Jeff Baker: “Eric’s Buddy” A Deep Dive into “That 70s Show’s” Gayest Episode

A brand new insight into an unusual episode of an old US comedy show. As Jeff himself says, “Just in case you never saw it: “That 70s Show” was an American sitcom about a bunch of friends hanging out and smoking weed in the 1970s in the fictional Point Place, Wisconsin.” It was first aired in 1998 and ran for eight seasons, but the gay character that was planned for the show never fully materialised… And we m/m fans can dream about Jeff’s final sentence!

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Pic credit: usmagazine.com

“So, she’s like your girlfriend?”

            “I dunno. I dunno.”

            “It’s okay to be confused, Eric.”

            Eric Forman isn’t confused, but he is a little naive. Okay, he’s a lot naive.

            We won’t be naive as we go for a deep dive into “Eric’s Buddy,” the eleventh episode of “That 70s Show,” written by Philip Stark, which introduced a Gay character who was supposed to be a series regular. But it didn’t happen that way.

            Buddy Morgan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a somehow unspoiled rich kid who goes to the same high school as Eric and his friends. Buddy and Eric meet when they are assigned to be lab partners in science class. He has a snazzy new car that Eric admires and soon they are riding around and hanging out to the dismay of Eric’s other friends who are dismayed that he seems to be neglecting them. There is a fun montage of the two of them palling around in Point Place with the “Best Friend” song from “Courtship of Eddie’s Father” playing in the background. It is implied that Buddy does not get along with the rest of the gang who hang out in Eric’s basement, as they can be jerks sometimes. A fact Eric actually acknowledges.

            It is while parked and sipping sodas that Eric begins to talk about his relationship with his sort-of-girlfriend Donna and Buddy misunderstands and tries to take their relationship a step further by leaning over and kissing Eric there in the front seat. Eric’s panicky reaction presents a wonderful bit of physical comedy from Grace which was not well-received by the LGBT community at the time but which comes off as very human and very funny at the same time as he registers utter shock at the kiss he didn’t see coming.

            This leads to Eric showing up in the basement hangout and making a big deal out of being straight while trying not to let on that he’s just been kissed on the lips by a guy.

            The scene is plain old hilarious. Especially Kelso (the underrated Ashton Kutcher) and his vain assurance that any Gay guy would first make a pass at him!

            We never learn Fez’s real name, let alone where he’s from but he is the one of Eric’s friends who realizes that Buddy is Gay, even before Eric tells anybody. This leaves us with some implications, some of them rather dark. First off is that probably Fez has been around enough Gays in his young life to put the clues together. Secondly is the very dark implication that the very good-looking Fez (who is straight) had a few Gay sexual experiences in his home country, maybe even some forcibly. This is a very dark speculation which goes against the general pot-fueled merriment of the show and it is unspoken, but it is there.

            It all leads to a well-played scene between Grace and Gordon-Levitt in the school parking lot where Eric asks Buddy timidly “Why…me?” Buddy’s response is wonderful: he likes Eric for probably the same reasons that Donna does. During this scene we get the feeling that Eric has really never imagined himself as the romantic lead in anyone’s story. The two of them realize that they can still be good friends.

            “Eric’s Buddy” caused some controversy among fans, which was probably ginned-up by the conservative right in those early days of the internet who opposed any appearance of any positive Gay character.

            For whatever reason, Buddy Morgan never appeared or was mentioned on the show again. But Gay viewers can speculate that he was always there, just outside the scene and didn’t get along with Eric’s other friends and he and Eric kept up a largely platonic friendship. Probably. But maybe Eric realized he wasn’t as straight as he thought he was, even though he was in love with Donna. Remember, the producers brought Buddy in as a potential “love interest,” so who knows?

            In the episodes where he and Donna split up, maybe Eric sought refuge in Buddy’s arms?

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1 thought on “Jeff Baker: “Eric’s Buddy” A Deep Dive into “That 70s Show’s” Gayest Episode

  1. Pingback: “Eric’s Buddy” article on RoM/Mantic Reads by Jeff Baker. | authorjeffbaker

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