Sex and Love Always a HOT Topic!
‘Sex and Love:’ an exploration of the humor, heartbreak and adventure in Millennial dating
New web-series explores technology and the modern dating landscape of Generation Y
In today’s world of texting and hook-up apps, where a relationship can be made or broken by a Facebook status, it’s clear that the dating landscape has changed immensely since Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks explored an early connection between technology and romance 16 years ago. In their upcoming web-series "Sex and Love," filmmakers Kyle Thomas and Mikal McLendon set out to explore dating, romance and sex as experienced by Generation Y, especially showcasing the ways in which technology, and our modern landscape, draw the drama, sentimentality and humor out of our search for sex and love.
ThisChicago Pride article is by Anthony Morgano
"Chicago provides the backdrop for Sex and Love… What better setting, than in the Heart of America, for exploring themes of romance and its many perils?" reads the series’ Facebook page. "In particular: the complex world of dating for Millennials — the new ‘lost generation.’"
"Sex and Love, a narrative dramedy, will touch on many themes relevant to Millennials as the show follows the love lives of two twenty-something roommates — a gay man and a straight woman — and their struggles to connect in a time when relationships can be won, nurtured and lost over text messages," it continues. "Unlike decades past, modern dating doesn’t have any formalities. It’s the Wild West. Whether you’re "seeing someone," hooking up, in an open relationship, or just sexting, ambiguity rules the day."
"Sex and Love" began the way so many creative endeavors seem to — over a couple drinks. Thomas and McClendon worked together previously, as director and writer respectively, on "Stiletto," the film-noir that won Hesperidian Productions the title of Chicago’s 2012 RAW Filmmaker of the Year. Both filmmakers have since split from Hesperidian Productions, with Thomas now working under the label Kyle Thomas Creative. Thomas and McLendon continue to work together as they did before Hesperidian, finding inspiration in their lives and the lives of those around them.
Thomas first approached McLendon ("at DS Tequila, I believe") at the end of 2013 and proposed the concept of a show about modern dating set in Chicago. McLendon instantly liked the idea, which touched on themes that he’d been pondering in his own life. Those same themes, the duo realized, were also being addressed in internet articles popping up in their newsfeeds that picked apart OKCupid or explained how to parse a lover’s text message for deeper meaning. Technology, they realized, is intrinsically connected to dating and it’s up to Millennials to figure out just how to balance the two.
"Every boyfriend that I’ve ever had, I met on Facebook — I was thinking about that the other day, like ‘oh my God, I’m a statistic!’ Because I straight up am," Thomas told ChicagoPride.com, laughing. "I’ve gone on a lot of dates, we all have, and one thing that I find very funny… is so many people are saying it’s so hard to meet people… and, granted, it’s not the easiest thing to find true love or husband material sitting at the back of the bar, but it doesn’t mean it’s not there."
"It’s really easy to meet people now actually, either on Facebook, or Grindr, OK Cupid, at the bars, you have so many venues to meet people," McLendon added — the duo’s conversation bounces off one another as they help fill out ideas and finish thoughts. "But because of that it kind of feeds back into itself where everyone is constantly looking for the perfect match or the best body or best whatever and so you end up with a situation where you could meet somebody and things might maybe be working, but they’re still looking and their attention starts to wander and things just kind of fall apart.".
"Thats why there’s so much disconnect, I think, with our generation when it comes to dating — because there are so many options, especially when you’re living in the city," he concluded.
Thomas and McLendon started pooling their friends ("we kind of talk about our dating lives all the time with our friends, so it wasn’t brand new or groundbreaking subject matter") and had similar conversations with them. It was clear that, despite differences in gender, race, sexuality and identity, there were certain similar stories and experiences that repeated in patterns. For example, finding a guy you thought you were seeing exclusively on Grindr or getting dumped by a text message are situations that are shared across, and at the same time very particular to, our generation.
The duo especially wants to explore technology and the way that it affects communication and the modern dating landscape. Texting is ubiquitous in the Millennials’ world, but many filmmakers shy away from it — understandably since sitting and reading somebody’s phone screen is somewhat less than cinematic. Thomas was initially wary of showing texting as well, pointing out the broad gap between seeing a drink thrown in someone’s face and sending them a meanly-worded quip, but in wanting to strive for an "authentic" experience, he and McLendon began exploring ways to show texting on "Sex and Love."
Together, they’ve brainstormed some interesting ways to incorporate texting into the show, ways to make it as emotionally engaging as it feels in real life. They also plan to explore the effects of Facebook, apps, dating websites and the like — things, they say, Millennials deal with in their everyday lives as they pioneer a new romantic world.
"We sort of grew up with this more traditional lens of relationships where there’s ‘the one’ for everybody out there and you sort of fall in love and live happily ever after, but then we grow up and its like BOOM — there’s Grindr and all these like online dating and sex apps and the bars are crazy… and we’re kind of the guinea pigs where we’re figuring these things out for the first time," McLendon told ChicagoPride.com.
"I think a great thing that the internet has been able to do is sort of expand the idea of what a relationship can be… The problem, I think, is that then you end up with people who are looking for different things or don’t know what they’re looking for or don’t know how to express what they’re looking for," he continued. "Everyone’s figuring it out as we go and then we have this technology that we have to figure out how to use as we go as well, and it’s very difficult but potentially funny and strange at the same time."
Thomas and McLendon admit that there are other shows that explore similar themes on TV right now, most notably HBO’s "Girls." McLendon sees Lena Dunham’s show as a very particular kind of experience, specific to "sort of privileged, white, New York, 20-somethings" that focuses mostly on character’s quirks. Whereas they touch on dating and technology and the way that Facebook and the like can affect relationships, he wants "Sex and Love" to focus on the modern dating experience in particular — "there’s a lot of material to mine here."
