Queer as Folk: Review Part 5

Dear Readers,

Finally comes the time for the fifth and final post of my Queer as Folk Review collection. I have let this final part sit as I focused on other things but it is time to come back to it and finish this show. In the fifth part to my collection of posts, I will be talking about the events of Series 5; the journeys of the main characters as a whole throughout the five series; the effects of the bombing in Episode 10 on the characters and where each of them are at the end of the show. I have also included a list of some of my favourite quotes from across the series.

Please do not read this post if you are under 18 as the programme discussed is explicit in nature. If you do not want to read about a show featuring graphic adult content, stop now.

Analysis of Events in Series 5

At the beginning of the series, we find several of the characters at a crossroads. Those in relationships are suffering from miscommunication and those not are finding difficulties in being unattached. We see Brian convincing himself he doesn’t need Justin anymore. He thinks Justin has moved on to the greener pastures of La la land. Justin himself sees through Brian’s ruse but doesn’t feel he can tell Brian that he loves him. Mel and Lindsay are no longer living together but have not told anyone for the sake of JR. Debbie and Carl have difficulties with where to start their life together. Ben wants to move to a gentrified neighbourhood but Michael doesn’t want to move away. Emmett needs his own space but doesn’t want to be alone and Ted has been putting on weight with comfort eating.

There is a foreshadowing to later events such as Michael suggesting Brian buy a house in the country, Brian picks Babylon over married life. After a sex montage, Brian in an achingly romantic gesture (for him anyway) shows the empty drawer he has ready for Justin after Justin asks to move in again. This indicates a growth for Brian’s character and a turning point for Brian and Justin’s relationship after some time apart.

The main plot of the final series centres around a new law that Congress want to pass called Proposition 14. It would limit the rights of gay individuals by making it illegal for them to adopt children, buy a house together, have joint bank accounts and claim domestic partner insurance. Justin confronts his father again and protests outside his father’s shop. This leads to him getting arrested. The characters go campaigning door to door and hold a benefit which is where the bomb explodes.

The characters all begin to grow up and move to the suburbs or consider more healthy relationships. We see a new side of gay life away from the club scene and constant cruising. Many of the couples now want children, a house, steady jobs and quieter lives in other gay neighbourhoods. This follows the pattern of life for all people who start to want different things as they grow older and wiser. That is except for Brian who is afraid to grow old and commit to Justin lest he become undesirable or bored. Due to his traumatic and abusive childhood, he craves the attention of others, usually countless men, Michael or Lindsay. When both are pulling away he tries to rely more on Justin and Ted but he is unable to fully give himself to Justin due to his fear of no longer being wanted and of rejection. Despite being funny, caring, smart and successful, Brian bases his self-worth on his looks as that is what makes him popular in the gay community.

We see the bombing first as a reflection of light on the character’s faces – Michael, Ted, Ben then we move to Debbie walking down the street and move to Brian in the car and get the full news story. Approaching the scene, we understand events through Brian’s point of view. He was the most removed from the situation out of all the characters as he was not planning to attend the event like the others. This makes for maximum impact as he struggles to comprehend what has happened and if his friends are alright.

Finding Justin’s mother first shows his desperation to find Justin but he also genuinely cares for her. Running inside calling Justin’s name shows that Brian does care about him and in a wider context, the gay community. If he were truly heartless, he would have carried on to the airport but as demonstrated from Brian almost bankrupting himself to letting Justin live with him to organising Ben and Michael’s wedding and Melanie and Lindsay’s; he does actually care but due to his abusive childhood and emotionally neglectful family, he struggles to show it on a more personal level without a crisis.

The scene between Debbie and Brian in the hospital chapel highlights their own faiths as Brian was also raised Catholic. It shows how two people who disagree with their religion’s outlook towards their community and other aspects still turned to that room for support. Brian, of course may have followed Debbie or simply gone to a quiet place to process but I believe he chose the chapel for a reason. Both Debbie and Brian turn to God to help Michael even when they have never particularly prayed or asked for anything from him in the past.

Effects of the Bombing on the characters

Brian admits finally to Justin that he loves him. This has been the biggest obstacle of their relationship for five years as Justin always wanted more than Brian was able to give. Despite Michael and Brian’s falling out, Brian shows his love for Michael at the hospital and with Debbie. Brian’s fears are shown with a funeral that starts off as Michael’s but ends as his own. However when he reached Babylon, he was first most concerned about Justin, showing that someone else finally replaced Michael as the man he cares about most. Romantic love takes precedent over friendship love. Brian then decides to make changes in his life. He sells the loft and Babylon and buys Justin a country manor house that he mentions wanting earlier in the series. He tries to become monogamous and devoted to Justin which surprises all the other characters. He also vows to be a better father to Gus who is now almost five years old.

Ted struggles to face Michael at the hospital as he blames himself for Michael being at the bar in the bombing. He throws himself into work but eventually sees Michael. After a talk with a stranger at the baths, he realises that he was not the cause of Michael’s injury.

Ben tries to carry on and not let Debbie take over. He goes back to teaching but cannot ignore his student’s pleas to discuss the events. He also becomes angry at the vigil and it takes Brian to calm him down. When Hunter makes an appearance once again, having come back after watching the news, Ben is happy after feeling lost when Hunter left.

Debbie becomes overly motherly and is with Michael all the time at the hospital. The effects of losing Vic are still very raw for her and Michael is the only family apart from Carl that she has left.

Emmett can’t get off the couch and suffers from PTSD. Drew tries to help him get back to normal but it takes a harrowing story from Carl about his earl days in the police force and Drew’s agreeing to speak at the vigil that gets Emmett out of the house.

Justin appears alright having dealt with trauma before and paints in his apartment. He initially laughs off Brian’s proposal. After years of trying t get Brian to think of them as something more, he can’t believe that Brian would change. After some corralling, Justin accepts Brian’s offer but cannot stay when he sees Brian changing into a different person. He does not want either of them to compromise their personalities or lives to be happy together.

Lindsay and Melanie come back together and realise their love for each other. After the death of their close friend, Dusty at the bombing they realise how they have to cherish their family. Mel becomes scared for the future and what will happen if Proposition 14 passes. They decide to move to Toronto for better rights as lesbian women.

Brian is influenced by Justin to not give his blessing to take Gus to Toronto and Michael is influenced by Hunter to give his blessing. Brian is influenced by Lindsay and Melanie to make Justin go to New York.

Everyone just wants to be with the people they love i.e. Melanie and Lindsay, Brian and Justin, Carl and Debbie, Drew and Emmett, Jennifer and Tuc, Michael and Ben.

Characters’ Journeys over the whole 5 Series

Michael starts off as the practically virginal inexperienced one who struggles to attract partners. He has two serious long-term relationships and moves into a life that he wants: a job running his favourite comic book store; a husband and kids. He becomes mature and responsible and a great friend. His priorities shift from Brian to Ben as Michael realises that Ben can give him the life he wants and Brian is stuck as a playboy in the clubs. Michael gradually gains his own interests away from Brian and does not let Brian sway him from being a kind and gentle soul.

Brian forms long-lasting friendships and a relationship with Justin. His peak romantic side is in Series 1 but Justin’s attack made him distance himself from his emotions. He blamed himself for the attack after turning up for Justin’s prom. They come back together but after their break up at the end of Series 2, Brian realises that he cannot give his full self to Justin for fear of rejection. Brian gradually starts to see love not as a weapon or something to be afraid of. He becomes a better father to Gus or at least more present and a better partner to Justin. He starts his own advertising agency, Kinnetic when his values are challenged and is fired. He also buys Babylon in an attempt to keep his friends at his stage in life. He fights for gay rights by taking down Stockwell, riding in the Liberty Ride and donating Babylon as the venue for several fundraisers. He tries to change his playboy ways for Justin.

Justin eventually understands that Brian is not going to immediately love him. He finds friends who understand him and forms a good relationship with his mother. He harnesses his talents as an artist and gets into a prestigious art college. He overcomes being seriously injured at the end of Series 1 and the challenges that come along with this. He forms a closer bond with Brian and has the courage to leave their relationship for something new. He moves to LA at the beginning of the fifth series to work on a film version of Rage. In the final episode, Justin figures out that he cannot trap Brian into a life he doesn’t want and has the strength to pursue his career over Brian.

Ted fights his crystal meth addiction at rehab and with the help of his friends and Blake. He has several different jobs such as accountant, adult website manager, singing waiter and success but falls into a depression. He has a few relationships and reconnects with Blake several times. Due to his self-esteem issues, Ted has plastic surgery to help love himself. He gets a job working for Brian and finds passion as an accountant and supervisor at Kinnetic.

Emmett has a string of casual relationships until Ted. He also finds a meaningful connection with Drew. He entertains a few careers such as retail, domestic help, adult entertainer but settles on event planner. He lives with Michael then Ted and finally Debbie and Carl. In the first series after a HIV scare, he joins a conversion therapy group and connects with a woman but they decided to be true to themselves.

Debbie constantly fights for gay rights and always stands up for her beliefs including at Justin’s school, against Stockwell and Proposition 14. She finds love with Carl and they move in together. She nurtures the men into accepting themselves and finding their place in the world. She often acts as a surrogate mother to Brian and takes Justin under her wing when his own father forbids his lifestyle.

Ben finds love with Michael and slowly comes to terms with his HIV status. He fights to keep Hunter as a foster son and make sure he is alright. After Hunter leaves town, Ben becomes depressed. He has Michael and the gang but not any of his own family. A student makes a play for him and he writes a book that gets rejected everywhere.

Melanie works hard as a lawyer and despite having a baby with Lindsay has an affair in the first series. She becomes a mother to Gus and JR. During her pregnancy, she has to stay on bed rest and this causes a lot of friction and subsequent breakup between her and Lindsay. She is always passionate for her rights and speaks of her grandfather who knew to leave Germany as a Jewish man in the 1930s.

Lindsay becomes a mother in the first episode. She initially leaves her teaching job at the university to be a stay at home mother but goes back to work at a gallery in Series 3. She almost marries a gay Frenchman in Series 1 as he needs a visa but after some serious intervention from Brian, she comes to her senses. In Series 4, she has an affair with a man, an artist having a show in her gallery. She then moves out with Gus to a small apartment and then into her parents house until she realises that they want her to be straight. Despite her affair with Sam and mentions of being with Brian in college, Lindsay does not identify as anything other than lesbian.

The End of the Series

Brian goes back to the club and reopens Babylon; Michael has Ben and they adopt Hunter. He lets JR go with Melanie and Lindsay to Toronto. Michael begins the last episode with a voice over like the first episode. A full circle moment. He still hangs out with Brian at the club. Justin leaves Brian and Pittsburgh to pursue art in New York; Ted ends up with Blake and is happy in his job at Kinnetic; Emmett lets Drew go and is happy with himself; Debbie is happy with Carl and Lindsay and Melanie move with Gus and JR to Toronto.

