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Series / Never Wipe Tears Without Gloves

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"I want, in my life, to get to love somebody who loves me."
— Benjamin

"You don't get to re-live your life. That's the whole point."
— Paul

As long as we give a voice to all those who died; as long as we educate the young and as long as we shame those who were there and over-reacted — then we will have suceeded.
— Director Simon Kajser

"And it was those who loved the most... Those by love possessed... They were the ones who fell to the frost."
— Closing Narration

"Torka aldrig tårar utan handskar" ("Never Wipe Tears Without Gloves") is a Swedish mini-series in three parts based on three novels by Jonas Gardell (individually subtitled "Love", "Sickness" and "Death"). The series aired in the fall of 2012 and the books were published between 2012 and 2013.

Set in Stockholm in the 1980s the series depicts the gay culture of Sweden, the spread of HIV and AIDS and above all the fear and the prejudice that came with the disease. It is narrated by Benjamin, a Jehovah's Witness who is invited to a Christmas party by Paul, a flamboyant homosexual man with a habit of taking young, insecure gay men under his wing. At the party Benjamin meets Rasmus, a young man from the small community of Koppom who moved to Stockholm to be able to explore his sexuality. Benjamin and Rasmus fall in love and begin to build a life together, facing problems such as prejudice and Benjamin not wanting to tell his parents that he is gay, but for the most part having a happy life and a great love. Then HIV and AIDS begins to spread among the gay community and Rasmus finds out he has the disease.


The series is based on real people and real experiences of Jonas Gardell, himself a gay man who was around the same age as Benjamin and Rasmus in the eighties. It became a huge hit when it premiered in Sweden and a landmark piece of entertainment. It does not shy away from depicting gay relationships, it was produced by and aired on Swedish public service and when Jonas Gardell was named Homo of the Year at the Swedish Gay Gala in early 2013 it was the Swedish crown princess who handed him the award. BBC Four aired the series in December 2013, under the title "Don't Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves". The series received great critical acclaim internationally and is now available on DVD with English subtitles.


This series provides examples of:

