It’s all about sex, except it is also something much more culturally important. It was started in the UK in 1999, and it was going to change queer representation on television forever. Before Queer as Folk LGBTQ+ representation on television was very different. Gays were often portrayed as, that funny effeminate male friend or that butch female character. I’m not saying there was no positive representation on television, but these were always minor roles in television shows and never the main focus of the story.
The series within the UK gained success and also caught the attention of producers in North America and they decided to make their own version of the show and so began the beginning of a revolution for prime time TV for Queer as Folk was the first hour-long drama series on American television to show the lives of gay and lesbian characters.
The series follows the stories of Brian, Justin, Michael, Ted, Emmet, Melanie, Lindsey and Michael’s mother Debbie and her brother Vic. This was a show, unlike anything that had been on television at the time. It told real stories from a community that did not really have much representation when it came to the mainstream. This was a show that talked about the club scene, the drugs, and the sex, but it was so much more than that. It talked about hate crimes and discrimination towards the gay community of all kinds. Workplace discrimination, family discrimination and discrimination within the community as a whole. One of my favorite plot lines for the show came when the series resident nerdy character Michael alongside art student Justin made their own homoerotic superhero character!
But one of the biggest themes that were explored within the series was the subject of HIV and AIDS, and it was a subject they did not shy away from. Michael’s uncle Vic who lives with his mum is slowly dying of AIDS and throughout the first four seasons of the show we the audience watch as he slowly deteriorates. We see the physical deterioration of Uncle Vic but more than that we see the emotional toll the disease takes on not Just Vic but his family and friends around him. This is not the only character in the story we see go through this kind of story when Michael ends up in a long time relationship his new partner is revealed to be HIV positive. The show and the characters make sure to let everyone know that there is a big difference between being HIV positive and AIDS and for me when I first originally started watching the show back in 2004 I believe I had never seen a show talk about this subject. The only thing I knew about AIDS at that point really was that it was the disease Tom Hanks character had in the movie Philadelphia.
Something unexpected happened however when the show first aired in America. Initially it was aimed at the LGBTQ+ community but the series found a strong audience amongst heterosexual women, though if you ask me this really should not come as a surprise when you look at the yaoi fanbase, for myself at least I went looking for more stories about gay men after watching this series so in a way before Gravitation even Queer as Folk was a gateway for me into yaoi and gay media.
Even today this show is still finding an audience because there has never been a show like Queer as Folk before or since then, recently Entertainment Weekly sat down with the amazing cast of the show and looked back on the legacy that was the show. Thanks to online streaming services a new audience is discovering this amazing series and though at times the series can be a time capsule for the era it was made in, the subjects it talks about from coming out to homophobia to AIDS and politics it is just as relevant today as it was back when it first came out and is a must watch for anyone looking for positive and real representation of the gay community in media.