List of Favourite Quotes

  • “I’ve just seen the face of God. His name is Brian Kinney.” – Justin – 1×01
  • “If you don’t earn respect when you’re alive, you don’t deserve it when you’re dead.” – Brian – 1×19
  • “You’re Brian Kinney, for fuck’s sake!” – Michael – 1×22
  • “I’d run away screaming but its been a long day.” – Brian – 2×03
  • “Yeah, like I give a shit what God thinks about me. He’d better be worried what I think about him.” – Brian; “How do you figure that?” – Michael; “Well, in all this cold dead universe, we’re the only ones who know he exists, without us he’s nothing.” – Brian – 2×09
  • “Have some balls.” – Brian – 3×08
  • “Don’t be nervous.” – Lindsay; “If my heart rate was any lower, I’d be dead.” – Brian – 2×13
  • “It’s the most historic reunification since Germany.” – Ben – 3×09
  • “He has a boyfriend!” – Michael; “You do?” – Hunter; “In a non-defined, non-conventional way, yeah.” – Brian – 3×13
  • “Mourn the losses because they’re many but celebrate the victories because they’re few.” – Debbie – 3×14
  • “I’m queer, and to anyone who takes pity or offence, I say: judge yourself… This is who I am.” – Brian – 5×01
  • “Stop looking at the shell and see the pearl.” – Emmett – 5×02

Happy Watching,

Robyn

My culture fix – Inspired by The Times

My favourite author or book
Simon James Green writes great gay YA novels that I lap up.
Beauty Sleep is a recent favourite along with Red White and Royal Blue.

The book I’m reading

Any Way The Wind Blows by Rainbow Rowell. The third in the trilogy and it has recently come out. My edition has a great pink flowered edge. Lovely. I am lapping up the book but it is over 500 pages. Excited for the conclusion of beloved characters.

The book I wish I had written
Solitaire by Alice Oseman. The feelings and emotions of the main character spoke to me in such a way that it could have come from my own brain. I wish I had the talents to produce something as intimate and eviscerating.

The book I couldn’t finish
Dracula. Studied at school but I never made it past chapter 1. Thank goodness for the Internet.

The book I’m ashamed I haven’t read

To Kill A Mockingbird or Normal People. Both culturally significant and talked about. I did see the show of Normal People.

My favourite film
The Day After Tomorrow
An unusual favourite but shows my love for New York City and natural disaster films. I love the way people band together under extraordinary circumstances. I get a rush when this happens so chase the feeling on film and in life. I felt a thrill every time the fire alarm went off at university in the middle of the night or waiting for a teacher to turn up to a lesson. I am forever seeking this feeling.

My favourite play
I am more of a musical gal but I did enjoy the National Theatre Live production of Fleabag. I saw at the cinema and I can see why Phoebe Waller-Bridge launched her career off this one-woman show.

The box set I’m hooked on
Elité was a recent binge. I have a new thing for foreign language Netflix shows. I am also currently watching Modern Family and The Bold Type.

My favourite TV series
I loved The Wilds on Amazon Prime. I find myself drifting back to The Office along with Lost and Brooklyn 99.

My favourite piece of music
Sour by Olivia Rodrigo has been the only music on my radar lately. In particular brutal and jealousy, jealousy convey deep emotions. Such strong lyrics for someone so young.

The last film that made me cry
Black Widow. The thrill of seeing it in the cinema in London on a massive screen with some dear friends moved me to tears. The culmination of female superheroes and the journey for equality along with the resurrection of Natasha Romanoff. Albeit in a flashback.

The lyric I’d wish I’d written
Who I am if not exploited – brutal
I lost my mind, I spent the night, crying on the floor of my bathroom. You’re so unaffected I really don’t get it. – good 4 u.

Both from Sour and both speak to me.

The instrument I play
Piano and previously violin.

The instrument I wish I’d learnt
Guitar. Always looks so cool and sexy whenever someone can rock a song on the guitar. Think John Lennon or Brian May.

If I could own one painting
Anything by Mondrian or Jack Vettriano for my mum as he is her favourite artist.

The place I feel happiest
With my parents in their apartment. Especially in summer.

The movie I’m looking forward to
Dune with Timothée Chalamet. I would watch him do anything.

I wasted an evening watching…
The Euros final with England and Italy. Only the third football match I had ever seen and I watched it in case we won. Felt like a let down after the football did not come home as was promised.

The film I walked out on
I’ve never left the cinema but I did want to when seeing The House that Jack Built at Cannes 2018. Very disturbing by Lars Von Trier.

My guiltiest cultural pleasure
Queer as Folk US. An old show from 2000 but it got me through feeling under the weather earlier this year and inspired a collection of blog posts. It does have questionable ethics and depictions of the gay community but I love the characters and the plots so much.

Overrated
Love Island.

Underrated
The Wilds on Amazon. How is everyone not talking about this show?

Queer as Folk: Review Part 4

Vic’s death as a whole not only affected Debbie but also Brian and Hunter. Brian finds out upsetting health news just before Vic’s funeral and as he is wont to do, takes out his own emotions, especially anger on those closest to him, in this case Debbie. Brian struggles with dreams of joining Vic in heaven or hell but eventually comes to terms with his illness. Vic’s death served to remind Brian that even an apparently healthy man can be taken by an illness. Hunter was affected by Vic’s death because it is the first HIV-related death that he has been exposed to directly. Luckily, Ben realises this and helps Hunter realise that HIV does not automatically mean death and that he can live with the disease if he looks after himself. It was important to show that HIV was still very much a killer for gay men as up to this point in the show, HIV was not a death sentence and the characters with the illness appeared to be managing it well.

Hello Readers,

This is the fourth post of my Queer as Folk collection and I will be focusing on some of the hardships and struggles that the characters faced over the series. I have touched on a couple of these in my last post but this time instead of being bigger issues for the whole community, I am focusing on individual problems. All the problems I will be focusing on were in Series 4, not by design but because in Series 4, the characters have more struggles than the previous series. The writers really put the characters through it and I will be analysing what happened.

Once again, the post will be going over adult issues and more explicit content to fit along with the show so don’t read if you’re under 18 or do not want to read about mature content.

Despite the success of the election at the end of Series 3, the characters do not bask in the glow of the win for long. Brian is hit hard this series which was interesting to see as he has so far been a character with few worries or personal problems. Seeing such a dominating, powerful, unemotional character go through what he did humanised Brian and made him a little more vulnerable than he has been in past series. There are also a lot of relationship issues this series both romantic and familial. Melanie and Lindsay who have been solid since Melanie’s affair in the first series face big relationship issues along with Michael and Ben who up to this point had been steady since Series 2.

The first episode is framed by a performance from Shanda Leer, a local drag queen. It was an interesting narrative technique that led up to an attack on Darren after his performance as Shanda. This was the second homophobic attack of the show and this time on a character we have not seen previously. The attack triggers a response from Justin who was also attacked at the end of the first series. He wants to make things right and when he finds the Pink Posse, Justin thinks he has found a way to respond to Darren’s attack. Justin and Cody patrol Liberty Avenue looking for potential homophobes to apprehend. What starts as a vigilante group quickly descends into solving violence with violence. Cody becomes too hateful and starts attacking people for the slightest comment or even before they say anything. After a confrontation with Chris Hobbs, Justin’s attacker; Justin realises that injuring or killing someone won’t take away pain or hatred he feels towards them. It was a very emotional scene but Justin gained closure and understanding that love is better than hate.

Brian’s money troubles are present from the beginning of the series as a consequence from his actions at the end of Series 3. He was fired from Vanguard for trying to take down Stockwell and now has 100,000 dollars in debt to pay. Brian refuses to accept help initially as a matter of principle and pride. Since leaving home and becoming financially independent, Brian has never asked for money from anyone. He sees being in control as a way of proving himself to the world that he was not affected by his emotionally abusive childhood. When Brian loses his financial security, he tries to hide the struggle from his friends but they soon realise that Brian needs help. After raising money to help Brian with his debts, Brian accepts help for the first time in the show and it seems his life. This is a turning point for him and it shows the personal growth that Brian finally starts to exhibit. His pride takes a hit but he finally learns that people all need help sometimes.

One of the most heart-breaking moments of the series was when Debbie and Vic had an argument but before they could make up, Vic passed away. The two siblings were always very close and Debbie nursed Vic back to health when he was on the edge of death a few years before. Vic’s death was very sudden as he seemed to be getting better and had just moved in with his partner, Rodney. His death served to show that unexpected things happen all the time and just because someone may look physically fine, they still have HIV which can be deadly. Debbie does not take Vic’s death well as she would not be expected to but there is an added layer of self-blame and anger for how their last conversation ended. Gradually with help from Michael and a letter from Vic, Debbie manages to realise that Vic loved her and his last words were not his true feelings at all.

Vic’s death as a whole not only affected Debbie but also Brian and Hunter. Brian finds out upsetting health news just before Vic’s funeral and as he is wont to do, takes out his own emotions, especially anger on those closest to him, in this case Debbie. Brian struggles with dreams of joining Vic in heaven or hell but eventually comes to terms with his illness. Vic’s death served to remind Brian that even an apparently healthy man can be taken by an illness. Hunter was affected by Vic’s death because it is the first HIV-related death that he has been exposed to directly. Luckily, Ben realises this and helps Hunter realise that HIV does not automatically mean death and that he can live with the disease if he looks after himself. It was important to show that HIV was still very much a killer for gay men as up to this point in the show, HIV was not a death sentence and the characters with the illness appeared to be managing it well.

Series 4 brings one of the biggest hardships for any of the characters but especially Brian when he goes through being diagnosed with and then receiving treatment for testicular cancer. The cancer showed Brian that he wasn’t invincible but also brought him shame and caused him to pull away from his friends, especially Justin. Brian’s initial diagnosis by a doctor he met in the backroom of Babylon was humorous but also a plus for his lifestyle as he was obviously not checking for lumps himself. Brian is portrayed as untouchable, almost god-like especially in the sex department so to have testicular cancer which affected his ability to have sex was an extra twist of the knife. This storyline also served as a reminder for men to check for testicular cancer as even young and healthy men can be diagnosed. Lucky for Brian, his cancer had a high survival rate, especially after surgery and his sexual performance was not affected for very long. It was interesting to see how far Brian went to conceal his illness from Justin and his other friends, including telling them all that he was going to Ibiza when he was really going to hospital for surgery and recovery. He could not keep up the charade for long and eventually told Ted and Debbie. Justin found out from a voicemail and told Michael and the two became extremely worried which only aggravated Brian more. Michael explained it well to Justin that Brian sees himself as his sex appeal and was afraid that if he was not beautiful, untouchable Brian Kinney that Justin would leave him. Justin quickly put those fears to bed and made Brian accept help with his recovery. Brian receives the all clear in Series 5 and gets back to his usual sleeping around not too long after his treatment.