  • All Gays are Promiscuous: One of the prejudices gay men faced in the eighties. It was commonly used against the gay community at the time. Some of the characters in the story are promiscuous (Rasmus loves Benjamin but doesn't want a monogamous relationship at first, Paul Really Gets Around, Reine and Bengt are Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places) but many are not (Benjamin only ever sleeps with Rasmus, Seppo and Lars-Åke are monogamous).
  • All Gays Love Theater: Averted with Paul (who would rather watch soap operas on video), but played straight with Bengt (who is an aspiring actor with a lot of talent).
  • Anachronic Order: The books jump back and forth in the timeline so often that you really need to pay attention to what's going on. The series does the same, though to a lesser extent.
  • Animal Metaphor: The white moose.
  • Anyone Can Die
  • Arc Words: "And God shall wipe away all the tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." Book of Revelation, Chapter 21. It's Benjamin's favorite quote from the Bible and it appears repeatedly through the story.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Sort of. Erik Engkvist wrote fan mail to Jonas Gardell and Gardell wrote back. Through their correspondence, Engkvist told Gardell about his experiences as a gay Jehovah's Witness. When Gardell wrote the book he based Benjamin on Engkvist.
  • Attending Your Own Funeral: After Benjamin reveals his sexual orientation and refusal to live in celibacy to his parents, they pay him a visit, bringing cake and roses. While they are eating, Benjamin realizes that he is actually attending what his parents consider his funeral, since they will consider him dead once they leave.
  • Based on a True Story: Some characters are based directly on real people, others are composite characters and some are entirely fictional. The entire series is based on friends of Jonas Gardell and the things they lived through during the eighties.
  • The Beard: An involuntary example. At Bengt's funeral, his best friend Madde is said to be his girlfriend, to hide the fact that he was gay. She never acted as his beard while he was alive, though.
  • Beta Couple: Seppo and Lars-Åke.
  • Book Ends: Each episode opens with the same piece of narration from Benjamin and the same bit of narration closes the last episode.
    Benjamin: What is told in this story has happened. And it happened here, in this city. It was like a war, fought in times of peace. In a city where most people continued to live their lives as if nothing had happened, young men fell sick, wasted away, and died.
  • Bury Your Gays: Both played straight and averted.
  • But Not Too Gay: Completely averted. The series includes a couple of sex scenes between men and all gay couples are shown kissing and touching. Adam Pålsson (who plays Rasmus) said in an interview that he and Adam Lundgren (who plays Benjamin) agreed right from the start to allow each other to touch, kiss, and caress one another freely anywhere on their bodies. The result is a couple portrayed on-screen who display a heck of a lot of physical affection for one another which makes the romance very believable.
  • Camp Gay: Paul, to the nth degree.
  • Cast Full of Gay
  • Character Focus: The book devotes a few chapters solely to Reine, Bengt and Lars-Åke.
  • Coming-Out Story: For some of the characters.
  • Converting for Love: In a way. While Benjamin leaves Jehovah's Witnesses to be with Rasmus, it is never stated if he actually converts to another form of Christianity.
  • Death by Despair: Heavily implied to have been the fate of Harald, the year after Rasmus died.
    • Also applies by proxy to Bengt, and all the others who took their lives upon being diagnosed. At the time HIV and AIDS were so stigmatized that many couldn't handle living with the disease itself and the social stigmas so they chose to end their suffering before it began. If they hadn't, some might have gone on to live long, happy lives despite their sickness. Case in point, Benjamin, who gets diagnosed in the eighties but whose sickness doesn't develop very fast and he lives long enough for the drugs that slow the progress of the disease to become available.
  • Death by Sex
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: Parents often lie about what killed their son, causing distant relatives to donate money to cancer research.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The treatment of gay men in 1982 versus 2012.
    • In the books there is a mention of a beautiful 19th-century chair that was donated to the AIDS ward but was then draped in plastic to stop the infection from jeans and underwear-wearing men and that people talked about their disease with their doctor, went home, and then killed themselves. In the 2012 segment, Benjamin sits his ass down on the normal chair in front of his doctor's table, shakes his hand, asks about his values but needs to ask what those values mean since he constantly forgets about the finer points about his illness, thanks him, get up, and goes on with his absolutely normal life.
  • Driven to Suicide: Several gay men end their lives after being diagnosed, to spare themselves pain and humiliation. One of them is up-and-coming actor Bengt.
  • The Dutiful Son: Benjamin, at first.
  • Dwindling Party: Most named characters have died of AIDS by the end of the series. The third part is called "Death" for a reason.
  • Dying Alone: Many of the AIDS victims. Reine is repeatedly stated to have chosen this, so as not to bring "shame" on his family. Benjamin, who has been ostracized by his family and lost most of his friends to AIDS, fears that this will be his fate, but he survives.
  • Everyone Is Christian at Christmas: Played with.
  • Family of Choice: A lot of emphasis is put on this. When Paul first invites Rasmus over for Christmas he fully agrees that Christmas should be spent with family, but that you have to define family.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": Paul has one of the most awesome funerals ever.
  • Gallows Humor: Paul gripes about friends who commit suicide when they get their HIV diagnosis. He claims they should have the decency to waste away and not leave their poor friends to carry heavy bodies in caskets at the funerals.
  • Good Victims, Bad Victims: Paul angrily comments on a newspaper article that expresses shock and outrage over the fact that the first "innocent" victim of AIDS has died. (As in, someone who contracted the disease from a blood transfusion, rather than sexual contact.)
    Paul: Innocent?! Then what does that make the rest of us?
  • Happy Flashback: Several during poignant sad moments.
  • Informed Judaism: Or more correctly, alleged Judaism. Paul claims to be a Jew but we never see anything that backs this claim up. Benjamin even questions if he's being sincere or if he just "likes minorities".
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Most noticeable during the last time the group gathers to celebrate Christmas. The only survivors at this point are Paul, Seppo, and Benjamin. Paul only has days to live, to boot. Instead of having the usual grand feast, they sit in the kitchen with no Christmas decorations and eat simple food.
  • Opening Narration: Provided by Benjamin.
    • Narrator All Along: Björn Kjellman stars as the Narrator, gives narration that isn't plot-specific but is about AIDS in general in Sweden. Then at the opening of the third part we start at the 2010's where Kjellman enters an apartment, goes past a wall full of pictures of the characters we know and love, takes a call on his mobile phone, and calls himself... Benjamin Nilsson.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Rasmus is from Värmland, an area with a quite distinctive accent, but neither he nor his parents nor their neighbours show any trace of it.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When Bengt's best friend Madde is referred to as "Bengt's girlfriend" by the priest at his funeral, Paul reacts not with his normal glib, but with genuine tear-filled offence.
    Paul: Girlfriend... It is one thing that this beautiful young man wasn't allowed to live his life — but must they deny him that short life that he had?!
    • At Lars-Åke's funeral, Benjamin curses when he hears that donations are being made to the Cancer Fund (implying that Lars-Åke had died of "legitimate" cancer, rather than "shameful, self-inflicted" AIDS).
  • Parental Abandonment: Benjamin's parents act as though he is dead after he leaves their church.
  • Queer Romance
  • Really Gets Around: Implied for some of the characters. Paul and Rasmus in particular.
  • Rules Lawyer: Paul tells the tale of getting a blow-job by an Orthodox Jew. When pointing out the paradox of this the man quipped that he had indeed "Never laid with a man as one lies with a woman" — he had been on his knees the whole time.
  • Sad Clown: Paul. As noted by Benjamin, much of his incessant joking and over-the-top mannerisms come off as forced. During the group's final Christmas gathering, this exchange takes place:
    Paul: I have to get back to the hospital. They can't go without me for long.
    Seppo: We'll meet again soon.
    Paul: Yeah. Or we won't.
  • Snow Means Love: We see Rasmus and Benjamin begin to fall in love whilst walking home together in the snow… on Christmas Eve no less.
  • STD Immunity: Averted. It's kind of the whole point.
  • Straight Gay: Several characters, most notably Benjamin and Seppo.
  • Team Dad: Seppo.
  • Team Mom: Paul.
  • Title Drop: In an opening scene a young nurse is chastised by her older colleague for having wiped Reine's tears without her gloves on, using the exact title words.
  • To Absent Friends: Every year at Christmas they toast to friends who have died from AIDS, using the exact trope words in English even though the rest of the dialogue is in Swedish.
  • Token Lesbian: Bettan can be seen as this.
  • True Companions: Paul refers to himself and the men in his circle of friends as family and it's obvious that they feel closer to each other than their biological families.
  • The Twink: Rasmus.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The TV series never reveals if Seppo caught HIV, if he found somebody new, or even if he stayed in touch with Benjamin. The book reveals that Seppo and Benjamin are still close and that Seppo eventually found somebody new and married his new partner.