This is the second post in my collection about Queer as Folk US and if you haven’t read the first one go and have a look before starting on this post. Also again to remind you the content of the show is 18 years old and over and this will be reflected in my post so don’t read if you are under 18 or do not want to read about adult content.
Series 2 – Introduction of Ben, Relationships: Romantic and Familial and Analysis of Events.
This series we are introduced to the character of Ben who dates Michael until the end of the show. He is a professor of Gay Studies at the university and also an author. We don’t see any of his family but he becomes part of the main cast and creates a family with Michael and their eventual children. Ben is thoughtful, patient, passionate and accepts Michael for the way he is which is something David could never seem to do. Ben is also HIV positive which is a big story line in the show and initially creates tension between Michael and Ben but eventually Ben is accepted into the group at Liberty Avenue.
Relationships – Familial and Romantic
In the first series, Michael dates an older chiropractor, David. They meet when David treats Michael for a sore neck at his surgery. Initially David treats Michael well and is the ‘perfect’ boyfriend. Michael even bonds with David’s son, Hank when he comes to visit. Towards the end of Series 1, David becomes too controlling and insists on paying for everything and doing everything for Michael. Not every ‘perfect’ man is the one for you and this is why Michael does not stay in Portland at the beginning of Series 2. Also in Series 1, Michael pretends to date Tracy to hide his sexuality at work but they only go on one date. In Series 2, Michael meets Ben at his comic book store and the pair hit it off. Ben moves into Michael’s apartment which is a contrast to David asking Michael to live with him. They purchase a house together in the final season.
Brian is the member of the group that does not want to be tied down with a relationship. He is happy to move from man to man without a lasting connection. Michael says that he ‘doesn’t do boyfriends’. While this is our initial impression of Brian, Justin manages to break though this image. From their meeting in the pilot, there is an instant connection. Despite Justin’s age and inexperience, Brian becomes fond of him. He even lets Justin stay in his loft for a few weeks in Series 1. Their relationship progresses in Series 2 after Justin moves in once again but Brian and Justin never stop sleeping with other men. They form a pact to only have meaningless hook-ups with others but Justin craves love from Brian and finds it with Ethan, a violinist his own age with plenty of love and passion to give. Brian and Justin are not together for half of Series 3 but come together again. They stay together in an ‘undefined, non-conventional’ way until in a complete change of character Brian asks Justin to marry him. They do not end up together as Justin recognises that Brian is trying to change himself for Justin.
Ted struggles to make lasting connections with men but he becomes entangled with Blake in Series 1 after he gives Ted drugs and puts him in a coma. They reconnect at the end of Series 1 but Blake is addicted to crystal meth so Ted takes him to rehab. Fast forward to Series 4 and Ted attends rehab where Blake is now a counsellor. The two strike up a relationship once again but Ted realises that he is simply leaning on Blake in his drug abuse recovery. Eventually at the end of Series 5, Blake and Ted run into each other again and it is suggested to be together at last. Ted has a number of brief relationships in between and most notably for Series 3, he dates Emmett but his drug addiction breaks them up. They buy a house in the suburbs but Ted’s arrest and loss of his job leads to his addiction. The pair end the show as friends and Emmett helps Ted to get back on his feet.
Emmett has a series of meaningful relationships that end for various reasons. He dates an older man, George who lives in a mansion. The pair have a sweet connection despite the age difference and Emmett helps George to live as a gay man having only ‘come out’ five years previously. George unfortunately dies just as the two of them embark on a round the world trip. Emmett then dates Ted but is let down by him and his crystal addiction. In Series 4, Emmett starts a hook-up with a closeted American football player, Drew. They gradually become more intimate but break up after Drew cannot handle being publicly gay. In Series 5, Drew goes back to Emmett and comes out as gay on TV. He lives with Emmett and Debbie while hiding from the press but the two part ways after Drew needs time to sow his wild oats as a gay man.
Debbie, Michael’s mother lives with Vic, her brother for most of the show but in Series 3, she strikes up a relationship with Carl, a detective. They part ways over politics but find each other again. Carl proposes at the end of Series 4 but Debbie does not want to get married if Michael legally can’t in the US. Debbie and Carl live together with Emmett and briefly Drew.
The steady couple of the show with a few rocky patches are Melanie and Lindsay. In the pilot episode, Lindsay gives birth to their son, Gus. Brian provided them with the sperm and has a hand in raising him. Lindsay and Melanie have been together for six years and appear to be steady but Brian starts to come between them. Melanie has an affair and Lindsay almost marries a Frenchman for a Green card but Brian brings them together again. In Series 4, they get pregnant again with Melanie carrying the baby and Michael as the father. Lindsay is enticed by a male artist at her gallery and cheats on Melanie. This leads to a long separation between them akin to a divorce and a custody battle but they come together again at the end of the show and move to Toronto with the kids.
Michael was raised by his mother and uncle but never knew his father. Debbie told Michael that his father was killed in Vietnam shortly after he was born and all they have is his surname and the Purple Heart he was awarded. We find out in Series 2 that Michael’s real father became a drag queen after dating Debbie so she picked a random war hero as his father. They both know that Michael knows but chose to keep up the lie.
Brian came from a very troubled home. His father was abusive towards his mother and regretted his existence which he made clear to Brian. Brian doesn’t see them much apart from when his father dies and he finally confesses his sexuality. His sister and nephews make a couple of appearances as does his mother but he chooses to keep them at arm’s length. His mother, sister and nephew, John all hate him for being gay so he does not associate much with them.