Ted has one of the hardest journey’s of the main characters in this series as he recovers from his crystal meth addiction. He is helped through rehab by Blake, Ted’s ex-boyfriend from Series 1. Ted took Blake to rehab for drug addiction at the end of Series 1 but Blake took off and Ted had not heard of him until they were reunited in rehab. Only this time, Ted is the patient and Blake is the sober one. Ted leans on Blake who is now a counsellor to get him through his dark time and when he leaves the programme, the two pick up where they left off. Ted becomes dependent on Blake during his recovery and the lines blur between counsellor and boyfriend. Blake makes the decision that it is best for both of them to part ways until Ted is in a better place with his recovery. Ted takes this hard but ultimately understands and he wants them to be together without drugs getting in the way. This was a mature decision for the couple and one that is not always taken by the characters but it appears that even when recovering from the worst place of his life, Ted still knows how to act emotionally mature.

Lindsay and Melanie have their relationship status challenged in Series 4 and 5 after Lindsay has an emotional and physical affair with a man. Lindsay and Melanie have been stable since Melanie’s one night affair in Series 1 and it was a surprise to see their relationship fall apart. Lindsay meets an artist, Sam who has a show in her gallery and he flirts with her even though he knows she is married and a lesbian. Lindsay initially is not interested but she starts to fall for Sam as he makes her excited about her own artwork and inspires her to draw again for the first time since college. Out of both Lindsay and Melanie, Lindsay is the one with more attraction towards men. In the past, she mentioned fancying Brian and even having relations with him when figuring out her sexuality. Lindsay even said she thought she would marry him. Lindsay is drawn towards Sam because he makes her feel talented and special and not like the married mother of one and another on the way with responsibilities and a mortgage. Lindsay sleeps with Sam and after confessing to Melanie, their marital problems begin that leads to a separation and custody battle for the baby.

Melanie and Lindsay decide to separate after being unable to get over their differences. Due to Melanie being pregnant, Lindsay stays in the house with her but they are not in a relationship anymore. Lindsay then moves to another apartment with Gus after Jenny Rebecca or JR is born. Her mother finds out and convinces her to move in with her parents but after being set up with a man, Lindsay leaves and lives with Melanie again but on a different floor of the house. They decide it is better for the children and makes it easier with the three way custody of JR. Melanie and Lindsay’s separation causes problems between Michael and Melanie and Brian and Lindsay as both donated their sperm and became JR and Gus’ fathers with the notion that they would be raised by a committed couple. Michael takes it especially hard as JR is only a baby and needs more attention.

Melanie is committed to bed rest in the final stages of her pregnancy which she struggles with, having always been very active in her work and social lives. She does try to follow the doctors advice but without Lindsay’s love and support she breaks the rules a couple of times. Once was to wave off the participants of the Liberty Ride and in full view of everyone. She insists she is fine and then has the baby a few days later, after the riders return. Luckily, JR is a healthy baby but it showed how stubborn Melanie can be and how she struggles to not work.

Ben and Michael who are the other stable couple in the show have problems after Ben is approached by a student looking to sleep with him. Ben is initially flattered by the attention and believes the student to simply be seeking knowledge on being a writer. Their conversation turns to the subject of Ben’s book, living with HIV and the student asks Ben to sleep with him and give him HIV. He is part of a group that see HIV as inevitable so seek to be infected as soon as they can. Ben is horrified by the man’s wishes and confesses them to Michael. Ben was tempted to sleep with the student as he hung out with him alone and accepted an invitation to a talk but he realises that he belongs with Michael and Hunter and he stays away after the student’s confession.

One hardship faced from Series 5 is the bullying that Hunter receives at school when his classmates find out his HIV status. When he had a girlfriend, he tells her that he is positive and her parents also find out. In Series 5, Hunter is in the swim team and when competing he hits his head on the side of the pool and starts bleeding in the water. His former girlfriend’s father then yells out that he has Aids which leads to everyone panicking. Afterwards, everyone at Hunter’s school avoids him or bullies him which leads to Hunter being ostracised and skipping school. Hunter then leaves Pittsburgh as he does not feel like he fits in anymore and cannot have a normal life. The reaction from Hunter’s classmates to HIV show how uneducated high schoolers were at the time to the causes and how HIV was transmitted. In the gay culture of Queer as Folk, the disease is something everyone understands and is aware of at all times but for children without any gay relatives/friends/people in their lives, they had little to no awareness of the disease.

One of the most visceral and heart-felt struggles was Brian trying to finish the Liberty Ride. He was told not to do it by his friends but as he does not like being told what to do, he trains in secret and insists on doing the race. He manages quite well until he shows off cycling with no hands to Michael and crashes into the road bank. He has broken collar bone and is advised to go to hospital but undeterred Brian carries on and manages to cycle one handed. This proves difficult and the effects of cancer on his body catch up with him. Michael hangs back with Brian at the end of the race and the two of them are the last to cross the line hours after everyone else. Ben, Hunter, Debbie and Justin wait for the pair into the night and after it has snowed. They eventually show up and Brian is obviously struggling, going very slowly and stopping frequently. Michael is by his side as he understands Brian’s need to show everyone that he is undefeatable and still the same Brian Kinney he was before he had cancer. Justin wants to go to Brian as soon as he sees him but Debbie tells him not to. Having practically raised Brian through his teenage years and into adulthood she understands how he has to complete the race himself and prove to himself also that his childhood did not affect him and he can be a strong, tough, gay man and not weak.

Analysis of Events

At the beginning of the Series, Brian is in serious credit card debt – $100,000 and has no job. He starts getting rid of his possessions to pay off some of the money but does not want to accept help from Justin or his other friends. After Justin tells everyone that Brian paid for the advert himself to defeat Stockwell, they throw a fundraiser for the ‘Concerned Citizens for the Truth’ and convince Brian to accept a cheque for around $80,000 on their behalf. While Brian keeps up the pretence of not being the one to defeat Stockwell, he accepts help. This is the first time we see Brian accept any form of help and he does so after almost selling the loft. This also helps bring Brian and Justin closer together as Brian is able to show Justin a vulnerable side that is not always all knowing and all powerful. Brian has been the richer of the two with a great job up until this point and when he becomes less powerful than Justin, he is able to see that they are more equal than he wanted to believe. They refer to themselves as partners and Brian tells Justin that he only wants him which is a big step for Brian in their relationship. Justin also refers to the first time they had sex as making love and Brian does not disagree or argue which shows another level of acceptance from Brian.

Earlier in the post I mentioned how Debbie, Brian and Hunter were affected by Vic’s death. They all had very different initial reactions which shows how grief can affect people in different ways. Debbie initially was in shock over his death and could not grieve properly. She went back to work at the diner to save up money to get Vic a massive angel statue as his headstone. After finding a letter from Vic that he had written a few years previously when he was on his death bed, Debbie decides to throw another Christmas. Her guilt over her argument with Vic and her interpretation of his letter lead to a big Christmas party in February. All the characters play along with Debbie as they understand that this is her way of coping. Debbie eventually breaks when the angel from the top of the tree falls off and smashes. With help from Rodney, Carl and the others Debbie makes peace with her guilt and begins to grieve in a healthier way.

Brian reacts with anger at Vic’s funeral and lashes out at Debbie saying that at least Vic had four more years. Brian does not usually let his emotions overcome him but his recent cancer diagnosis clouds his emotions and he unloads on Vic, fearing that he will be next. His outburst causes a rift between himself and Debbie but she forgives him after he tells her why he reacted with such anger. Ben and Hunter reacted with anxiety over Vic’s death. Hunter was affected more because as Ben put it to Michael, it is the first HIV related death he has seen. Hunter worries that his own life can be cut short but Ben reassures him that if he remains healthy then he will be fine for a while. Ben gets the chance to act as an authority figure to Hunter and we see why Hunter is in the right place with Ben and Michael. He has someone who has been though the same emotions and fears as he has and is still alive. Emmett reacted less with sadness and more annoyance over the loss of Vic in their party planning business. This is meant to alleviate the heavy grief from the others but it does present a real problem for Emmett and after finding a replacement in Shanda Leer/Darren, he does move on to other things.

Brian’s cancer affects Michael, Justin and Debbie in different ways. They are all used to seeing him as the immortal Brian Kinney with power and money. After Brian’s set back at the beginning of the Series with the loss of his job and debts, he appeared to have come out on top with the start of his own ad agency, Kinnetic. Michael reacts with emotion and worry for Brian’s life as he cannot imagine his life without Brian in it. After Justin tells Michael in confidence, Michael goes to Brian and after smoking pot together, Michael tearfully confesses that he knows. Justin accidentally hears a voicemail message from the hospital and calls them to find out more. He does not want to tell Brian that he knows and he understands how Brian is very private when it comes to his vulnerabilities. He questions Brian about Ibiza but does not push him. He then tries to help Brian by making him soup and being generally kind and loving. Brian initially does not want to accept help but after his discomfort gets worse, he lets Justin look after him. He thinks that Justin will leave him if his is not the perfect man he showed himself to be when they first met. Michael later explains this to Justin who makes sure Brian knows he’s loved not just for being a perfect sex god. Brian hates being ill or weak in any form and sees it as a failure. This comes from his own parents who never valued him. When letting Justin know that he knows, Brian refers to Justin as his boyfriend to his face for the first time ever which shows that Brian let down his walls enough to let his true feelings show. Debbie reacts as any mother would with sadness but also love. Brian’s own mother blames Brian’s sexuality for his cancer and reacts horribly so Brian seeks affection from Debbie who he thinks of as his surrogate mother.

The Liberty Ride was an interesting way to end the Series and it brought out different emotions and reactions in each of the characters. Ben decided that as he and Michael were in Canada, that they should get legally married. The two have an impromptu ceremony and even Brian who claims to hate marriage, finds them a cake. The wedding symbolises the commitment that Ben and Michael have to each other and sets up the plot for Series 5 where they start settling down along with Justin, Debbie and Carl and Emmett. Ted worries about how he will cope on the Liberty Ride without his NA meetings. Emmett promises to help him through it and they set off to find a meeting on the way back. The two end up lost for the night and Emmett creates a meeting for Ted in a field. This shows that Emmett has forgiven Ted for how their relationship ended and it brings Emmett more understanding of addiction and Ted’s struggle. Emmett was hurt terribly by Ted’s treatment of him and this is the first time we see the two get back to their old friendship.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

Queer as Folk: Review Part 3

One storyline that I think many LGBT viewers would have related to especially at the time when there were no laws protecting them was being outed at work or school. Michael was the most afraid of this at his job at the Big Q. He had witnessed his colleagues making fun of gay people and as an assistant manager, he did not want to be ridiculed or bullied for being gay. He even pretended to date a fellow co-worker at an event because he couldn’t bring his boyfriend. When Michael starts his own business, he no longer has this fear and even creates a provocative gay comic that he sells out of his shop. Brian is someone who also keeps his sexuality a discreet part of himself at work but not in the same way as Michael. Brian is happy to hook up with potential clients to seal the deal and his assistant, Cynthia knows the truth but he does not throw it around and particularly to his boss. He often says if he is not having sex with someone then they don’t need to know.

