Where is This Community?
The Queer as Folk reboot is long overdue. But is this what we wanted? If they were going for a slice of life, the series failed miserably. However, if their goal was to tell a disconnected story intriguingly, I can’t wait to see how this season finishes!
The British and American Queer as Folk series were applauded in their time for telling stories that impacted their communities and cultures. The series successor, Stephen Dunn, has decided to remain true to the spirit of the series with his new project.
The reboot features the next generation of viewers who are now stepping into college and experiencing life for the first time after the pandemic. Despite what other writers like Zhang might have to say, I just can’t say this is relatable to me.
The reboot is set in New Orleans, LA, and has a more diverse cast reflecting what many of us see in the gay community. It begins provocatively with the main protagonist and med school dropout Brodie (Devin Way) in the middle of copulating with a random guy he has just met on an app. This is a scene that many people in the gay community are familiar with, so perhaps it was an artistic choice to begin that way.
Brodie leaves and calls his friend Daddius Miller (Chris Renfro) who is currently in the middle of his own activity with Brodie’s ex-boyfriend/ex-fiancé Noah (Johnny Sibilly).
None of these scenes are surprising for anyone who has lived in a city with a large LGBT+ community. They manage to get the sexual nature of reality right in this case. Just to be clear, the storyline is good. It has great actors, and the event sets the mood quite nicely. It oversees aspects of mental health like trauma, depression, and insecurity, exceptionally well.
The series continues by introducing the wide-ranging characters and their connections to Brodie, even when it feels forced. High school trans student, Mingus (Fin Argus), who is 17 years old, goes to a drag show where he has a sexual encounter with Brodie. Shar (CG, they/them) and Ruthie (Jesse James Keitel, they/them) are together with a baby on the way. Brodie, for some reason, gives them his DNA for their baby as Julian (Ryan O’Connell), Brodie’s brother, is a person with cerebral palsy.
The only character that isn’t already connected to Brodie in a biological/sexual way is Eric Graise (Marvin), a paraplegic who joins the gang. However, the way these characters slowly develop a friendship seems a little unrealistic.
Even my favorite character from Sex and the City, Kim Cattrall, who plays Brodie’s mom Brenda, is not free from scrutiny. I love her, but I am not buying that she is a southern matriarch with a flimsy accent that comes and goes as quickly as she does in these episodes.
The compilation of stories in each episode feels like the writer took the ideals of what they believe the LGBT community is like and put that on-screen instead of reality. This is not to say that this is the only thing they did, but the characters don’t feel like authentic people. They feel more like caricatures, who only express depression and lustfulness and not much else.
The gay bars, nightclubs, lounges, and restaurants I frequent are not like this. These reflect comradery for events like drag night and queer brunch, which is to say all brunch, leather and feather nights, and much more. I do not see this comradery outside of those events. This steered me to ask the same question as Mindy Kaling, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
Where are these locations where all queer people from all walks come together and hang out with everyone else? It certainly isn’t any gay bar that I have ever been to. The ones I’ve gone to all state the same message, “open and welcoming to everyone” but that’s the extent of that welcoming environment.
What happens inside is people circling around the same people they came in with. Not really socializing with anyone outside of their circle unless they are approached by someone of equal attraction or greater. Unless you are a go-go dancer getting paid to hang out, you don’t see this amazing blend of people coming together and mingling. But this is what the series will have you believe about the community.
Speaking as a southern gay who grew up in a major city and has partied in NYC gay clubs, I have to say I have yet to see this level of inclusion and acceptance. Remembering one event with family on an outing to a local gay club called “The Eagle” was embarrassing. It had a gorgeous man at the door, so I expected to see all the glitz and glam of nightclubs in the south.
That was not what I saw. I saw a guy giving BJs in the middle of a dance floor to about 50-guys while we all acted like we didn’t notice it. Funny enough, this scene is hinted at in the series with the party orgy fundraiser.
Oh, did I mention that while at this club, another gay guy told my cousin that “her kind [women] weren’t wanted here?” But to be fair, that was quickly remedied by another gay guy telling her that “she’s fine being here. It’s a space for all, just don’t pay her any mind.”
The show does start with a powerful depiction of a tragedy that brings a community together in solidarity. The first episode ends melancholy with a shooting at the local gay bar Babylon not too dissimilar to the shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Florida. It feels like it is saying, why would gay people join if not for a Pride event or even a charity event?
The other aspect they got right was how gay people betray, steal, and hurt each other. Shockingly, none of their bickerings have been geared towards each other’s queerness. As a gay, I have been attacked for being too feminine, too girly, having too high a voice, not muscular enough, and too gay. Unfortunately, others have also felt this way.
It’s simply hard to wrap my head around the idea that queer individuals would get together and stay together. Otherwise, I hate to break it to non-queer people, but we do not all hang out or enjoy each other’s company just because we are part of the same community. We are truly diverse in many ways.
This reboot might just be the thing that is needed to speak to this next generation. The series does an outstanding job of showing things as they could be, not as they are. So, maybe that’s what this generation needs, an escape from reality where things look prettier from the outside.
In a way, I can see that the show attempts to create a world where families are forged with outside friends. It proves to be a more loving environment than perhaps a lot of us came from. But this sense of community is just that, a beautiful picture behind the screen. Where is the real community?
Queer as Folk is available for streaming on Peacock.
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Donnie Lopez is a gay Latino/Hispanic social and political commentator, writer, entertainment journalist, and professor. He writes on topics that affect Hispanic/Latino culture. With his novel insight, veracity, and sense of humor, he entertains as well as educates the world.