Justin’s father disapproves of his sexuality and kicks him out of the house as well as attacking Brian after finding out they are together. Justin’s parents get divorced and in Series 5, Justin’s father has him arrested for protesting in front of his store. Justin’s mother struggles with acceptance at first, especially of his infatuation with Brian but she joins PFLAG and is very supportive of gay rights. His younger sister Molly is not on screen much and is not shown to have an opinion on his sexuality.
Ted’s parents are not shown apart from when his mother visits him in hospital when he is in a coma in Series 1. A sister is also mentioned but as part of a joke and is never mentioned again.
Emmett’s parents are also not shown as Emmett moved to Pittsburgh from Hazlehurst, Mississippi. They are implied to be homophobes. He does mention his mum, dad, grandma and most frequently an Aunt Lula who was perhaps the only family member Emmett liked.
Debbie mentions her own parents briefly but it is inferred that they passed away a while before the show started. Her family is her brother, Vic. They get along very well and Vic makes regular appearances with the group. He used to live in New York and worked as a pastry chef but he comes back to Pittsburgh after he becomes ill with HIV. He eventually passes away from complications associated with the virus.
Melanie is Jewish and this is an important part of her identity. She tries to circumcise Gus but Brian stops the ceremony. Her family is not seen in the show but mentioned. Melanie carries her and Lindsay’s second baby and asks Michael to be the father.
Lindsay has very traditional wealthy parents who struggle with Lindsay’s sexuality. When Melanie and Lindsay want to get married, they refuse to pay for it, despite paying for her sister’s three weddings. Lindsay’s sister is only shown a couple of times along with her parents. She briefly moves in with them when she and Melanie are separated but they set her up with a man so she leaves.
Analysis of Events
This series shows Pittsburgh’s Gay Pride parade and many attitudes about and areas of the celebration. Michael has never marched with Debbie and the PFLAG group before but he promises to this year. He was always afraid of being seen by his work colleagues as they use homophobic language. However this year, he dresses in drag and even meets his colleagues and kisses one of them without them realising his true identity. Justin does march with his mum and supports her acceptance of him. Their relationship was fractured after Justin’s injury but this brings them closer together. Emmett loves the parade but is upset after his former mentor passes away the day before. Ted is drawn in by a guy who only sleeps with him out of pity but gets revenge a few years later after he has cosmetic surgery. Brian normally uses the parade to get with as many men as possible but this year he picks Justin over a random hook-up which shows personal growth and his growing affections for Justin.
Brian was deeply affected by Justin’s attack and I think that he feels responsible as he danced with Justin at the prom and kissed him which led to his attacker hitting him in the head with a bat. Brian meets up with a therapist to find out treatments for Justin’s PTSD and helps him to walk in crowds and with physical intimacy. They also do a re-creation with his friend Daphne’s assistance, of the dance and they even go to the carpark where the attack happened. Brian visited Justin every day at the hospital without his knowledge because he wasn’t ready to show how deeply he cared. We see Brian cry for the second and final time of the full five years, just after the accident when he is waiting in the hospital with Michael.
Michael finds out who his real father is, a drag queen named Divina Devore who Debbie had a summer romance with after high school. Even though Divina or Danny and Michael both know that he is Michael’s birth father they both pretend that it isn’t true. This struck me as odd at first as Michael has been waiting 30 years for a father and he finally has one but he doesn’t need one anymore and Danny is not going to be the father he always wanted or needed. He accepts that Debbie was the best parent he could have asked for and he had Brian as a strong male influence as well as Uncle Vic so he doesn’t need someone that is never going to be around or act like a father.
A storyline that saddened me was Brian and Justin going their separate ways. They had been through so much and then they are torn apart. Brian struggled to show any real intimacy and affection instead choosing to prove his alpha nature and sleep with any man he could, often with Justin walking in on him. Brian takes great self value over his youth and beauty and the power he has over other men. Settling down into a relationship where he did not have total power and control was not something he could do at the time and as we are shown at the end of Series 5; he should not change himself for anyone. Justin meanwhile craves affection as his own father has abandoned him because of his sexuality and he falls deeply in love with Brian. He thinks he can tame Brian and make him only love him, but when this doesn’t happen he looks around for someone else. What Justin did not see was the way Brian tried to show his love with actions and gestures such as letting Justin live with him, paying his school fees, generally being there for him and often choosing him over a random hook-up. On the other hand, Brian should have told Justin his feelings rather than expecting him to read between the lines. This is something that Justin manages to let go in the later series and when he decides to get back with Brian, he tells Daphne that Brian did love him and showed him every day but he just couldn’t see it at the time.
Another important event in Series 2 is the start of Rage, the comic that Justin and Michael create together. It starts from a doodle at a superhero themed night in Babylon and expands into a multi-series plot line with film deals and success. Justin draws the images and Michael plans the story and helps with the design of the comic. At first, Brian is jealous of the time they spend together, especially when he finds Justin and Michael asleep in bed but when Debbie points out that Rage is based on Brian in looks and personality, he apologises for his awful behaviour. Rage is a superhero that flies around Gayopolis saving gay boys from bashings. Much of the story is based on their shared history and they often use story ideas to talk about their own lives. Rage falls in love with J-T and Justin draws some very explicit sexual scenes between the two of them which mirrors his own feelings for Brian. Rage also has a sidekick Zephyr who is modelled on Michael. During the third series, a new villain is introduced to mirror Stockwell and his hate campaign against Liberty Avenue and its residents.
The next post will about about the issues discussed in the show and the events of Series 3.