Hello Readers,

This is the third instalment of my Queer as Folk collection. This post will delve into some of the themes that the show depicted and how they used their platform to bring awareness to sexuality-specific problems. Many audience members will have seen the characters going through these struggles and felt seen and heard. They could have related to the themes and taken advice and comfort from how the storylines worked out. Of course, many of the themes are still present in society today and while they do not affect me directly, it is great to see that they were being spoken about when being gay on television was a rarity in itself.

As always and specifically in this post, adult content will be discussed so only read if you are over 18.

Series 3 – Introduction of Themes, the character of Hunter and Analysis of Events

Introduction of Themes

Throughout the five series, many controversial and difficult issues are faced by the gang at Liberty Avenue and it was amazing to see these being discussed on a television show from 20 years ago. America did not have a great attitude towards LGBT people especially from the government and many religious groups. It was ground-breaking to see such themes discussed so broadly and seriously but still in a way that made the programme enjoyable.

One of the main themes discussed particularly from Series 2 when Ben joins the main cast is HIV. This was an epidemic that affected gay men for many years. In the programme, Ben is HIV positive and this initially causes a big rift between Ben and Michael when Michael’s friends and his mother are concerned for his safety. Ben reassures Michael that he is not seriously ill and with medicine and healthy practices, he keeps in reasonably good health. This is not always the case for Ben or for Vic who has been living with HIV for years at the beginning of the series. He is older than Ben and is in worse health. Despite almost dying just before the timeline of the pilot, Vic is relatively well until his death in Series 4. It showed that despite advances in HIV medication, people could still die even in 2004. The issue becomes more serious when Hunter learns he has HIV at such a young age. Emmett goes through a major scare with a HIV test and after learning he is negative, he tries to become heterosexual. This shows how afraid men were to catch the disease.

Another of the major themes is the homophobia that most of the characters face from relatives, co-workers, strangers and others. Justin is a victim of homophobia from his father when he is told to become heterosexual or leave his house for good. We do not see his father again apart from one incident in Series 4 when he has Justin arrested for protesting. Justin is also the victim of a homophobic attack by a student at his school at the end of Series 1. The student was a closeted gay man as was evidenced by a moment he shared with Justin. He has internalised homophobia about his own feelings and when he saw Justin with Brian at the prom, he was provoked into violence. Gay bashing was something that many people were victims of and still are today by others who are jealous or simply hate them for being themselves.

There was a storyline in Series 4 where Justin joins a gay vigilante group, the Pink Posse who want to patrol the streets protecting gay people from attacks from straight people. Justin believes he is getting revenge for an attack on Darren, a drag queen and revenge for his own attack but after seeing his fellow gang member openly attacking people first for the slightest comment or sometimes unprovoked he knows that violence is not the answer when stopping gay hate crimes. When he is brought face to face with his attacker, Chris Hobbs he understands that killing him would not reverse events or get rid of his anger or pain.

Brian’s family are not supportive of his sexuality and he chose to keep his distance for other reasons but after they find out in Series 1; Brian rarely sees his mother or sister. Brian’s nephew accuses Brian of molesting him which was not true. Fortunately it was disproved but this shows the lengths that some people, even relatives went to when trying to get someone discredited, simply for their sexuality. Brian’s mother blames Brian’s cancer on his sexuality which causes him to call her out for her homophobic beliefs.

The show is always showing safe sex between the characters and any acts taken place without protection are not condoned by any of the main characters. This is an important aspect as while the characters sleep around with many men, they are always careful especially Brian who is the most promiscuous of them all. He makes it a point to always use a condom. Justin brings up safe sex on their first night together and while he won’t have been taught about gay sex, he has heard of the need for protection even between two men. Hunter also brings up the issue of safe sex after Michael and Ben find out he does not use condoms when hustling. Before they convince him to stop, they successfully get him to use condoms.

Many of the characters in the show are parents whether biologically or through marriage/partnership. In the pilot episode we are introduced to the parenting trio of Lindsay, Melanie and Brian. Brian provided a sperm donation so Lindsay could carry a child for herself and Melanie to be parents. Brian initially only wants to be a donor and agrees to give up his parental rights but he then becomes attached to Gus and visits him. Throughout the series, the three of them go through challenges as parents but mostly they all make the right decisions for Gus. When Melanie wants to carry their second child, she chooses Michael as the father which causes many problems and a custody hearing between Lindsay, Melanie and Michael. This is the other side and an issue with three parent adoption. It was interesting to see both sides of same-sex parenting. Debbie is the only parent of the characters who is a main cast member. She acts like a parent to all of the gang and is the perfect supportive mother for a gay man. She can be over the top sometimes but has always been supportive of Michael’s sexuality and has helped him become more comfortable with his identity.

Michael and Ben become foster parents and parents to Melanie and Michael’s baby. They go into fostering unconventionally when they vow to take care of a young hustler when he starts working outside their building. It takes them a few years and a few times to get Hunter to accept himself as their son but with support and care from Ben and Michael, he goes back to school and starts to experience normal teenage life. He even gets a girlfriend and takes part in school activities. This was a positive example of how gay parents can be good foster parents.

During the course of the show, politics is a very important topic, particularly as at the time in the US, the government and many politicians were against gay rights and same-sex marriage. With the Stockwell storyline, the characters go through a cultural change and a repression of their rights in Pittsburgh. It is on a smaller scale than the Presidential Election but as it directly impacts the Liberty Avenue community, it feels very important. Many of the characters protest against Stockwell with Justin creating posters opposing him; Debbie along with Brian, Justin and Hunter tries to find out how Stockwell is covering up the murder of a gay boy. Brian is working on Stockwell’s campaign and initially he is with Stockwell as he doesn’t realise how anti-gay Stockwell is but slowly with the closure of gay clubs and establishments and the presence of police on the streets, Brian realises that Stockwell has to be stopped. He tries to work from the inside but is caught with evidence against him. This plotline showed how even smart men like Brian can be carried along by great politicians and sometimes it takes a while to wake up to how a politician that does not share cultural or societal similarities with you can impact your life.

Another political storyline is Proposition 14. This was not a real bill at the time but rather is based on Proposition 6 that failed to pass in the 1978 election in California. In Queer as Folk, the law is trying to limit the rights of gay people by not allowing them to have joint bank accounts, mortgages, adopt or be together in any legal way. If passed it would affect all of the gay citizens in Pennsylvania. While not all of the gang on Liberty Avenue were living with someone or in a serious relationship, they all felt the impact and the potential directions their lives could take would be diminished. This storyline happens in Series 5 and the bill does pass but we do not see the full effects as it is close to the end of the show. One big change was Lindsay and Melanie moving to Toronto as they had more rights as a same-sex couple and could even marry legally. Throughout Series 5, we see the characters going to different houses and asking people to vote no to Proposition 14, protesting in the streets, fundraising and Justin even got arrested for protesting outside his father’s store. Michael originally does not want to publicly show his support after his shop is vandalised but he soon realises that he has to stand with his partner and community. It is good that the show depicted different points of view as not every gay person like Michael would have been comfortable to publicly condone the initiative for fear of retaliation.

Another big storyline in the show is the issues and consequences of drug use. Initially, it is shown as something that the cool characters do such as Brian getting high in the pilot and Michael and Brian often smoking weed but we also see the dangers of drug abuse. This is an issue particularly in the LGBT community amongst those who like to party. It was interesting to see the changes in drugs as now weed is legal but at the time, it was seen as something more risky to do. Justin has a small storyline in Series 2 where he is invited to a party and drugged. Although this storyline was upsetting, I am pleased that it was included to show the dangers of partying and how even being around drugs and not consciously taking them can be dangerous.

Ted has the most important drug related storyline with his crystal meth addiction. At the start of Series 1, he is drugged by a hook-up and ends up in a coma. This definitely deters him from that lifestyle for a few years but after his arrest and the collapse of his successful business in Series 3, he is lured over to crystal use. It was easy to understand how Ted fell into his depression and couldn’t resist trying to feel better again. When his drug use started to affect his relationship with Emmett and his friends, he started to cut them off as he felt he couldn’t give up the drugs. Eventually he goes to rehab and starts the recovery process but it is not instant and he is still going to meetings at the end of the show. He also reconnects with Blake several times at different stages of their drug use. In Series 1, Blake accidentally put Ted in a coma but Ted meets him again and tries to help him by taking Blake to rehab. When Ted himself is in rehab at the end of Series 3, he meets Blake again who is now clean and a counsellor. They get together again but don’t make it work until reconnecting a final time at the end of Series 5. The difference between Blake in Series 1 and 3/4/5 was a contrast and it shows how seemingly sane people can become addicts.

One storyline that I think many LGBT viewers would have related to especially at the time when there were no laws protecting them was being outed at work or school. Michael was the most afraid of this at his job at the Big Q. He had witnessed his colleagues making fun of gay people and as an assistant manager, he did not want to be ridiculed or bullied for being gay. He even pretended to date a fellow female co-worker at an event because he couldn’t bring his boyfriend. When Michael starts his own business, he no longer has this fear and even creates a provocative gay comic that he sells out of his shop. Brian is someone who also keeps his sexuality a discreet part of himself at work but not in the same way as Michael. Brian is happy to hook-up with potential clients to seal the deal and his assistant, Cynthia knows the truth but he does not flaunt it, particularly to his boss. He often says if he is not having sex with someone then they don’t need to know.

Ted has a more unfortunate situation where he is found watching gay porn at work and is fired. At first he believes it is because he was gay as all his colleagues watch porn as well but his boss tells him it was for using the Internet and even tells Ted that he is free to explore his passions. Justin is a victim of bullying at school by various fellow students but particularly Chris Hobbs. At the time, there was no education about gay sex or even how to treat LGBT people as equals so many students said mean and derogatory things to Justin pertaining to his sexuality. This caused many issues for Justin and culminated in an almost life-threatening injury from which he thankfully recovered.

Hunter is an important character who we are introduced to this series. He is witty, cheeky and often very straightforward with his desires. With Ben and Michael’s help he stops hustling and goes back to school where he does well apart from an incident during a swim meet. He even gets time to understand his true sexuality and has a girlfriend. Hunter is HIV positive like Ben and he is glad to have Ben as a role model for how to handle the virus. Although he does leave Ben and Michael a couple of times, he finds his way back and is accepted into their family.

Analysis of Events

One incident that happened early on in Series 3 involved Brian’s nephew accusing Brian of molesting him. While paedophilia and child molesting is a prevalent problem especially in religious circles; Brian’s nephew, John was using Brian’s sexuality as a weapon against him. He was only 12 but after being surrounded by his mother and grandparents who were all very homophobic, he thought that he could get Brian arrested. It was a response to Brian catching him stealing his money and dunking his head in the toilet. John did not have any positive experiences with Brian and did not see him as a valued member of his family. While John’s behaviour was wrong and he was able to think for himself, his environment and family beliefs were a big part in his accusation. Luckily, Brian is not arrested and because John also took his bracelet that had his initials on, it was disproven. This event showed how law enforcement was quick to believe John despite Brian being the adult with a good job and no previous record that we know. This crime is one more tailored towards the gay community as many people believe that all gay people are perverts and are quick to jump to any conclusions whereas they would not believe an accusation made from a girl to a man or a boy to a woman.

We are introduced to the more problematic side of gay sex with the character of Hunter. He works the streets as a hustler despite being only 15 and the age of consent at the time in Pennsylvania being 16. Despite this he sleeps with many men usually without protection for money. The men that use hustlers are often not out as gay and have to hide their sexuality or they are perverts that want to sleep with underage boys. Hunter was forced into the lifestyle by his mother and he claims to enjoy it. When he comes out as straight and dates a girl, we know that he was only doing it as he had no other choice. He was sexualised at an early age so he didn’t consider whether he wanted to have sex with men. Hustling is not condoned by any of the gang and seen as a crime to sleep with any of the boys. Hunter puts his skills to use when Brian and Justin start investigating the death of a young hustler in Series 3.

Brian has strong character development in Series 3 after he chooses morality and his friends over money. Before meeting Stockwell, Brian was happy to work with any brands as long as they paid him well. Initially, he does not mind Stockwell as he sees him as a legitimate candidate and a way to make money. After his community starts protesting, his point of view changes and Stockwell fires him. When Stockwell closes the sordid establishments that Brian likes to frequent, it is the last straw for him. He secretly works against Stockwell by helping Justin print his posters and organise a protest at a talk by Stockwell. When Brian fears that Stockwell will win, he uses his advertising expertise and creates an advert about Stockwell’s cover-up of the hustler found dead in a dumpster. He pays for it to be on television himself when Stockwell’s opponent won’t run it. This shows how Brian sacrificed everything – his job, money, possessions and emotionless nature to take down Stockwell and restore harmony on Liberty Avenue.

A main storyline was Ted’s dissent into depression and drugs. Ted is usually a character that takes things in his stride. After he was fired from his job as an accountant, he built his own business and became successful even though it took him some time. I think it was the loss of his new life with Emmett and his arrest being in the newspapers that created shame for Ted. He felt that he was not deserving of living in a nice neighbourhood with Emmett so started to doubt himself. When he found temporary happiness with crystal meth, he clung on it tightly and became addicted. When he had nothing else, he knew he could find joy and feel beautiful when on drugs. Addicts often fall into drug use after a difficult period or with mental health problems, both of which Ted suffered.

Justin and Michael’s comic, Rage often reflects the real events in their lives such as Justin’s gay bashing and the villain based on Stockwell. This time, Brian modelled his actions on Rage, his superhero counterpart. Justin gives Brian the idea to save the city when he says ‘If only there were a real life Rage.’ Brian knows that he is the only one of his friends that has the power, connections and money to pull off the advert. He choses to sacrifice everything like Rage would to create a better life for his friends and community.

The final episode of Series 3 uses some different narrative techniques than we have seen in the show up to this point. The episode opens on a couple we have not seen before walking down the street. They are chatting about this and that but when they pass two policemen, they both look unsettled and afraid and the colour turns to black and white. We then see Brian and Justin walking along. Brian has a different attitude to authority and enjoys riling up the cops by kissing Justin in front of them and miming having sex. Justin also says the phrase, “It’s like the Wizard of Oz in reverse” which is exactly what happens with the colours. This is a rare example of the editing and colours of the show matching a specific line. At the end, after the characters all start partying in the streets, someone waves a pride flag across the screen that turns to colour and the colours come back again from black and white to red and and gradually all the colours. There are only two scenes in black and white but it is nod to Justin’s line and the tone of the episode. Also in the streets, we see the couple from the beginning making out. It is very subtle but a great call back to the beginning. The series ends on Justin and Brian embracing showing that love won that battle.

My next post will be about the hardships the group face as individuals and the events of Series 4.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

Queer as Folk: Review Part 2

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.

Hello Readers,

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

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.

Family

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.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

Queer as Folk: Review and Breakdown of the American Iteration – Part 1

Brian who has never had a boyfriend or even the same man twice becomes attached to Justin and lets him into his life in ways he has never done before. He sleeps with him multiple times and even lets him stay with him for a few weeks. Brian sees part of himself in Justin after meeting his father. While Brian’s father does not know his is gay, he was emotionally abusive and told Brian that he never wanted children. When Justin is kicked out by his father and told he has a disgusting lifestyle, Brian knows that Justin should not be in that environment or he may turn out emotionally scarred like Brian. One of the reasons that Brian never forms romantic attachments is that he is scared of becoming too reliant on someone and have them leave. He lets Justin in as Justin loves him unconditionally which no other man apart from Michael has ever done.

Yes it’s sex which for the time was ground-breaking but it also showed gay and lesbian people as multi-faceted with complex lives and relationships. The main characters were vastly different and all exhibit different traits and occasionally stereotypes. As the show was first broadcast over 20 years ago in the year 2000, attitudes towards LGBT people have changed but in the show, we see more discrimination and different words used than we have in today’s society. As well as the show being set in America, the world of Queer as Folk US is more gay-central and at times more anti-heterosexual than the UK version.

This is the first post in a collection I am doing about the show. Each post will cover a different aspect of the show and an analysis of some key moments of that series. This first post covers an introduction of the main characters and an analysis of key events from Series 1.

As a warning, the show contains a lot of adult content and nudity and I will be writing about that so please do not read if you are under 18 or do not want to read about more explicit content.

Series 1 – Introduction of the Characters and Analysis of Events

This is the first series of Queer as Folk and the storylines closely follow the British series but expand and add narrative arcs. The plot becomes completely original by the end of this series and we see the characters explore things beyond their British counterparts. In the first episode, Michael introduces us to his friends: Ted, Emmett and Brian. We also meet Justin, Melanie and Lindsay.

We learn that Michael is the self-appointed boy-next-door. He is kind and mild-mannered but passionate and loyal. We see a flair of temper after he discovers Brian’s Jeep was vandalised in his care. Michael does not get a lot of action but still attracts the odd one night stand. They do not always end well and we see that Michael is more comfortable in a monogamous relationship. This is demonstrated by his partnership with David in Series 1 and later with Ben. Michael is also not very ambitious and accepts his place as an Assistant Manager at The Big Q. He goes along with dating fellow co-worker Tracy to land a promotion after acknowledging that to get ahead he has to be seen with a woman. Michael follows his passion and becomes the owner of his own comic book store and even starts his own comic, Rage with Justin.

Ted is smart and caring and the more cultured older one of the group. Ted is like Michael in the way that he is looking for a stable relationship but struggles to attract men for more than a momentary connection. He also has crippling self-doubt and does not value himself much which gets in the way of looking for a boyfriend. Ted is an accountant but he does not enjoy his monotonous work and spends much of his time on the phone to his friends or looking at porn websites. He branches out into running his own porn site after being fired. His love of opera leads him to briefly becoming a singing waiter but he eventually works for Brian’s ad agency as an accountant.

Emmett is the ‘queen’ of the group and the one who is most ‘obviously’ gay. He works at a fashion store on Liberty Avenue and dresses very colourfully with bright, outrageous clothes. Emmett has a very sweet nature that others sometimes take for granted. He talks often of his childhood in Hazelhurst, Mississippi and his Aunt Lula. Emmett also lives with Michael and continues to live in his apartment when Michael moves out to be with David. Emmett goes through a few jobs as a porn star, a domestic helper and eventually starts his own party planning business with Michael’s Uncle Vic.

Justin is artistic and romantic and wears his heart on his sleeve. He quickly learns how to be a gay man on Liberty Avenue and after his bashing, he becomes more mature and less dramatic. Justin is in high school and then goes to college to study art. He also illustrates Rage and works on the film in the art department in Hollywood. Justin moves out to live with Debbie and Vic and works at the Liberty Diner during high school and college.

Brian is cold-hearted and sleeps with many men. He cares deeply for Michael, Justin and the others but struggles to show his emotions for fear of not appearing in control or powerful. Brian loves expensive clothes and has a loft filled with designer furniture. He is often quick-witted and possessive over Michael. Brian is an ad executive for Vanguard. He makes partner but is then fired and starts his own company, Kinnetic.

Lindsay is sensible and mothering and she grew up with money. She is an art teacher at the university and goes on maternity leave for a year to raise Gus. She starts working at at art gallery in Series 2 and starts her own art once again. She has a deep friendship with Brian from their college days and always forgives him. She can be uptight sometimes but knows how to let loose.

Melanie is a lawyer who helps the group in many cases. She is daring and adventurous and more stereotypically ‘butch’ with her hobbies and strong personality but she can be soft and emotional too. She dislikes Brian at first and blames him for trying to come between herself and Lindsay. She also has a friendship with Ted as they both enjoy the arts.

Debbie is Michael’s mother and is very supportive of her son and his friends. She works at the Liberty Diner and never shies away from making suggestive comments. She is passionate in her love for Michael and her brother, Vic. She is very caring and is the unofficial mother of the boys, often lending an ear to Brian, taking in Justin and sending food to anyone who needs it. Debbie can sometimes be too overbearing and does not do well on her own.

Vic is a character we often see with Debbie whether at their house or at the local bar, Woody’s. He has HIV and is slowly recovering from a recent string of illnesses in Series 1. He can be cheeky just like Debbie and likes to party. He is an amazing chef and becomes partners with Emmett in his party planning business.

Analysis of Events

Michael has always held a candle for Brian since they met at age 14. In the first series, Michael still holds these feelings and relishes any time spent together and any friendly kisses the two share. When he dates David, his feelings for Brian and Brian himself come between them. Michael initially rejects David’s offer to move in together as he thinks he will never see his friends or go out clubbing again but after Brian’s harsh words at Michael’s birthday, Michael moves in with David as he thinks he has broken ties with Brian. It is almost in retaliation to Brian who never approved of Michael having a steady relationship and wants to keep him as a child. Debbie instantly knows why Brian outed Michael to Tracy and she thanks him later for finally letting him go. Brian knows he did the right thing for Michael but he still takes it badly. Debbie notes that Brian could not push him away gently and Brian agrees that Michael would have followed him around forever. Michael eventually forgives Brian like he always does and Brian once again gets between himself and David.

