I have to confess something. When Showtime’s Queer As Folk ended after a five year run, I got really depressed. Actually, that’s probably the understatement of the year. You would have thought Brad had just left me for Angelina the way I carried on.
“It’s just a television program,” a friend offered, trying to comfort me.
And she’s right. It was just a television show. But, as I asked her, could you imagine what it would be like to live on a planet where it felt like there was no television aimed at your demographic?
Sure… we can. The gay community has been feeling this way forever.
I think that’s why I’ve always been surprised at the gay community’s reaction to this series. I know there are people who see Queer As Folk as a disservice to the gay community.
“Oh, it’s about nothing more than fucking around and using drugs.”
What? For one, that’s not even remotely true, and two, even if it were, those things don’t exist in our community? Do we live in the same city?
“But why do we have to focus on those elements? Society has a hard enough time recognizing us as real people with real lives to begin with, without that being flaunted in their face.”
These are usually the same people who get in a snit when people dress in drag at a Pride rally, and I don’t really know how to deal with that. We’re on the same side, aren’t we? Haven’t we figured out that exposure and everything that entails is the biggest tool we have towards acceptance? I, for example, may not personally identify with the leather community. But I support them for who they are and what they stand for and welcome them along side me for who I am and what I stand for. We are celebrating and drawing focus to the same cause, acceptance.
That’s how I have always felt about QAF. Sure, sometimes it was hokey and superficial, and the characters could be a little extreme, but I was just grateful to see something on television that dealt with certain aspects of my life in a thought provoking and engaging way. Something a bit more tangible than being regulated to funny sidekick or some sort of deranged fashionista. QAF made me laugh. It made me cry. Sometimes it just plain pissed me off. But the one thing it always did consistently was stimulate conversation and thought.
Yes, sex was an important part of the show. And I don’t think television has or ever will see gay sex quite the same way again. That’s the interesting thing. While most people were shocked by the graphic nature in which these character’s sex lives were portrayed, I think in the course of 83 episodes, that wore off and gave way to something much more meaningful and personal. For all of the naysayers who bitched about it being stereotypical, vulgar, and at worst, ridiculous (and I will admit, there were moments where I would scream at my television set, “that’s not Pittsburgh!”), there certainly were more moments that were much more relatable. Pos/Neg relationships. Gay marriage. Raising a family. Human rights. Not wanting to grow up. Not wanting to accept change. The impact being gay has on us and our loved ones. No other show on television has covered this much ground in one place.
And whether we admit it or not, we know people like the characters on that show. I don’t know too many Wills or Jacks, but I am surrounded by Michaels, Brians, Emmetts, and Teds. I may not identify with them all the time, but I know them. And although I’ve yet to come across a carbon copy of Debbie (who doesn’t love Sharon Gless?), I think most gay men, or a large percentage of them anyway, would tell you that our mothers are just as loyal and protecting. I know mine is.
For as many people who write it off as a silly gay soap opera or worse yet, a plague, there are many more people who enjoyed it and were affected by it in a good way. With the current political and social climate, I’m going to miss its unique voice. Maybe one day Queer As Folk will be seen as quaint and conventional and somewhere down the line a new show will come along and take the gay community to a different level. My guess is it depends on how things go in 2008. But I don’t think there will ever be a show quite like QAF again.
Thank God for DVDs.
Essential Download: "Proud" (Peter Pestra Finale Mix)
Artisit: Heather Smalls
Available On: Queer As Folk, The Final Season
Originally published in the September 2005 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.