After 10 seasons and 16 years, Trailer Park Boys is an institution. For those completely unfamiliar with it (I’m sure there are at least two but no more than five people), the show centers on the antics of Ricky and Julian, two idiot schemers, and their weird friend, Bubbles. The three live in a trailer park, where a whole bunch of other misfits, lunatics, and drunks reside. Everyone fights and fucks up to laughter, the titular “boys” go to jail at the end of each season, and it all restarts once they’re released.
There are any number of things that can explain the enduring popularity of Trailer Park Boys. In a weed-friendly 21st century culture, its willingness to revel in the joys of pot smoking struck an early chord. There are the countless Rickyisms, puncta which enter the personal vocabularies of viewers. There’s the plain fact that faux drunk slapstick is always, always funny. And it’s got heart, clichéd as that is—the boys love the trailer park, their drunk nemesis Jim Lahey loves the trailer park, and so does everyone else there, even if nobody outside understands why.
It’s a show set up against what we can call—again, clichéd—bourgeois social norms. And perhaps no norm is more punctured in Trailer Park Boys than sexual norms.
Any discussion of the sexual politics of Sunnyvale Trailer Park must start with Jim Lahey and his partner, Randy (Randy doesn’t have a last name). Randy and Lahey run the park’s day to day operations, but they’re also lovers, a fact which they keep as sort of a quiet open secret. In season 3, they come out and… nothing. No fanfare, no jokes at the expense of their gayness (the jokes are reserved for their dressing up as a bee and Indiana Jones as a prior for their fucking), barely a shrug. It just happens and nobody cares, not even their mortal enemies, Ricky and Julian.
This isn’t some side thing. Ricky and Julian are profane in the extreme and both display hilarious vicious streaks. In most other shows, they would taunt them. These are criminals, idiots, drunks. But here, there’s nothing. Randy and Lahey’s relationship is worthy of no more remark than any hetero coupling would be.
That’s if they’re strictly gay. The Kinsey Scale rules the day in Sunnyvale. Most everyone is at least a little fluid in their preferences. Randy’s gay, but he also hooks up with women; the original series finale before it moved to Netflix had him hooking up with Ricky’s ex, Lucy, and raising a child. And Lucy is implied to be having a somewhat “more than friends” relationship with Sarah, a woman who in another season is having a threeway relationship with Corey and Trevor, the village idiots.
None of this is worthy of comment in the park. It just is. People hook up, drop each other, fuck men and women alike, and are just generally horny at all times. There are jokes around this stuff but never jokes out of it. And that extends to gender fluidity.
In one of the later seasons, Randy establishes a bromance with a bullshit spewing new age guru named Don. Except Don, as it turns out, drops the name and becomes Donna, his “sister.” And Randy, the gay, shirtless, tubby, hairy lothario of the trailer park, falls hard for her (and it is worth noting that Randy is viciously made fun of for his weight but he also gets more play than anyone else, a one-two punch of body positivity winning out where it matters most—in your pants). It’s never quite established if Donna is Don crossdressing or transgender. All we know is that Randy has the best sex of his life with Donna and the specifics of the gender fluidity are left unanswered and, ultimately, unimportant. Love is love—a writhing, multi-gender, hairy, sweaty, bald, old, young, weird, normal, drunk, sober, gay, straight mass of people who are never confused, only sometimes confusing.
There’s something startlingly realistic about all of it. People’s sexuality isn’t some straightforward thing, much as society strives for neat boxes to tick. That’s not how it is. There are few places where humanity is so fluid and mutable than in our sex lives, where our desires are, by default, hidden, but are always just below the surface. Acceptance of those desires—all desires—is one of the driving forces of politics, today and always. We could do a lot worse than taking a cue from the weird show about the trailer park in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Ian Williams has written for Vice, Salon, The Guardian and more.