Friday, July 16, 2010

Critical Analysis of Lloyd on the HBO Series, Entourage

Entourage is a smart and intriguing series on HBO about the stylized lifestyles of the Hollywood elite. Its characters are interesting and depict different aspects of pop-culture, especially the character Lloyd.  A gay Chinese-American secretary played by Rex Lee, he is the central ‘diverse’ character in the series, being the only major recurring character that is neither Caucasian nor heterosexual in the popular series. Therefore, the inclusion of Lloyd in the series not only breathes in some of the gay sub-culture and ethnicity in Entourage’s non-divert Hollywood atmosphere, but also breaks down social norms. This can be seen from how Lloyd is portrayed, especially in the season premiere episode of season 6, “Drive”, where Lloyd confronts his demeaning, silver-tongued boss, Ari Gold, played by Jeremy Piven, for a promotion from his secretarial position, and with his relationship with his aforementioned boss.
As previously stated, Entourage quite rarely utilizes characters that are either non-white or non-heterosexual. This leaves Lloyd in charge of with the burdening task of representing both communities as a Chinese-American homosexual. He does that with flair. Lloyd does not conform to the stereotypical Asian that is depicted as “camera-wielding tourists, scholastic overachievers, or sinister warlords” (Newman 95). Lloyd is, out of all things, a homosexual secretary for an Agency firm in Hollywood and a pretty good one as the episode depicts that his retention by Ari Gold, who is notoriously known for having a new secretary every couple of weeks, lasts for over three years in the course of the show. However, what Lloyd’s character achieves to do is reinforce the characteristic stereotype that most male homosexuals are effeminate. Lloyd’s perky personality, boisterous attitude, and an impeccable fashion sense, although giving a fresh and somewhat relieving juxtaposition to his demeaning, self-serving boss, are given characteristics of that classic stereotype. Lloyd does break down the social norms for his sexual orientation in other aspects.
As the episode’s title infers, Lloyd’s grit and determination are represented well in his “drive” for success. After being refused once before by Ari, Lloyd lays down an ultimatum for the agency executive by willfully saying, “Ari, promote me or I’m leaving you!” Not to be deterred by Lloyd’s outbreak, Ari still arrogantly refuses to tend to Lloyd’s wants. However, after some thought of losing one of his most prized and loyal employees and some words from his wife and kids, Ari finally gives in to Lloyd’s demands by proposing that after 100 days, if Lloyd is still with him, he will get that most sought for promotion. With this, Lloyd plans on moving up the social ladder by hard work and determination. This does not conform with the media stereotype as indicated by Newman where he states, “images of homosexuality are rather narrow… Most gay and lesbian characters are white, and virtually all of them live comfortably in the middle class” (99). The passion for moving upwards is a sign that he is uncomfortable living his life as a secretary. He wants to become a powerful agent in the industry and to become a force not to be reckoned with.
To become a powerful agent, Lloyd needs to learn from the best.  Ari Gold is not Lloyd’s boss for nothing; he built one of the most powerful agencies from the ground up. He symbolizes the epitome of America. A powerful white man that has a dominant say on what goes on in the business. His rationale then can be compared to the interpretation of the show. Therefore, his relationship with Lloyd speaks volumes on how the creators of Entourage feel about his character. As Raymond notes, “portrayals of ‘minorities in the media’ tended to focus mostly on ethnic and racial minorities and to ignore sexual orientation as a defining aspect of identity” (101). Ari teases both Lloyd’s race and sexual orientation at somewhat equal magnitudes. For example, after asking Lloyd, “You never told him [Lloyd’s father] you like dick,” he continues, a minute later, to suggest that Lloyd’s father works in a dry cleaners. This goes to show that both character traits equally describe Lloyd. Raymond further states, “Depictions of glbt people tended both to dichotomize anyone glbt as victim or villain” (101). Even though harassed by Ari’s smart-mouthed tongue on numerous occasions, it never seemed that Lloyd was either a victim or a villain in the show. Maybe that’s just how Ari is, poking fun at everyone and not caring about the consequences. Or maybe Ari feels that Lloyd plays a bigger part in his life that he lets on, sometimes being the voice of reason and salvation when Ari is at a low-point. Therefore, Lloyd is somewhat a hero that saves Ari when he goes on a road to self-destruction, not a victim or a villain.
In conclusion, Lloyd takes on a bigger role than it seems. He represents his race and sexual orientation in, what I feel, a good light. He breaks down social norms with such flamboyancy and energy that it is difficult not to fall in love with his character. He marks an age of gradual acceptance of both race and homosexuality in the media. It is a definite given that Lloyd will continue to play a vital role in Entourage.
“Drive”. Entourage. By Mark Wahlberg. Perf. Jeremy Piven, Rex Lee, et al. HBO. 2009.
Newman, David M. “Chapter 3: Portraying Difference”.  Identities and Inequalities: Exploring the Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007. pp. 94-99.
Raymond, Diane A. “Popular Culture and Queer Representation: A Critical Perspective”. Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Text-Reader. Ed. Dines, Gail and Humez, Jean M. California: Sage Publications, Inc, 2003. pp. 98-110.