Matt Comer

NBC's 'Kings' takes up gay interpretation

Filed By Matt Comer | March 17, 2009 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Media
Tags: NBC

Well... kings1.jpgat least slightly so, that is. I watched the premiere of NBC's allegorical "Kings" over the internet last night. Work at the paper on Sunday evening kept me away from the debut and my favorite weekly viewing pleasure, "Big Love."

"Kings," a modern-day retelling of the classic David story of the Hebrew Bible, is set amidst the backdrop of a modern metropolis, complete with a New York City-style skyline and contemporary issues -- modern warfare, healthcare issues, the paparazzi, the "free press" and, yes, homosexuality.

kings2.jpgThe David and Goliath, David and Jonathan, and David and Saul stories flow onto the TV screen from the pages of scriptural history (excuse my obvious Southern, evangelical phrasing -- it's the way I was raised). But NBC's modern-day take doesn't completely align with the stories (mainly from Samuel 1 and 2 and Kings). Despite the presence of a gay character (which the Bible also has, unless you're reading it from an definitive anti-gay bias), "Kings" shifts the plot and storylines a bit, but what else is to be expected from 21st century media? (Picture right: King Silas and David Shepherd.)

In the TV drama, King Saul becomes "King Silas Benjamin" (a throwback to the fact that Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin). David becomes "David Shepherd" (how cute) and Saul's son Jonathan becomes "Jack."

But unlike the Biblical story, there's only one gay or bisexual character. In Scripture, one can easily interpret David and Jonathan's love for one another as a romantic relationship. In "Kings," it is likely the main character won't have any gay trysts. But that doesn't rule out any longing Jack might develop for the young David.

Critics have called out NBC's choice to portray Jack as a villain. That view isn't entirely correct. First and foremost, the show, like the Biblical story and life, have no clear cut "heroes" or "villains" -- each of the characters are complex.

While no one can argue that the character isn't portrayed as a spoiled, royal brat, there are plenty of scenes in which Jack shows some humanity. He is a capable military leader who is tripped by the scheming and plotting ways of his royal father. He feels pain and loss after the death of his military comrades. He tries desperately to please his father, the only man he wants to please, despite having the respect of the entire military.

kings3.jpgPreviews from critics made privy to the first four hours of the show and those who interviewed the show's creator say give the show time: each character will have their own unique journeys. Perhaps we can attribute Jack's seemingly villainous ways to the forced double life he must lead. In the two-hour premiere, Silas tells Jack, in no uncertain terms, that if he is to be king, he cannot "be what God made you to be." (Picture right: King Silas calls out his son Jack on his late-night activities with other boys, after his "shows of skirt-chasing.")

I'm excited to see what the show holds for the future. I've always loved the story of David, even before I came out and heard of its obviously gay interpretation. NBC's "Kings" has promise.


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Clearly someone needs to do an LGBT-positive series titled "Queens."

To be frank, I don't like David anyways. The shine and ribbons just makes me want to puke.

With that said, people need to look at Jack's family. His mother and uncle in particular are hideous people, and they're straight.

What annoyed me was how quick they were in introducing a love interest for David and hitting it off soon after. And they say we flaunt ourselves.

I just watched the episode myself--and while I agree that there's a fair bit of homophobia in the king's reaction to his son, I want to highlight the line you yourself quoted: "You cannot be what God made you to be--not if you want to take my place."

Homophobic, yes--but at the same time, an acknowledgment that being gay is natural, a state created by God. That's progress in its own small way. In the hands of truly homophobic writers, that line would have been more like, "You are an abomination in the eyes of God." Like Matt, I'll reserve judgment until the show and characters develop a bit more.

So, I just want to be clear since Matt never actually says this: It's "Jack" that's gay, correct?

In the original Bible story wasn't it Jonathan that struck up the friendship with David and pursued him?

Yes, Jack is the gay character. The show's creators changed some names around. The Biblical "Jonathan" becomes "Jack" in the TV show.

And, yes, in Scripture, it is Jonathan who first strikes up the friendship with David, another twist the show has made.

From I Samuel 18:1-3 (after David first meets King Saul (Silas in the show)):

"(1) And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. (2) And Saul took him that day and would let him go home no more to his father's house. (3) Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul."

It'll be interesting to see how the show's creators and script writers take the Biblical narrative and adapt it for a modern audience, as well as how they either add to or take away from the original story presented in Scripture.

Either way -- whether following strictly along the Biblical narrative or only slightly following it -- the show will be definitely be full of some drama. What else can we expect from stories from the Bible? lol

What are the chances that they represent the "covenant" as a trip off to Boston to get hitched? You know, just for the insurance benefits? But one's neat and uptight and the other is philandering and lazy, so how are they going to live with each other???

OK, here's me thinking of the Jonathan/David sitcom, which I wouldn't mind watching either.

Thanks for keeping us up to date on LGBT representation on TV, Matt!