Emmett tries to ‘see the light’ in this series which appears very out of character for him. He does so in a reaction to a HIV scare and feels he has to honour a promise he made to God. It is the relief of being diagnosed negative that propels Emmett to try and become straight to never face that scare again. It is an understandable response to the situation but Emmett realises that he cannot live in fear and deny his true identity. Despite the risks of infection out there, he does not want to become someone he is not.

Ted harbours a secret crush on Michael that he feels relates him to Michael because of Michael’s love for Brian. Ted thinks of them as similar because Michael also doubts himself and whether he is worthy of love but when Ted confronts Michael, he does not get the answer he wanted. Ted uses his secret love for Michael as an excuse to never find a boyfriend but eventually realises that having an unrequited crush is not healthy and he tries to find a real relationship.

Brian who has never had a boyfriend or even the same man twice becomes attached to Justin and lets him into his life in ways he has never done before. He sleeps with him multiple times and even lets him stay with him for a few weeks. Brian sees part of himself in Justin after meeting his father. While Brian’s father does not know his is gay, he was emotionally abusive and told Brian that he never wanted children. When Justin is kicked out by his father and told he has a disgusting lifestyle, Brian knows that Justin should not be in that environment or he may turn out emotionally scarred like himself. One of the reasons that Brian never forms romantic attachments is that he is scared of becoming too reliant on someone and then they leave. He lets Justin in as Justin loves him unconditionally which no other man apart from Michael has ever done.

Melanie has an affair with another woman because Lindsay pulls away from her when she decides to take a year off. There was a balance between them but now Melanie hardly sees Gus and works all day whereas Lindsay gets to be with him all the time. Melanie wants to talk about everything as she did growing up and Lindsay wants to pretend everything is alright and not talk about their issues as she did growing up. Both are a product of their upbringing. Brian helps them to work things out by giving up his parental rights enabling Melanie to become a second parent.

My next post will be covering Series 2 and the key relationships between the characters.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

TV Shows I’ve been watching this month

Hello readers,

As lockdown is easing gradually in the UK and life hopefully will be returning to its pre-pandemic state, cinemas will be opening and production will increase. However, we are not quite there yet and this month I have been mainly watching television programmes that I find comfort in and sticking to old favourites. With real life becoming more exciting soon, maybe my watching habits will as well. The five shows I am going to write about in this post are all ones that have been in my life in some form for a while. For example while WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are new shows they are a continuation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the 23 films that culminated in Avengers: Endgame in 2019. Both of these shows pick up after Endgame and focus on some heroes who have not had their own films.

Shameless US – Netflix

I first became aware of this show around a year ago through a friend. I was introduced through the characters of Ian and Mickey and their ground-breaking relationship. For me they have been a great example of a romance that is not conventional or stereotypically confined by their sexuality. The show as a whole is set in Southside Chicago where every character has to fight for survival.

Shameless centres around the Gallagher family, the same as the UK version which this version is based upon but that is where the similarities stop plot wise. The family is headed by eldest sister, Fiona who is 21 in the first season. She has been raising her siblings since she was young and officially since she was 16 and her mother ran off from the family for good. Next is Lip, short for Philip, the smartest in the family with a high IQ who is 16 in season 1. Then there is Ian who is gay and has set his sights on the military by attending a junior cadet programme. He is 15 in season 1. After Ian comes Debbie, she is determined and is the only one of the Gallagher clan to still love her father. After her is Carl, a reckless kid with his heart in the right place. The youngest Gallagher is Liam, who is a baby in season one and somehow black with two white parents. Frank Gallagher is their father who is more interested in money, drugs and creating social change than his kids.

The show follows their lives and all the ups and downs. Other main characters are Kevin and Veronica who live near the Gallaghers and have formed a close bond with Fiona. Kevin works at the Alibi, the local bar and V works as a nurse at a care home. Other notable characters from season one are Karen and Sheila Jackson who become involved with the Gallaghers and Mickey and Mandy Milkovich. Mandy is Ian’s best friend and he meets Mickey through her.

I am up to Season 8 of the show but all together there are 11 seasons with the final season (11) being shown on television currently. Only 9 are on Netflix but hopefully the newer ones will be added soon. While this show is definitely for adults with lots of swearing, nudity and drugs; there is a lot of heart and every character goes through an amazing journey with hardships and successes.

WandaVision

The first venture for Marvel into television form with Kevin Feige helming the shows. WandaVision follows the story after Endgame as mentioned above. We are introduced to a new agency, S.W.O.R.D who have taken over from S.H.I.E.L.D as the governing body associated with superheroes and the Avengers. A phenomenon occurs when the town of Westview is trapped in a forcefield that no-one can penetrate. At the centre is Wanda Maximoff living as a 1950s housewife with her husband, Vision, who fans will know perished in Infinity War at the hands of Thanos.

Wanda’s life is now in black and white with a cast of friends and co-workers and a laugh track. As her life moves through the decades into the 1960s, 70s and 80s; we learn why Wanda is living out sitcoms from different decades.

What makes this show unique is that WandaVision completely inhabits the techniques and styles of every television decade including the special effects and props of the time. This show is a continuation of Wanda and Vision’s story in the Marvel Universe and we learn more about Wanda’s life pre-Avenger but it is also an homage to the great American sitcoms of the last 70 years.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier

This show is also in the Marvel Universe but unlike WandaVision, it is more similar to the Marvel spectacles we are used to from the MCU. The show is being released weekly and only two episodes have been streamed so far but the story is beginning to take shape.

In the show, we see Sam Wilson or ‘Falcon’ and Bucky Barnes or ‘The Winter Soldier’ in the months after Endgame where the world is trying to adjust to half the population suddenly appearing again. Sam is still working for the government as a contractor with his Falcon technology and Bucky has gone down a more solitary path. He lives alone in New York as a newly pardoned contract killer. Apart from his therapy sessions and missions to make his past wrongs right, he doesn’t have much to do with the Avengers.

A new threat appears in the form of Karli Morgenthau and her crew. They are dedicated to making the world how it was before everyone came back. Terror attacks have been threatening the population around the globe so Sam persuades Bucky to team up once again. What really convinces him is the debut of a new Captain America. John Walker is as close to a super soldier as he can be, without the serum but Sam who gave up the shield, definitely does not approve.

Bucky is still attached to his life long friend, Steve Rogers and together Sam and Bucky get back into the action. So far we have had an episode on a back story for both Sam’s family in New Orleans and more of Bucky’s past and a second with some action scenes between the pair. One delight of the series to audiences is the comedy between them. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan have had great comic chemistry since their interviews together for Captain America: The Winter Soldier back in 2014 and this series has amped up their natural back and forth to their on screen characters. A particular favourite scene is when Sam and Bucky are made to go through couple’s therapy with Bucky’s therapist.

Another element that I applaud Marvel for showing is race inequality. Sam as a black man gave up the Captain America mantle but then it was given to another white man. There is also a very pivotal scene where Bucky tries talking to another super soldier who was given the serum like him. This man was treated differently to Bucky however as he is black. After this revealing conversation, Sam is questioned by a passing policeman for arguing with Bucky and until Bucky tells the officer that Sam is an Avenger and a hero, Sam faces arrest.

Love, Victor

This show has been out for a while but I am watching it weekly on Disney Plus. It is based on the film Love, Simon that debuted in 2018 which is based on a book by Becky Albertalli. I loved the film of Love, Simon and the representation and awareness it brought to young adult audiences from a major studio. Love, Victor is in the same universe as Love, Simon but picks up the story from another point of view. Victor Salazar has just moved to Creekwood, Atlanta with his family and starts at the school where Simon went. He has some trouble adjusting to a more open and accepting society and trying to work out his own feelings so he messages Simon online for advice. This starts a dialogue between the two which is presented as a voice over from the original actor, Nick Robinson.

While Simon’s story was not easy, he was from a liberal white background whereas Victor’s family are Latino and religious. They also are not as open as Victor would hope so he has trouble even processing his feelings, let alone telling his family. He starts dating a fellow student, Mia and gets along well with her but he has an attraction to his co-worker, Benji who is openly gay and has a boyfriend.

I thought this show was a good twist on the point of view that studios normally show of a supportive and accepting family. Victor’s family is very close but he still fears their reaction. I am up to Episode 7 out of 10 and Season 2 is already confirmed so I will see how Victor’s story plays out.

Taskmaster

This show is one of my favourite game shows on TV as the format is never boring and all the contestants are comedians that I like. The aim of the game is to complete the tasks and then be judged by the Taskmaster to receive a maximum of five points. The winner of each episode gets to take home all the prize tasks. The show is currently on Series 11 and has had two episodes aired.

This series the contestants are Lee Mack, Jamali Maddox, Sarah Kendall, Mike Wozniak and Charlotte Ritchie. Each contestant pre-records their tasks with the help of Alex Horne, the Taskmaster’s Assistant at the Taskmaster house or sometimes on location around the area. The tasks can be creative, fun, tricky, challenging and really put people to the test. Many people complete the tasks in a unique and funny way which makes for great entertainment. The other entertaining part is watching the Taskmaster’s reaction in the studio and see the contestants plead their case for points.

This show does not need to be seen in order and I would recommend starting from series 4 or 5 as that is when the show really hits its stride.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

My Thoughts on Christmas TV shows

The show centres around Johanne, a 30-year-old nurse. She attends her family’s annual December 1st celebrations and when receiving many questions about her love life and lack of boyfriend, Johanne invents a boyfriend and has until Christmas Eve to find one. I think this premise works really well in Norway as December 1st is not a traditional family gathering in the UK or US so there would have to be another reason for the family to get together.

Hello readers,

It has been a strange and stressful year for most of us and I have not been watching as many Christmas films as of late but I have been watching and re-watching some Christmas TV shows. Before Christmas 2019, I did not think that television shows dedicated to Christmas were a genre but they have been popping up on Netflix and I have been watching. It’s a great way to get a short half-hour burst of festive content without dedicating 90 minutes or more to a film.

Merry Happy Whatever (2019)

This was the first and only series I saw in 2019 and kicked off the genre on Netflix for me. If you’re looking to watch something comforting and family-orientated, then Merry Happy Whatever should definitely be on your bucket list. It centres around the Quinn family and their family celebrations over the Christmas period. The main focus of the clan is Emmy who is the only sibling to have moved away from under her father’s thumb. She is also the youngest and this year is bringing her boyfriend, Matt to Christmas in Philadelphia from their home in Los Angeles. While there are some ups and downs during the get together, nothing terrible happens so this is also suitable for kids, especially those with short attention spans as every episode comes in around the 30 minute mark.

The show does have some Disney Channel vibes as there is no swearing or violence and although the dialogue is a little cheesy I think the show has real heart; a great diverse cast showing how American families truly are. Each of the siblings go on their own journey through the show and Emmy (played by Bridgit Mendler, a Disney Channel alum) gets to see that her family aren’t as picture perfect as she once thought and her father sees that he should not try and control his adult kids.

There are a couple of other familiar faces including another Disney alum, Ashley Tisdale and Dennis Quaid as Don Quinn, the patriarch of the family. It’s a nice change of pace to see a show set in a lesser shown city in America but you don’t get to see much of Philadelphia as the show is all shot on a stage or using only half a room to create the impression that it is all staged. Think of other US comedies like Friends or How I Met Your Mother and you get the idea.

Overall, I think the show did a great job at being one of the first shows to focus solely on Christmas and you never get caught up around the festivities too much as there are so many other plotlines that the holiday is more of a backdrop with an excuse for activities and the family gathering together. I watched this show last year and then again this year. It’s an easy watch and all of the actors make you feel relaxed and at home with just enough Christmas spirit.

Home for Christmas (2019-)

This show actually premiered in 2019 but I didn’t notice it until this year. With a second season dropping this December, Netflix must have been promoting it more. This show is a Norwegian original, set in Oslo, although this is never explicitly stated. I watched with subtitles as I’m sure most people will but it didn’t distract me from the humour or heart of the show. There are some genuinely laugh out loud moments in both series of the show along with romance and joy.

The show centres around Johanne, a 30-year-old nurse. She attends her family’s annual December 1st celebrations and when receiving many questions about her love life and lack of boyfriend, Johanne invents a boyfriend and has until Christmas Eve to find one. I think this premise works really well in Norway as December 1st is not a traditional family gathering in the UK or US so there would have to be another reason for the family to get together.

Johanne with the help of her friends and roommate starts actively looking for a boyfriend and has a few adventures along the way. She tries speed dating, online dating, dating older and younger men with a mix of results and in between finds time to celebrate December with her friends, family and colleagues. Every episode shows a few days in December leading up to Christmas Eve and Johanne’s big reveal. The setting of a snow-covered high street with lots of Christmas village-esque shops creates the perfect Christmas setting. By watching the show, you learn a lot about Scandi or Norwegian traditions and rituals and you get to see a lot of the city with the various dates Johanne goes on.

I won’t give away the ending but in the second season, it is a year later and Johanne is hosting Christmas this year and still looking for a boyfriend or possibly her true love. There are a lot of characters to balance in the show but I think it does it well. There could be a little more diversity in terms of LGBT characters but there are a couple in there. Norwegian is such a lovely language and I definitely picked up a few phrases while reading the subtitles. I used to not like foreign shows or films as much as I struggled to keep up with the subtitles but having watched more and with many foreign films gaining better international recognition, I have become more familiar with subtitles.

I don’t personally recognise any of the actors but having looked at their profiles on IMDb, there are some actors that have been in a lot of projects even some English-speaking ones. The cast is great with the actress playing Johanne as a stand-out. She is able to navigate all her relationships and emotions perfectly and you can always tell what she is thinking by a look or gesture. I watched the first series at the start of December and then the second shortly after it came out. Both series were really strong and having most of the characters come back again helped to unite the story from one year to the next.

Dash & Lily (2020)

The only new Christmas show on Netflix this year is based on a book by David Leviathan and Rachel Cohn who have also had their two other joint works made into films. I think this story needed to be a television show as there is a lot to show and the nature of a back and forth works well in this format.

Dash and Lily are both teenagers in New York City at Christmas time and they are both alone. Dash by choice and Lily by circumstance. Dash is a cynic and the Grinch of the pair whereas Lily loves Christmas and takes every chance to celebrate. The story starts with Dash finding a mysterious notebook in his favourite second-hand book store and follows the dares inside. He begins a back and forth between himself and Lily who started the book. They trade dares and secrets about each other and gradually come out of their shells. Lily is shy and never ventures far out of her comfort zone or area in New York and Dash believes that joy is dead after his girlfriend left town and his parents divorced. He tells them both he is with the other and plans to spend the holidays alone at his dad’s apartment.

Dash and Lily are each helped in the dares by their friends or family and they both gradually become more well-rounded people. Setting the story in New York City at Christmas creates many opportunities to show the hidden places in the city as well as many iconic locations such as Macy’s, Grand Central Station and Central Park. There are many spots that are not normally used in New York for filming so it is not just the same scenery you have seen a thousand times. There are a lot of emotions in the show with humour and festive cheer included as well as darker emotions. The show is certainly not shielding any realities but there is not any real threats or bad language so suitable for a family watch with older kids.

One of the best parts of the story is showing New York how it really is in terms of its residents and realities. The cast felt naturally diverse as New York has many different people living there with a secondary character having a gay relationship that was relevant and real. David Leviathan has written many books starring gay characters so I would expect nothing less and I am glad it translated over to the screen.

This show will help bring out your festive cheer and show you that there’s more to life than your neighbourhood.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

My Theories and Musings on Season 4 of 13 Reasons Why

One of Clay’s traits is that he needs to be needed. He feels pushed out a little at the beginning of the season with his parents and Justin. He needs to feel wanted and when his parents shine a little more light on Justin, he feels a little left out. When Tyler calls Clay, he feels needed again. Ever since the tapes, there have been reasons for Clay to be needed for multiple people but after Monty’s death, there was no new crisis until Clay subconsciously created one. Clay needs all his friends focuses together on one thing in their senior year.

Hello readers,

This post is about my theories and musings of the characters and events of the fourth series of 13 Reasons Why. I enjoyed this season very much and of course, many spoilers below.

The title of the series is still relevant as even though the 13 Reasons are not all there, the tapes brought them together and created the group for the season. Many of the incidents of season 4 would not have happened if not for Hannah’s tapes. A great full circle moment: the characters, along with Ryan and Courtney, burying the tapes in the hills overlooking Evergreen.

The catalyst of the season is the graffiti of “Monty was Framed” across the administration’s office. I thought that Clay would have been doing it as his guilt was subconsciously coming out and he wanted all his secrets to be out in the open. I thought sleepwalking but the truth of blacking out is more serious than I predicted. I had thoughts that Clay may submit his guilt essay about covering up a murder by accident, but I’m glad that Ani saved him by changing it.

One of Clay’s traits is that he needs to be needed. He feels pushed out a little at the beginning of the season with his parents and Justin. He needs to feel wanted and when his parents shine a little more light on Justin, he feels a little left out. When Tyler calls Clay, he feels needed again. Ever since the tapes, there have been reasons for Clay to be needed for multiple people but after Monty’s death, there was no new crisis until Clay subconsciously created one. Clay needs all his friends focuses together on one thing in their senior year.

Clay is a truly good person as his interactions with Monty and Bryce’s ghosts show. Some may see this as the show trying to humanise rapists or criminals but I see this as showing that no person is one dimensional. These people are still just kids and there are many layers to their actions/ crimes. Everyone has deep issues within themselves. For example, Bryce felt neglected by his father and sometimes his mother so wanted control over girls. He was in a position of power within the school because of his money and being on the football team so he thought many women genuinely wanted to be with him. Then this turned into sexual abuse which is never okay, no matter your history. Many characters such as Tony, Ani and Justin have suffered similar neglect or distancing from their families but have never turned into the person Bryce becomes.

A big part of the show is how Clay related to all the characters and ties them together. Clay feels immense pressure as he has to keep everyone’s secrets. I wonder how fast they would all fall apart if Clay wasn’t there. Ani was the other glue and after she becomes and absent player in this season, Clay starts to fall apart as well as all of the others. Without the glue of Clay and Ani the whole situation falls apart. Another reason for Ani’s absence this season.

As with Monty, he has such a deep disliking of his sexual preferences that stems from his father’s homophobia and possibly a result of his Latino heritage. Again we can compare this with Tony who has the same heritage but his family is loving and supportive and he has had several gay relationships in the four seasons of the show and even lives with his boyfriend in seasons 3 and 4. Monty has internalised homophobia and violent tendencies as his fight with Alex showed. Even when he met Winston as the Hillcrest party, he was unable to enjoy his first time interacting with a guy in that way and had to become violent.

Clay’s reaction to Diego’s prank of the mannequin on the football field showed how Clay may be losing his mind but still has his humanity. Many people would shun and hate Monty and Bryce for this pain and crimes they inflicted on Clay’s friends but Clay still sees them as humans even though they are dead. He saw Monty bleeding and still tried to help him and cried over him. I don’t think any other character in the show has the strong compassion that Clay has. He is one of the only characters to hallucinate the ghosts of Monty and Bryce, and he feels so much guilt even though he had no direct connections to their deaths or crimes. He was never a victim but he absorbed everyone’s pain and carried around their guilt. I believe that if Clay had been on the docks when Bryce was injured he would have helped him and not behaved as Alex did. Although, who knows?

Clay’s psychological issues are the most prevalent this season with his violent outbursts, black outs and hallucinations. This is partially because the series is from his POV but also because of his mental health conditions of anxiety and depression that he admits to in his graduation speech. Clay’s relationship with Ani is something that helps to show Clay’s destruction. He uses Ani as a shield and I think only really dates her as she knows his secrets and is in their group. Not many of the group date outside it apart from Tyler, Zach and Tony. Ani not being present for Clay’s biggest breakdowns was a good narrative direction as he has no crutch to lean on or to get him of these situations.

At the beginning, Justin tells Jessica that he doesn’t want to date her as he is still recovering from his drug addiction. Jessica is not happy with this and becomes jealous when he flirts with the college tor guide. She just wants to be happy with Justin, she doesn’t see how much he needs to be alone as he has never needed that before in their relationship. A part of Justin’s healing process is going to AA meetings for drug addiction. When he sees his football coach there it gives him a boost of empathy.

His past catches up with him after reuniting with Jess and getting into college. His death is the main revelation of this season: the season 1 is Hannah; season 2 is Monty and Tyler. Season 3 is Monty’s death and season 4 is Justin’s. There are five meaningful deaths across the four seasons: Hannah, from suicide after the 13 reasons that are people; Jeff from a car crash caused by the stop sign hit by Sheri and Hannah; Bryce after being attacked by Zach and then pushed in the water by Alex while Jess watched on; Monty is jail after he is labelled a child rapist and Justin from HIV that turns into AIDs after being left untreated. Justin’s death could have been preventable if the HIV was caught earlier which makes it all the more sad. His history of sharing needles for drug use and having sex with men for money while he was homeless is the reason for the HIV. These things could have been avoided if Justin has received better support from his friends such as Bryce who instead lent him money for drugs. Clay became like a brother for Justin after helping him get off drugs. The end scenes in the hospital between Clay and Justin and when Clay reads Justin’s college essay shows how far they have grown as adopted brothers.

