Queer As Folk – Review

This article reviews LGBTQ+ show Queer As Folk, both the 2000 version and reboot. Spoilers ahead. Discussions about Queer television, history, and the Pulse nightclub shooting are included. Leave a comment below about what you liked or didn’t like about the reboot version.

Peacock rebooted the british drama television series Queer as Folk (QAF) in 2022. I watched the 2000 version on Showtime as a teenager, staying up late to catch a glimpse of shirtless men dancing in a nightclub. The show presented a world unknown full of unabashedly gay people living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Their stories highlighted issues within the LGBTQ community, like being HIV+, gay adoption and marriage. Except, all the main characters identified as white cisgender people. 

Transgender issues, non-binary relationships, being brown or parapalegic are just some of the topics that the reboot discusses within the show. Growing up as an adopted brown gay man, I identified with Brodie’s story. He also confronted an “otherness” in his family despite being loved and accepted. His narcissism, however, resembled Brian Kinney from the 2000 version. 

Brian seldomly expressed affection for anything but money and sex. He remained a coldhearted yet lovable person throughout the show, arguably. Moral decisions like sabotaging Jim Stockwell, a bigoted businessman running for mayor, happened after Stockwell fired him. His reputation shaped the story of an entitled narcissitc cisgender white man that was also gay. The narrative ignored everyone else in the LGBTQ community. 

QUEER AS FOLK, (standing, l to r): Peter Paige, Thea Gill, Michelle Clunie, Gale Harold, Randy Harrison, Scott Lowell, (& on knee): Hal Sparks, 2000-

The 2000 show reflected a biased view of Queer people in North America. Main characters related to similar backgrounds of white cisgedner people. Their identities promoted the mainstream alliance between heterosexual and gay people. Everyone else was left out. 

Black people, transgender people, Latinos, bisexuals, and non-binary people appeared in the show’s bacgkround. Their visibility, or lack thereof, reflected a common ignorance in North America. Both the heteronormative and LGBTQ community focused on white cisgender culture. 

The actual history of LGBTQ people involved progressive movement of the transgender community and ethnic people. Their contributions built a legacy in Ballroom Culture during the 1980s, specifically in New York City. Historical figures like Paris Dupree founded the House of Dupree.  Members included transgedner, gay, lesbian, African-American and Latino peoples. Their stories depended on each other as a found family. 

Paris Dupree

Ballroom Culture celebrated the differences between Queer people. They dressed for catergories like Butch Queens that only included gay men to Butch Queen Realness that judged a participant’s ability to fit in with male heterosexuals. The subtle difference between categories challenged a Queer person’s creativity as well as self-perception. Ballroom was completely left out of the 2000 version. 

Instead, the show divided a gay man’s personality in six different ways. Characters like Emmet  Honeycutt reflected effeminite men and Victor Grassi as an HIV+ man. Their stories expanded on the general gay presence in television. “Will & Grace” premiered on NBC in 1998. The light-hearted comedypromoted the alliances of gay men and women. Their friendships proved that “tolerance” was possible. 

Gay Advocates preached “tolerance” as a means to protect LGBTQ people from physical and psychological harm. On October 6, 1998 Matthew Shepard was murdered for being gay. The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy took effect in 1993 which prohibited Queer people from coming out of the closet. Silence impregnated ignorance with hate. 

So, if “Will & Grace” promoted tolerance then Queer as Folk celebrated the differences in lifestyles. Monogamy and polygamy defined the show’s reputation. Brian remained polygamous despite falling in love with Justin. Michael married Ben and started a family. The contrast between chosen partners portrayed actual relationships in the the LGBTQ community. 

The Peacock reboot premiered in 2022. Several historical events happened beteen the reboot and the 2000 version. DADT was repealed in 2010. Gay Marriage was legalized in late 2014.  President Obama opened the first gender-neutral bathroom in the White House in February 2016, magnifying transgender visibility. Then the Pulse tragedy happened. 

