Sep 26, 2010

[TV] Queer As Folk (US) - Season 1

Queer As Folk (US) - Season 1In the past, homosexuality was a subject that was largely taboo for television. You could have characters that you'd strongly imply to be gay but without openly declare it. Or you could reduce their function to that of rodeo clowns - unusual comic relief in soap operas and sitcoms. It wasn't much of a function, but we had to take what we could, right? Long story short - people just weren't ready to take gay characters seriously, what more open discuss gay stories, issues and themes in popular television.

With the advent of more mature television programming thanks to premium cable channels like HBO, writers were no longer limited to the rigid rules around network television programming. The pay-TV market provided a new venue for showcasing creativity and telling different stories - those that may be considered a tad more controversial in most circles.

A lot of queer friends of mine all share the knowledge of this show in our history, and the same can be said for a lot of people. This show practically changed lives in the sense that it gave a lot of young gay men and women something to use as a loose guide to this kind of life, a model to either accept or reject. In a country that touts Catholicism like a cape left and right, it's not like models for LGBT living are readily found, especially in the Philippines of 10 years ago. This show gave us our first glimpse of what gay culture could be like.

Queer as Folk (UK TV series)Image via WikipediaThe US version of Queer As Folk was based around British TV series of the same name created by Russell T. Davies (currently of Doctor Who fame). The series was developed for the US market primarily by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman.

The series is set in Pittsfield, Pennsylvania and begins in Babylon - a popular gay dance club. One by one we're introduced to the characters by Mikey (Hal Sparks), the comic book geek in the group, as he internally narrates the evening's events. With him are Ted (Scott Lowell) and accountant with self-esteem issues and Emmett (Peter Paige), the highly flamboyant gay guy among them. The trio watch the dance floor and their friend Brian (Gale Harold) the one with perhaps the greatest amount of confidence that he channels into charming and bedding a new guy every night.

But on this night he encounters Justin (Randy Harrison), a 17 year old taking his first steps of exploring his sexuality who eventually loses his virginity to Brian later that night. At the same time, we find out that Brian has sired a son - at least through artificial insemination. The very night he meets Justin, the group find themselves rushing to the hospital to catch Lindsey (Thea Gill) and Melanie (Michelle Clunie). Lindsey carried the baby to term with the help of Brian's genetic contribution.

The series then goes on to explore the complex relationships between all of these characters with one another Plus you get the joys of Michael's mother Debbie (Sharon Gless), her HIV-positive brother Vic (Jack Wetherall) and of course Justin's mother (Sherry Miller).

The show was key to the fledgling efforts of figuring out gay life for me and perhaps many other gay men of my generation since they did a good job of trying to showcase various aspects of gay life. To some degree I mostly related to Michael given our shared geek roots, although I didn't have some unrequited romance angle to deal with in my life. My then closeted self could relate to Justin's struggles with his mother to some degree with a heck of a lot less of the drama, the whining and the pining over Brian. I could relate to Ted's self-image issues and his neuroses without the overly cynical nature or whatever. Heck, I could even relate to Emmett's more laissez-faire attitude to things, something I found myself adopting when it came to trying to explore my own gay life.

I could never really directly relate with Brian's character. I didn't see what made him attractive and his views of the world and relationships were a tad extreme for me. I didn't think that I'd ever want to venture into that kind of a seemingly reckless and irresponsible lifestyle, but hey that's me.

The show did cover a lot of relevant pink issues in the course of this first season. Naturally there was the circuit culture and the wilder side of the life in terms of drinking, drugs and wanton sex. There were social issues like gay marriage, the right to adopt, the challenges of sorting through one's inheritance in a gay union that offers no rights to the individuals and so on. Plus what have become typical gay issues like living with HIV, PFLAG, and your more Stepford-style gay couples who have settled down from the party life.

Plus the show had a pretty awesome soundtrack that helped define my own tastes in terms of dance music and the like. So yeah, this was but one of the smaller influences it had on me beyond the larger cultural implications of a show of this nature.

The first season of the US Queer of Folk totally changed a lot of things, whether in terms of how we look at TV now, how queer culture is defined and so on. It gets 4 outrageous Debbie outfits out of a possible 5.

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