Why You Need ‘Neighbours’

Matt Wilson and Takaya Honda of 'Neighbours.'
Matt Wilson and Takaya Honda of ‘Neighbours.’

I get asked so often: Where are the positive portrayals of gay men?

There’s such a hunger to see stories of decent men living lives full of love.

Maybe it’s because the world is so shitty and getting shittier every day. But representation matters, and the stories we share with each other are important.

And American pop culture is a wasteland.

Marvel would like an award, please, for including a cameo of a gay civilian in “Avengers: Endgame.”

I can’t even be bothered to hate-watch “Riverdale.” It so effed up Kevin and Moose – and so backburned Kevin, he might as well be appearing on another network. “Dynasty” disposed of Steven Carrington (and the actor) by imprisoning him in an insane asylum in France. I’m pretty sure when “Modern Family” ends next year, it will be with Cam and Mitch finding a way to stab each other to death.

There are only so many times you can watch “God’s Own Country.”

Not that I’ve reached my limit, but it is an intense film. Sometimes you just need something lighter.

Consider Aaron and David on “Neighbours.”

Yes, the spelling is correct – this is a soap from Australia.

Takaya Honda and Matt Wilson, seen in the updated 'Neighbours' opening.
Takaya Honda and Matt Wilson, seen in the updated ‘Neighbours’ opening.

Created in 1985, and now with over 8,000 episodes, “Neighbours” is Australia’s longest running drama. Despite Australia being so restrictive in what can be shown on TV – the show only won a PG rating last year – the serial has featured gay characters as part of its ensemble since 2009.

In 2015, it introduced out-and-proud Aaron Brennan (Matt Wilson). A year later, closeted physician David Tanaka (Takaya Honda) joined, and in true soap fashion, the two began a romance with the kind of bumps you’d expect on a soap – misunderstandings, accidents, shady exes who want you to go back to exotic dancing.

Hey, we’ve all been there.

Fans, of course, shipped them immediately. There’s no denying chemistry. Here’s a homemade video that’s a great introduction to the boys’ journey.

You can’t just cast anybody in these roles and expect the audience to care.

Wilson and Honda worked hard to create a loving rapport between the two men. Wilson’s Aaron is more of a boundless puppy; Honda’s David is more cerebral and measured. Both Aaron and David share an optimism about life and are devoted to their friends and families. Wilson and Honda happen to be pals off-screen, and that helps, too.

As the battle for marriage equality was waged across Australia in late 2017, Wilson and Honda felt the weight of their portrayals. Both were vocal in wanting their characters to marry onscreen.

Here’s the proposal from last year – the culmination of years of romantic buildup.

Last September, Aaron and David made history by becoming the first same-sex couple on any Australian show to marry. The ceremony was heavily publicized in the media. No doubt for many viewers, Aaron and David are the first gay couple they have ever seen.

Because of “Neighbours'” rating, you are never going to see a steamy bedroom scene with Aaron and David – or with any other couple on the show. That’s OK.

Matt Wilson and Takaya Honda of 'Neighbours."
Matt Wilson and Takaya Honda of ‘Neighbours.”

Wilson and Honda do something far greater and far more important on the series. They give us a couple affectionate with one another. They cuddle, they snuggle, they’re constantly in each other’s space. They share the joy they feel in each other’s presence.

It’s a welcome contrast from American and English shows where even married couples seem to be under a United Nations mandate to sit 10 feet apart at all times.

Aaron and David are committed to each other and want the world to know it. That’s powerful. That’s something I want the young people in my life to see.

Here the characters comment on how life in Australia has changed since marriage equality passed and share an impromptu dance.

The streaming service Tubitv.com offers full episodes of “Neighbours,” and there are dozens, if not hundreds of clips of the guys on YouTube. You can trace the relationship between the two – and if you are so inclined even go back to Aaron’s first boyfriend Nate, or Nate’s first boyfriend Chris, who was the first gay guy on “Neighbours.”

Like the theme song goes, everybody needs good neighbours.

Takaya Honda and Matt Wilson of 'Neighbours.'
Takaya Honda and Matt Wilson of ‘Neighbours.’

2 thoughts on “Why You Need ‘Neighbours’

  1. Damn you – now I have the annoying “Neighbours” theme tune in my head! It was huge over here in the UK in the 80s (when I was unemployed and would catch it during the dark hours of day time TV) but I haven’t watched it for years.

    Full credit to them, though, for what you’ve described as a normal, loving relationship between two people, and here’s to both British and American (hell, why not the world?) catching up.

    🙂

    Like

    1. Yeah, the “Neighbours” theme is, um, unforgettable, and sure, that’s a kind way of looking at it. I do have mad respect for them for sticking to it for all these years. There’s no mistaking it for anything else.

      Like

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