Peacock Original Queer As Folk Cast

On June 12, 2016 a gunman shot and killed 49 people at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. 53 others were injured at the scene. Countless more were affected that day. The reboot focused on the survivors of a shooting at the nightclub Bablyon in the first episode. 

Trauma affected characters differently, like how Mingus avoided becoming a Drag Queen and Brodie prioritized himself over friendship. For example, Brodie ignored Ruthie’s priorities as new mother despite knowing it affected her family. His ignorance paralleled Brian’s except that it belonged to a young gay brown man adopted by white parents in modern day New Orleans. His background expanded the narrative of being an “other” in his own family despite their love and acceptance. 

Meanwhile, seventeen-year-old Mingus survived the shooting in the middle of performing his first Drag Show. His flamboyant behavior depicted the general acceptance of fluid people in the show. Characters like Ruthie and Shar portrayed a non-binary and transgender couple that started a family. Their presence charged the show with an inclusive perspective of the LGBTQ community. 

Queer people existed as people with various backgrounds and identities, always. Our stories are told through television shows and movies that don’t always inlcude everyone. Specifically, shows like W&G and QAF originally promoted a cisgender homosexual idea about us that didn’t misconstrued history. Transgendered Black people like Marsha P. Johnson fought for a place in the Pride parade despite backlash from the gay community. Her struggle mirrored the challenge of actual Queer presence in mainstream culture. 

Ruthie and Shar’s relationship expanded on the lesbian one in the 2000 version. Ruthie defined herself as a transgendered woman learning to be a mom. Shar was a non-binary person that gave birth to twins in the first episode. Their relationship developed according to personal journaries. In episode six “Bleep” Ruthie comes to terms with not identifying herself as a male person. She is a gay teenage relationship with Brodie who identieis as a man. Throughout the episode, her birth name is bleeped out whenever spoken by anyone.

The inclusion of each other’s stories redefined “Queer as Folk” as a show that actually included Queer people. However, the characters also survived a tragedy that happened in actual history. The show started with a shooting that disrupted people’s lives and ended others. This story related to modern life. 

Survivors and victims of the Pulse shooting weren’t just LGBTQ people. They were mothers, brothers, friends, lovers, and more. They were people that made decisions before going to the club that one night. Their personalities depended on life experiences like changing careers and going to school. 

Stephen Dunn, the reboot’s writer and producer reminded viewers that tragedy doesn’t define a Queer person’s story. Julian, a gay man with cerebral palsy, fell in love with his brother’s ex-boyfriend. He wasn’t at the club during the shooting, but was still affected by the circumstances. The ex-boyfriend Noah lost a lover. 

A makeshift memorial continues to grow outside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on July 11, one month after the mass shooting at the club

Tragedy affected the entire Orlando community, not just LGBTQ people. The slogan “Orlando Strong” hung up in store windows and trended online. The United States witnessed unity in the face of hate and fear. However, empathy changed in the 2017 political shift and pandemic. 

On May 5, 2020 a white police officer murdered Geore Floyd in broad daylight and on a recorded device. The murder sparked a social movement to highlight racisim and racial inequality experienced by Black people. This involved the discussion of police brutality and defunding the police. Right-wing politicians like Florida’s Govenor Ron DeSantis reacted with a conservative agenda that sought to erase Queer people from history. 

In 2020, DeSantis signed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill into law, prohibiting Elementary School teachers from saying the word “gay” or speaking anything about LGBTQ people. The bill prohibited current history from being discussed as well as ignoring the trauma of state citizens. His agenda reflected the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding the silence of hate. 

I originally didn’t see myself in shows like Queer as Folk. The coherant story was about tolerance, being a part of the heterornormative society of people that found love, got married, and had children. Heteronormative people included cisgedner white men and women that didn’t question their identity. Queer people never had that luxury. 

Now, I saw myself in storylines about family, sexuality, and friendship. The reboot reflected a piece of myself that survived trauma, succeeded in life, and fell in love. However, modern day politics showed that being Queer is also a fight. Queer people fought for the right to be visible and deserving of life. I loved this the most about Queer As Folk. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: