Spoilers Ahead, including a minor spoiler from a future episode
In my Uproxx recap for True Detective this week, I jokingly suggested that, “Wouldn’t it be completely ridiculous if Taylor Kitsch’s character, Paul Woodrugh, turned out to be gay?” I mean, how completely dumb and on-the-nose would that be?
Nic Pizzolatto wouldn’t pull something as obvious as a character overcompensating by calling a guy a “f*g” and threatening to “clock him” because he hit on him, would he? What is this, fucking Glee? Are we in a 1993 teen comedy? I mean, really? It couldn’t possibly be that the guy’s issue with getting a boner for his super hot girlfriend involve the fact that he’s gay, could it? And there’s no way his suicidal motorcycle ride had anything to do with his tortured gayngst, right?
I mean, how tremendously dumb is that for a series that is meant to be a “complex” character study of dark, troubled people?
Dumb enough to be true, as it turns out.
I mentioned this concern last night to Joanna and Josh — my podcast colleagues on the Station Agents — and both insisted that, “Yep, that’s exactly what’s happening.” The dude who has a weird, incestuous vibe with his Clint-Eastwood loving mother is actually a self-hating closeted gay.
I didn’t want to believe it because, sure, season two is not nearly the show that season one was, but there’s no way Nic Pizzolatto had stooped this low already, right?
Damnit. He has.
In fact, Taylor Kitsch admits that his character is gay and in a shame spiral because of it in this interview over on The Daily Beast, and a Post critic who has clearly watched ahead wrote in his initial review that Woodrugh has a “gay-for-three-days liaison with a buddy.”
So, it’s true, huh?
Look: I understand that the trope is very much based in reality, and that it is a very real issue. My own father was a Rush Limbaugh loving, Playboy subscribing hardcore member of the pray-the-gay-away society, but for fuck’s sake! My dumb redneck Dad’s self-hatred was more nuanced than that of Paul Woodrugh’s.
For a guy who created Rust Cohle, I expected better than “I nearly clocked that f*g who hit on me” and leering at gay prostitutes from his balcony, never mind the potential implications about what it might mean that his creepy mom made him gay.
There has to be more to it than that, right? His brooding, his inability to get it up, and his self hatred has to be rooted in his time as a mercenary, and the scars, a troubled childhood, and the PTSD, right? Surely, Pizzolatto wouldn’t resort to a trope so very basic, would he? Please let there be a little more complexity and nuance to it than that. There are definitely ways that this storyline can work in an emotionally rich way, but I’m not sure that the writing so far in season two has suggested that Pizzolatto is capable of that. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, thought, because otherwise the implications are to depressing to consider.