So let me begin 2013 LGBT blogathon with my one of my first and most memorable LGBT encounter in the form of visual media sadly it was not in a form of a movie, but in television series. But as both are basically motion picture, i think it fits the category anyway.
The name of the show is Queer as Folk (QaF), which was a US/Canadian TV show, aired from the year 2000-2005 on Showtime Network. It was adapted from a 1999 UK TV show under the same name (which i just watched sometimes earlier this year). I watched QaF after it was ended in the form of DVD around ’04 or ’05. The series depicts the life, loves, hardships of a group of friends in Pittsburgh, Pensylvania, and their relationship between them, with their peers, and the world around them.
The main cast of QaF was headed by Brian Kinney (Gale Harold), the powerful, succesful, and masculine gay man who were against heteronormativity. Michael Novotny (Hal Sparks), a guy next door type, Brian’s friend since childhood and harboring secret crush on the man over the years. Justin Taylor (Randy Harrison), a 17 year-old boy who looses his virginity to Brian and was involved in an on-and-off again relationship over the years. Emmett Honeycutt (Peter Paige) the flamboyant and colorful gay male (a stereotypical male that was often featured in TV) but evolved to be very complex and more endearing as the seasons progressed. Ted Schmidt (Scott Lowell) the most insecure character among the bunch and yet the most evolved as well. Lindsay Peterson (Thea Gill) and Melanie Marcus (Michelle Clunie), a pair of lesbian lovers, they gave birth to a baby through artificial insemination using Brian’s sperm. Last but not least is Debbie Novotny (Sharon Gless) a loud and proud PFLAG mom that becomes a mother figure not only for Michael but also the rest of the group.
The shows often criticize the stereotypical LGBT iconography that are more widely known in the public eye and giving unapologetic view of the life with heavy politically and culturally related issues. Throughout the span of 5 season QaF dealt with various type of issues revolving around the LGBT community. The usual storyline (such as: coming out, gay bashing and bullying, safe sex, same-sex marriage, artificial insemination, gay adoption, HIV/Aids, and recreational drug use/abuse) was commonly found as well as the more controversial that are hard to find in mainstream media: internet pornography, vigilantism, religion-related issue, underage prostitution, work place discrimination, internet pornography industry, and other sexual conducts that was not commonly portrayed in television.
The show first episode itself was starting with heavy controversial and groundbreaking scene: showing the first simulated sex scene between two men on American TV, especially one of them is underage, Justin was 17 and Brian was 29 (in the UK version it was 15 years old, but the age of adult is different in both countries anyway, UK is 16, US is 18). The sex content of the show was graphic and only few steps away from porn and there’s an abundance of sexual material (masturbation, oral, anal, rimming, orgies, etc) as well as frank portrayals of drug use throughout the series.
The show itself was widely successful and well received by audience. Although intended for gay male and extended for lesbian woman, the show attracts viewership of heterosexual woman in general as well. Some of the harshest critic towards the show actually come from the LGBT community itself for portrayals of negative gay stereotypes in the shows instead of showing the positive of LGBT community. But hey, you can’t please everyone in the world, right?
I welcome the portrayal of the gay men in the series, whether or not it represent gay lifestyle or even politically correct in general i think it shed some light on the subject, staying away from the stereotypical flamboyant, prissy type often featured in other media (like Sex and The City or recent ones like Modern Family and The New Normal). Overall the characters in QaF is very diverse (please excuse the lack of racial variety though), there are illustration of gay male in various stages of life, from the teenaged Brian to the older gentleman (such us Michael’s uncle and one of Emmett lovers). I think there are fair amount of the cultural niche represented. Yes, it does not reflect entire the gay society, but what show does? Does Sex and The City shows all type of New York Woman? Does Girls represent the variety of young women? It is quite impossible to do is it not? after the repetitive and tired cliched convention of gay in the media the show courageously shown different side of the lifestyle and unapologetic about it.
I love how each character developed throughout the series. There were always love/hate moments for each of them, i guess that only made them appear more humane in general. Emmett in particular shown a great dynamic and emotional depth. I was expecting him to be the constant comic throughout the series (along with Debbie) but his storyline arcs were most heartwarming and endearing. Brian that begin as this formidable force revealed his broken and flawed self, and *gasps* insecurities. No one in the series were perfect, and imperfections always drawn me into them.
Through this series i found my first favorite gay pairing (actually i did not have the name for it at the time). Brian and Sunshine (Brian and Debbie’s petname for Justin) on-and-off relationship is one of the constant in the series. It was started as a one night stand and sex, but developed into something else entirely, although they feelings progressed differently and it frustrates the hell out of me (and i bet millions others too).
“So the “thumpa thumpa” continues. It always will. No matter what happens. No matter who’s president. As our lady of Disco, the divine Miss Gloria Gaynor has always sung to us: We will survive.”
– Michael Novotny, Queer as Folk.
The show have revolutionize and gave a significant impact to the landscape of television as well as the gay culture. Although shortly before the show was ended Showtime released The L Word in 2004 focusing on the lives of lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women, I still have not yet seen another serialised TV shows depicting gay community that is as well made as Queer as Folk. You can find several good web-series depicting the lives of gay men though, such as the comical Husbands, the Sex and The City esque Hunting Season, the crowdfunded The Outs, dark comedy EastSiders, or a the little closer to home Vietnamese My Best Gay Friend (Bộ ba đĩ thõa). Although some of the series will be aired on Logo TV, a LGBT oriented cable television network, nothing, yet, can surpass the pinnacle that Queer as Folk have reached.
Queer as Folk
Number of seasons: 5
Number of episodes: 83
Original run: December 3, 2000 – August 7, 2005