they settle down with a woman: that old tatty sweater, the vinyl collection, that video-game addiction. So it’s reasonable that the Ghey with whom he has an ambiguous relationship, especially when drunk or stoned, should get the heave-ho, too.
In a couple of instances, however, I ended up becoming as good if not better friends with the wife, so there is no fixed pattern of behavior.
The hardest lesson to learn is that, as much as he loves you back with all the intensity you love him, it’s not going anywhere with the straight boyfriend, which in a way is good because there is no illusion of eternal sunshine Valentine whatsits. But for the young Ghey it is supremely frustrating because he interprets every gesture, every word as some sign of hope that the Str8 will change his stripes and be his lover in a real, physical sense. It wasn’t until I was in my late thirties that I realized this was never going to happen with my straight boyfriends, so I resigned myself to enjoying the love and camaraderie for what it is.
At some point during S04E06 of Archer I felt that familiar surge of yearning simmered in bubbling fondness, that urge to get drunk with my straight boyfriend and talk bullshit philosophy and/or our current creative projects. Archer was naked on the hood of a jeep, ass in the air, stuck with two of his fellow male ISIS agents in the middle of Turkmenistan. His butt cheeks were twitching as he begged his colleagues, one of whom is gay, to suck cobra venom from his ‘taint,’ or the area between his anus and his scrotum. I realized then that, yes, I was falling in love with Sterling Archer, a cartoon character; he is in so many ways just like the straight boyfriends I’ve had over the years: masculine, reckless, a party boy, if not a womanizer then well loved by women, charming, extremely handsome, and possessed with erratic talent.
A satire of the secret-agent genre along the lines of Get Smart, Archer is actually more like Arrested Development meets the James Bond series… the entire series, as in all fifty years at once—one of Archer’s many delightful quirks is it is riddled with anachronisms like some hispter’s wet dream of a garage sale featuring gadgets and vehicles from all the great spy eras. The styling of the characters and the ISIS office in New York where much of the action takes place tips its hat to both Mad Men and Get Smart—it’s early 60s slick and glamorous cynicism, but with all of the sick bawdy un-PC humor of today.
Archer’s mom, Mallory—voiced by Arrested Development’s Jessica Walker, playing much the same role of the boozy upper-middle-class harridan dowager—is also his boss, and the source of his extreme dysfunction. Archer himself is voiced by H. Jon Benjamin, whom I am sad to say would not be my straight boyfriend in real life; as I’ve mentioned repeatedly in these pages, I am exceedingly shallow when it comes to good looks. But I’ve paid a hefty emotional price for that shallowness, so I’m karmically even on that score. (I am trying to be better, though. As Tuttle can affirm, I keep saying that what I need is a joli laid (ugly but attractive) guy, but I just can’t seem to pull it off, especially here in L.A. But the thought is there, the intention pure.)
Bear in mind that it took me three and a half seasons to realize I was smitten with Sterling Archer. It also took me that long to start laughing out loud at the humor; I was merely smiling internally before. I stumbled on the show when it was recommended by my own personal algorithm on Netflix and I watched the first three seasons more or less in one sitting. Let’s say I was bemused. But it never became a show I had to watch, like Homeland, American Horror Story and Breaking Bad.
Maybe it’s because I’m now giddy with love that I find everything my new animated straight boyfriend and his bumbling cohorts at ISIS do absolutely hilarious. For example, on last week’s episode, which guest starred real-life TV chef Anthony Bourdain in a spoof of a Gordon Ramsay-style angry chef reality show, one of the characters, Cyril the hapless comptroller of ISIS, enters the scene with his all-white chef’s uniform splattered with blood from cleaning sheep’s heads for the Albanian ambassador, whom the ISIS team has been hired to protect (don’t ask… it’s deliberately silly Archer plot). Bourdain’s character turns to Cyril and says, “You look like a dinosaur’s tampon.” And I lost it. For two hours. I couldn’t stop laughing. It was like that early Tom Hanks movie Big: I was transformed into a fifteen-year-old kid.
I’ve even started following the Archer fan board on Reddit. This really isn’t healthy. I can understand our resident fanboy Eric Baker doing something like this, but I’m undermining my cool, here.
Maybe I’m setting the prototype for my next romantic partner in Sterling Archer, if I ever have another one; after the last traumatic round around the mulberry bush, for the time being I’m retired from the romance game, even though I know it’s a probably a Barbra Streisand sort of retirement. So, all things considered, maybe it isn’t such a bad thing that I’m in love with a cartoon character. It’s certainly fitting for a retiree.
I just wonder if Archer feels the same way about me.