Finding Prince Charming–But Barely


Logo’s instantly controversial gay riff on The Bachelor dating-show template, Finding Prince Charming, reminded me mostly of Mariah Carey’s ill-fated 2001 movie Glitter. While undoubtedly a product of vanity, it was neither particularly good nor bad enough to have the makings of a delicious disaster. It just kinda lay there, like a guy who’s been fucked into a state of dissociated exhaustion.

Much of that has to do with the casting, especially of the titular “Prince Charming,” Robert Sepúlveda Jr., whose personality came off as waxen on screen during last night’s premiere episode. He’s the kind of guy who reports his experience like this: “The first two guys I see are Paul and Eric. Paul is striking and Eric is just as striking and I know it’s going to be an amazing few weeks.” Robert’s description is striking and his prediction is just as striking and I know it’s going to be an amazing few weeks, but the way I’m using the word “amazing” likely differs greatly from the way Robert is.

During the elimination, in which the suitors who are staying are given not roses but ties, it felt like Robert and his rationale were sleepwalking abreast. “You seem like a super sweet guy. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you. So will you wear a tie?” he said to Eric. “It’s been nice getting to know you today, and I want to get to know you more. So, will you wear this tie?” he said to Dillon. “Danique, today we had a very good conversation. Will you wear a tie?” he asked Danique. And here’s what he said to Sam (spoiler alert: it was great getting to know Sam, too):

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Robert rejected another guy using these words: “Brodney, on paper you’re perfect. We live in the same city, we’re both athletic. But I tried to find a connection with you and it just seems like you have a wall up. That’s an issue for me.”

So static was the show’s 90-minute premiere that it was almost fascinating in its tedium. The show opened with a mixer of all 13 contestants plus Robert—they didn’t know he was “Prince Charming,” and hiding in plain sight allowed him a privileged glimpse into their personalities and tastes. Or that was the idea, at least. During that meet-and-greet, the following conversation occurred:

Robert: I think you’re the tallest one here.
Paul: Well, I usually am in most places.
Robert: How tall are you? 6’3″?
Paul: Good call!
Robert: I’m 6’2″ on a good day.
Paul: Are you?
Robert: Yeah. I think so.
Paul: You know, it’s the strangest thing, so all of my exes have been 5’11” and below.
Robert: OK, how does that make you feel?
Paul: Most guys are shorter than me so it makes it easy.
Robert: But you generally go for short guys?
Paul: Yeah, I do.
Robert: OK.
Paul: Yeah.

This conversation would provide a major plot point because once Paul learned that Robert was the “Prince Charming” he’d be competing for, he feared he’d alienated Robert via height discrimination. The premiere was often about as riveting as watching the drying paint on one wall watch the drying paint on the wall across from it.

(Luckily for Paul, he was able to use his partner’s suicide as a chip for Robert’s sympathy and stayed in the game for another week.)

At times, the show seemed to take itself as seriously as its stars take it, deliberately showing contestants say things like, “Gay dating is the same as straight dating,” and having Jasen, 33, introduce himself as emphatically monogamous for those who think all gay men are sucking random cocks 24/7 whether partnered or not. From a representation standpoint, though, Finding Prince Charming did brush up against some deeper truths of the gay experience. Take the argument between the aforementioned Sam, who clearly fancies himself as some butch ideal, and Robby, whose flamboyant, pronounced mincing enlivened the show and suggested that, unlike many of his competitors, he actually has a pulse. Masc/fem ideals are ostensibly, and messily, represented in their exchange of words, but the whole thing ends up looking like a big cat fight, with Sam’s claws emerging the sharpest. He undermines his own self-conscious masculinity by sniping in this manner. You don’t need a psychology degree, or even a subscription to Psychology Today, to see how he’s projecting and why Robby’s overt gayness scans as so intimidating to him.

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Similarly, 26-year-old Charlie from Wisconsin reports early in the episode, “A lot of people are surprised to hear that I’m gay. Or they tell me I don’t seem gay.”

Even with that beard and those dimples, though? Charlie ended up eliminated for gossiping about the other guys in house to Robert, which seems actually very gay.

Finding Prince Charming offered hilarity here and there, but you had to look for it. During Chad’s introduction we heard him in voice over say, “I came out because I fell in love with someone I met on the internet when I was 19,” as this image showed on screen:

It remained unclear if that someone was the parrot pictured. Wouldn’t that be something? Wouldn’t anything be something on a show this inert? Finding Prince Charming isn’t exactly unwatchable, but investment will require work on the part of viewers to find the gold in the garbage pile. Are you really here for that?

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