So a little bit of background on the show... Queer as Folk, which centers on a group of gay friends, aired on Showtime from 2000-2005. It was an adaptation of a British tv show of the same name created by Russell T. Davies (just a few years before he'd revive Doctor Who). From the clips I've seen online, the first season of the US/Canadian version (though set in Pittsburgh, it was filmed in Toronto) relies heavily (at times shot-for-shot) on the British one (1999-2000). Fun fact... the British QaF starred Aiden Gillen (most known as Game of Thrones's Petyr Baelish, The Wire) and Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy, Crimson Peak) - reportedly break out performances for both of them. The American QaF centers on Brian Kinney (Gale Harold)--a narcissistic, ego-centric, hedonistic, self-proclaimed heterophobe, and all around a-hole. He is also the most effervescently sensual character I have ever encountered. And I'm in love with him.
|[a little bit of Ashton Kutcher, a little bit of Nathan Fillion, a lot of sexy]|
|[Justin "Sunshine" Taylor and Brian Kinney]|
"I've had you. What happened last night, it was for fun. You wanted me, and I wanted you. That's all it was... Look, I. don't. believe. in. love. I believe in f---ing. It's honest, it's efficient. You get in and out with the maximum of pleasure and minimum of bullsh-t. Love is something that straight people tell themselves they're in, so they can get laid. And then they end up hurting each other, because it was all based on lies to begin with. If that's what you want, then go find yourself a pretty little girl... and get married."And yet, despite his best efforts, Brian's life becomes increasingly intertwined with Justin's, often through tragedy. Theirs is an on-and-off again, unconventional, and yet profound romance. And oh what a romance it is...
[If nothing else, watch this "ridiculously romantic" montage...]
There's Michael, who's been Brian's best friend since high school when they both came out. While he is the only person Brian won't sleep with, as his not-entirely-platonic friend, Michael's also the only one he'll say "I love you" to. The pilot also introduces us to partners Lindsay, an art historian, and Melanie, an intense lawyer. Lindsay, who'd always been the "Wendy" to Brian's "Peter," is about to have a baby--thanks to a donation from Brian. Then there's the other best-friend pairing: Ted, a deeply insecure accountant who loves opera, and Emmet, the stereotypical to archetypal "flamboyant one" who is also one of the show's most engaging and inspirational characters.
|[L to R, Emmet (Peter Paige), Ted (Scott Lowell), Brian (Gale Harold), Ben (Robert Gant), Lindsay (Thea Gill), Michael (Hal Sparks)|
Justin (Randy Harrison) and Mel (Michelle Clunie)]
The group act as a non-traditional family through many ups and downs, united especially in their fond ridiculing of Brian. While his actions often come off as heartless, it becomes apparent that he is willing to do what he believes will be best for his friends--even if they hate him for it. He is willing to bear that hatred if it means his friends will have better opportunities. He's the guy who says he won't help and then actually, quietly does all the work. And then, there are a few times his own pain surfaces and the world seems to stop when Brian Kinney cries. As the series progresses, he slowly, subtly changes. Eventually, he is self-aware enough to admit:
My mother is a frigid b-tch, my father was an abusive drunk; they had a hateful marriage, which is probably why I am unwilling, or unable, to form a long-term committed relationship of my own. The fact that I drink like a fish, abuse drugs and have more or less redefined promiscuity doesn't help... much.If nothing else, this show as a character study of what can happen when a broken person is loved.
|[Season 4 promo]|
The show is far from perfect. It's too melodramatic. It reinforces some at-best unflattering, at-worst harmful stereotypes. The cast is alarmingly white. The dialogue can be campy. Groundbreaking for 2000, the showrunners clearly went for shock more than sophistication or nuance. I think the reason I haven't been able to stop thinking about it is how paradoxical it is - while not always "good," it is meaningful.
In the end, Queer as Folk is a show about overcoming. As the title suggests, the show reappropriates many of the derogatory terms used to demean LGBTQ people to make them empowering. The characters face issues ranging from the dark--homelessness, bashing, HIV+ status, discrimination, conversion therapy, infidelity, prostitution, rape, addiction, and death--to the beautiful--adoption, reconciliation, recovery, and gay marriage...including the first legal gay wedding ever shown on US television. While, as a straight person, most of this show was a learning experience for me, I identified strongly with their perseverance in overcoming, in loving each other, and in living the truth. At one point in the show, Emmet is offered a relationship he wants but at the price of secrecy and he responds by saying, "I never had to live a lie. And I'm not about to start now. Not for you. Not for anyone." Watching this show reaffirmed for me that I want to be the type of person that doesn't live a lie for anyone, that the me you get is honest even if it's raw.