Queer As Folk, the North American version, is a TV show that encompasses both positive and negative messages to it’s viewers. Similar to the L Word, it is a show that tried to convey what a gay lifestyle was during the time that it was on air, but it was from the point of view of gay men and the people in their lives. The show made a decent attempt at trying to portray the various different ways a gay man could live his life, as well as the different obstacles gay men faced and were burdened with. The downfalls of this show are the same downfalls that plague most media outlets: although the show presented a few forms of the “gay lifestyle” alongside showcasing many of the obstacles that are attached to such lifestyle, it did so by neglecting people of color and people of lower socioeconomic status, which make up a large portion of the LGBTQIA community, as well as reinforcing gay stereotypes and societal norms.
The first time I watched this show, I was celebrating the end of finals for fall quarter and I needed a show to binge watch while eating my favorite snacks. It was recommended to me being that I had already finished watching the L Word. Right from the start, I had a feeling that the show was going to have a very sexualized perspective on gay men simply because the intro was male go-go dancers dancing sensually half naked.
After watching the show, and thinking about things the way I do now, I realized that there was something very important missing: where were the black or latino gay men? where were the lower class men who were not only struggling with their sexuality but with their status?
The show centered around a rich 30 year old white man who identified as gay and brought home a different “trick” every night. He prided himself on his “heterophobic” mentality and his 17 year old “boyfriend”. His friends, all gay men with the exception of a lesbian couple, were all caucasian and middle class. So while the show was “groundbreaking for the gay community”, it was also exclusive of all lower class gay people of color. With the opportunity and means to draw attention to overlooked issues such as poverty trends in the LGBTQIA community, writer Russell T. Davies (who is gay himself) passed over the opportunity to bring real issues and real characters to life on the big screen and to draw attention to communities left in the dark. The characters that Davies wrote about all fell into some sort of stereotypical mold of “the gay man”. Rich, powerful, sexy, and promiscuous; your average joe with a steady well-paying job who wanted to be loved; the 17 year old boy curious to explore his sexuality; the “Queen” with a heightened sense for fashion, emotions, and so-called femininity; and the fit, athletic professor who could pass for straight. In every episode, the group of friends went to Liberty Avenue, which was the gay friendly street, and went to gay bars and nightclubs where they would “cruise” men looking for someone to take home for the night. Each character was the patriarchal stereotypical character, and while trying to gain exposure for the gay community, they had to do so while still falling under patriarchal societal norms such as whiteness and superior class, and the notion that the gay lifestyle was all fun, lights, parties, promiscuity, and that money could buy you everything.
In comparison to the discussion of “Paris is Burning”, and the questions of whether having a gay writer excuses the lack of correctness or exposure, or if having gay writers or creators gives authenticity to the characters regardless of the sexuality of the actors portraying such characters, I would say that it does no such thing. Having experience in life as a latina does not give me rights to talk about life as a black man simply because we share “minority” status. The same goes for “Queer as Folk”. Just because the main writer and creator were gay doesn’t give them the right, nor the insight or experience, to speak of or portray something that is supposed to generalize to all gay men.
While the show was a step in the right direction, as far as getting media coverage for gay men and women goes, it did not do the gay community justice. Instead of conveying to the audience that being gay changes nothing about a person other than who they choose to spend their lives with, or shattering the stereotypes, they REINFORCED the stereotypes of gay men as well as women. They went with the grain of societal expectations of the gay community and even went as far as making it out to be an extravagant lifestyle. The exclusion of people of color and people of a lower socioeconomic status undercut the possibility of showing genuine struggle and sharing genuine stories. You can’t help but wonder why such important groups and stories would be purposefully left out, and the answer is simple: because the truth, especially a harsh truth, doesn’t make for good entertainment.