Another way Thomas and McLendon want to differentiate themselves, especially from "Girls," which has been criticized for lacking diversity, is by exploring dating through multiple perspectives and lenses. Thomas and McLendon are both gay men and see the show, set in Chicago, featuring scenes in Boystown. They want "Sex and Love" to reflect the growing diversity of the Millennial’s world, especially the increasing integration of the gay and straight spheres.
"There’s a lot of movement in society now, and you can see in the advocacy for gay marriage and gay rights and the tremendous support that we’ve been getting over the last couple of years, that [being gay] is becoming something that’s more normalized and you don’t necessarily have the stigma of ‘this is a gay show,’ or ‘we’re only gonna talk about gay people,’" Thomas said, discussing marriage as a new option for queer Millennials and teasing to ChicagoPride.com that two brides will walk down the aisle come season two. "Because it’s not, it’s real life, we’re living it every day and I think that is something that we really want people to relate with."
"The perspective is generational, so its more about the age group, Millennials, and our experiences and these things that we’ve sort of had to grow up with and have been conditioned to," McLendon added. "We want to explore that through various lenses… we want to incorporate as much diversity into that as we can because while we have shared experiences, it’s different depending on where you’re coming at it from."
"We dont want to be pigeonholed as a gay show," he added. "One of the leads is a gay man and one of the leads is a straight woman — and yes, our experiences as gay men will inform them, but I think that we want to try to be as universal as we can."
In addition to representing a diversity of identity, Thomas and McLendon want "Sex and Love" to represent a diversity of Millennial perspectives on dating and sex. The two already come from, if not opposing, definitely differing opinions on the matter. Thomas is an out-and-out romantic, someone who knows what he wants, and what he wants is intimate, passionate love and romance. McLendon, on the other hand, isn’t sold on the idea of monogamy just yet, dating without necessarily looking to find something stable or committed. These viewpoints, and others they see as sort of universal types among Millennials, are represented through the attitudes of the series’ four main characters as the series opens.
The show begins with Emma, who will be played by the beautiful and talented Kristin Anderson, who Thomas and McLendon worked with when she starred in "Stiletto." The career-focused Emma is turning 30 and beginning to re-evaluate her life, trying to decide if her goal-oriented path has really made her happy and beginning to explore dating and love. The show’s other main character, Connor, moves in with Emma as the series opens, fresh from being broken up with by his long-term boyfriend. Single, but not by choice, the hopeless romantic gay man must navigate a dating world that now includes precarities like Grindr and Scruff. Ian, a straight man, begins from a more casual perspective, preferring sex to love and dating for the fun of it, while Emma’s best friend Kassie is engaged to the woman she loves, giving a perspective of what happens when the search is over.
"I grew up raised on this idea, this fantasy, of true love and finding that partner, that person, that soul mate, whatever that be… I don’t necessarily go on my dates looking for a husband, but I do find that I’m drawn to this passionate romance that does have stability and longevity to it," Thomas said. "I’ve had a lot of friends that have introduced me to other ways of looking at things, but I think as a generation we did grow up on Disney movies and we’ve had this like ‘prince/princess’ sort of hope."
"I think that’s part of the issue though… in addition to growing up with that Disney lens, just looking at like the growing divorce rate, a lot of people grew up in broken homes, myself included, and so it kind of disillusions you a bit about marriage because it shows that marriage isn’t necessarily the end-all be-all and it isn’t necessary going to be such a great thing to aspire to because it doesn’t really work out for a lot of people," McLendon said. "I think that’s opened up a lot of people to thinking about dating and marriage, or whatever you want to end up with, differently — just having other ideas about what you can get out of the dating experience."
One the thing the duo wants to make clear is that they are in no way stigmatizing hookup apps, online dating, meeting people in bars or any of the like. "Sex and Love" will explore all of these processes, showcasing not only the humor and mishaps that we’ve all seen ensue, but also the uniquely modern twist they lend to romance.
"There are the happy, romantic, magical, beautiful moments that still do happen, technology hasn’t taken that away from us," Thomas insists.
"I know a lot of people are like ‘I hate Grindr’ or ‘Grindr is destroying relationships,’ but really I think technology is just becoming more prevalent in our society," McLendon said. "It’s just something that we have to adapt to and that we’re still adapting to and figuring out how to incorporate and its not evil — It’s not necessarily good either, but it is something that’s a part of our lives and we have to learn to kind of embrace it or at least live in the world with it."
"We’re more about exploring technology and its effect on relationships, rather than making a statement about it," Thomas concluded.
"Sex and Love" is currently in a stage of pre-production. Thomas and McLendon are both approaching and being approached by producers and talking to people who are helping to move the project to the next level. The duo is especially busy these days, juggling tasks that include finishing the season’s scripts and scouting talent, courting investors and working out budgets. Considering the project was conceived less than six months ago, things are moving along at fast pace and both filmmakers are excited for what lies ahead.
When asked how to categorize their show, the duo says this: "Sex and Love" isn’t as quirky as "Girls" or as campy as "Sex and the City" and they’re not a sitcom like "Will and Grace," despite the gay man/female best friend leads. They are, however, somewhere in the same vein as these shows that came before, those that explored romance through the eyes of a generation. "Sex and Love" will showcase the comedy of the Millennial dating situation, but also address the serious moments — the heartbreak, wonder and confusion that come with dating for Generation Y.
"When you’re in your 20s that’s basically what you’re doing — we’re all exploring, we’re figuring out what we want, how we can get it, what works, what doesn’t work," McLendon said. "We figure those things out as we go and make a lot of mistakes along the way and that’s what we want to capture with this show is that process."