Justin’s funeral was used as a catalyst at the very start of the first episode which leaves you guessing who the funeral is for. I guessed Justin or Alex after Alex and Charlie got together. We see Charlie speaking at the funeral in episode two. I guessed Justin or Alex as the death as Charlie is not very close to many of the characters. He would speak at Justin’s as they are on the football team and he is the only true ally left from the team apart from the coach. Zach is absent from the team this year after his knee injury; Diego is Justin’s nemesis in the hand of Jessica and Bryce/Monty are dead. The other minor characters are not close to Justin. I think this was a very good narrative device to give the audience clues about a potential death.

Alex starts out figuring out his sexuality with Winston as he is a new student and doesn’t know his past with suicide and his other secrets. Alex tells him anyway as he feels the need to be honest with potential romantic partners. That is why he then breaks up with Winston on the senior trip as when he finds out that Winston was with Monty, he could not trust himself to keep his secret from Winston and feels guilty for dating him. He claims that he was hurt that Winston was with Monty, a criminal but ultimately he is trying to protect everyone because he knows the guilt will build and he will spill his secrets Alex pushed Bryce into the water, eventually killing him not because he is a violent person but because he felt the pain of Hannah and Jessica so closely. They used to be a group of three and there is a reason that Alex tried to kill himself at the end of season 1.

Charlie had a smaller role in the previous season but becomes a bigger role in this season after his involvement in the Monty secret. He puts himself in harm’s way to help people he barely knows keep this secret. After knowing how Monty has behaved, he does not hesitate to help the gang to frame Monty. He has become a permanent addition to the group. After Diego tells Jess that Charlie is gay/bi, I was waiting for Charlie to have a love interest. No line is ever said for no reason. Charlie is a better boyfriend for Alex as he googles Alex’s condition to help him, gives him cookies and helps him through his panic attacks in the shooting drill. Charlie is quite a shy character but becomes a pivotal part of the gang after getting together with Alex. I think he has had a crush on Alex for some time but was waiting to see if Alex reciprocated his feelings. Charlie seeks out Alex at the party and at the senior camping trip. I loved that Alex went to prom with Charlie and had Clay as a buffer. Winning Prom King and Queen with Charlie really helped Alex to confirm his sexuality.

Winston is determined to find out who really killed Bryce to prove Monty’s innocence so he leaves Hillcrest on purpose to scope out the Liberty kids. After befriending Tyler and Alex for this purpose, Winston accidentally falls for Alex. Winston then starts scoping out the Liberty gang one by one. During the potential school shooting, Winston and Zach are trapped together. Winston buys Zach’s trust with some drugs and after confessing, gets a truth from Zach about the night of Bryce’s death. He teams up with Diego to scare Clay. He suspects Justin then Jessica.

Winston has a small redemption arc when he apologises to Alex after but do we believe him? At first, I liked Winston and Alex together because of my inclination towards gay relationships. Although after reflection, Winston was very dismissive of Alex’s condition and all he had been through. This is in stark contrast to how his boyfriend, Charlie behaves before they have even got together. Winston also talks himself into thinking he’s in love with Monty even though they only hooked up twice. In the prom scene, Winston gets a good talking down from Monty’s ghost. This is a positive towards the character of Monty but as Monty is dead, this is just Winston’s feelings coming out. After finding out everything about Monty, he knows that he would never be allowed to love Monty as he would want. This is proved by Monty beating up Winston after they hooked up.

Zach becomes very self-destructive this season with drinking and having sex with random girls. He feels guilty about almost killing Bryce and then dating his ex-girlfriend, Chloe. Zach also has extra guilt about Hannah and how he treated her. Zach is someone who Alex tries to kiss when realising his sexuality but gently lets him down. A big emotional moment for Zach is when Justin is dying in the hospital and Zach cannot face him. The hospital is where his father died only a few years before and he has bad memories associated with it. Charlie then talks to Zach as his mother also died in that hospital. This shows another reason for his self-destructive behaviour this season. His scene with Alex on the boat and saving Alex from drowning creates a redemptive story for Zach.

Jessica begins the season by trying to deal with her rejection from Justin by dating Diego his antagonist. She thinks that this will make Justin jealous and want her back. She acts a little childish is this aspect of her. Before Justin’s illness is revealed Jessica is playing games with Justin. She is also haunted by the ghost of Bryce as Clay is too. Attention less focused on her this series but her friendship with Ani goes though some patches. After Ani moves in with her, it creates a new dynamic between them. Jessica’s main focus is her campaign against sexual abuse and towards equality. This is very relevant today.

New Television Shows I have been watching in Quarantine

The premise is fairly straight forward as the current POTUS has announced plans for a Space Force in the US but that’s where reality stops. Some of the situations, the characters find themselves are hysterical yet almost believable. Mark is played by Steve Carell the co-creator of the show and he has some brilliant co-stars. John Malkovich plays his number two, scientist Dr. Mallory, Lisa Kudrow is his incarcerated wife, Diana Silvers is his teenage daughter Erin. There are many other comedy actors involved as well as some I haven’t seen do comedy or anything else.

Hello readers,

It has been a while since I’ve made a blog post. With the lockdown and everything, cinemas have been shut and I have not been watching many new films apart from on streaming services. I have however been enjoying some new television shows and I am finally getting around to reviewing a few.

Outer Banks

Quick Synopsis: Set on the island of Outer Banks, North Carolina; a group of teenagers set out to solve a mystery that spans all social classes on their island. The adventure starts after John B, discovers his missing father’s compass on a sunken boat. Is the mystery linked to the story of the 400 million in British gold somewhere off the coast of Outer Banks?

I love this show and watched all ten episodes in the course of two days. It starts as a kind of Goonies/Stranger Things show without the supernatural elements. As the show progresses, it becomes more intense and like a cat mouse chase mixed with murder and danger. The hunt for the truth and kids turned criminals is what carries the drama of the show. Most of the stars are new to the acting world but do a great job playing either a Pogue or a Kook. 10/10.

Space Force

Quick Synopsis: General Mark Naird, a member of the Air Force in America is tasked with setting up a new section of the Armed Forces: Space Force. The show fast forwards a year when things are up and running in Colorado. Things have changed for Mark. His wife is now in prison nearby, his daughter is struggling to make friends and he is facing new challenges obeying POTUS.

This show only released a couple of days ago but I think it’s one of the funniest new shows I’ve seen in a while. The premise is fairly straightforward as the current POTUS has announced plans for a Space Force in the US but that’s where reality stops. Some of the situations the characters find themselves in are hysterical yet almost believable. Mark is played by Steve Carell, the co-creator of the show and he has some brilliant co-stars. John Malkovich plays his number two, scientist Dr. Mallory; Lisa Kudrow is his incarcerated wife; Diana Silvers is his teenage daughter, Erin. There are many other comedy actors involved as well as some I haven’t seen do comedy or anything else. Many of the jokes either have an episode-long duration or are simple throw away lines. They do not rely on quick laughs but rather use their big budget to create this world that happens to be funny. The Space Force base is really amazing and the show itself is very progressive with lead astronaut, Captain Ali being a black female and head scientist, Dr. Chang being Asian. I would say the show reminds me slightly of The Office just a more politically correct and socially aware version. I would highly recommend to comedy or space fans. 9/10.

Locke & Key

Quick Synopsis: After their father dies, the Locke family move to his childhood home in the small town of Matheson. The siblings, Tyler, Kinsey and Bode slowly discover various Keys hidden around Key House and a bigger mystery begins to unveil itself.

I came to this show later than when it first came out but I am really glad I did as I thought it was well crafted and the young cast that lead the show did a great job. There was a lot of characters and smaller sub plots but I thought everything was fleshed out really well. The locations were great, especially some of the places you visit via the Keys. I liked how elements of the past came back into the present of the show. A Season 2 has been announced and I am looking forward to it being produced when possible. 8/10.

Hollywood

Quick Synopsis: Set in the world of a post-WWII Hollywood, a group of creatives set about making social change with their film. Actors, actresses, producers, directors, writers and others all come together to create a picture more progressive than the film industry has seen before. Hollywood shows how the world could have been if attitudes were different.

I also started this show later than everyone else as I wanted to reduce my continue watching section of Netflix before it got too cluttered. As a film student, this show was always going to appeal, being set in Hollywood but I really enjoyed it and I think non-film people would too. It was amazing to see how society could have been if social change occurred 60 years ago. In the show, the creatives want to produce a film with a female black lead, written by a black writer and directed by a half-Asian director. They are met with many challenges but ultimately it exists which never happened in the 50s. The production design was amazing, as well as the cars, shops, clothing and film sets. The show was created by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan who have made shows such as Pose and Glee. There were a few of Murphy’s favourites including Darren Criss, David Corenswet, Dylan McDermott, Patti LuPone mixed with some newcomers and experienced actors. I think this limited series would do well with a second series but concludes nicely. 9/10.

Never Have I Ever

Quick Synopsis: Devi, an Indian teen living in California has had a hard time lately. Her dad dropped dead at her school concert then she was paralysed but starting the new school year as a sophomore should be better. Along with her two best friends, Eleanor and Fabiola, Devi juggles family expectations, boy drama, friend drama and therapy. Her life is narrated by tennis player, John McEnroe.

I thought this teen comedy show was really funny with a touch more darkness than usual. It covered a lot of tough topics but kept the audience rooting for Devi and her friends. There was a great diverse cast and as the creator, Mindy Kaling is also Indian, all the Indian traditions and culture seemed very accurate. Devi’s life being narrated by an old white guy could have gone two ways but it added a quirk to what could be just another teen show. Devi has a strong spirit but made a lot of mistakes that I think many could relate too. She ended up in a lot of funny situations . All the main characters were well fleshed out with their own lives away from the main character and I learned a lot about Indian culture. A little more out there than a show made for teenagers. 8/10.

I Am Not Okay With This

Quick Synopsis: Sydney, a teenager in a small town is not part of the the popular crowd. When she makes a new friend in Dina, she hopes that life is turning around until telekinetic powers start. She is trying to replace her late father as a second parent to her younger brother and fending off the admiration of neighbour Stanley.

This show is based on a graphic novel by the same people who did ‘The End of the F***ing World’ and has similar vibes although in America. I thought all the emotions that Syd goes through were very powerful, given that when she feels angry, her powers manifest. The set isn’t as flashy but still helps to create the world. A lot of the props and the costumes give vintage vibes including Stanley’s car and his blue suit. This show has a slow build but an explosive ending. 7/10.

The Stranger

Quick Synopsis: People in an English city all become connected by a stranger who knows all their secrets. Different plot lines all begin to converge as the mystery and identity of ‘The Stranger’ becomes clearer. Weaving throughout is Adam’s need to find his missing wife, Corinne. She is at the centre of this mystery and her son leads a plot line amongst the teenagers.

Another great story from the mind of Harlan Coben who was responsible for another Netflix drama, Safe. There is a plot with adults but also with school kids so I think it adds a great blend. There’s a big cast but everyone gets a chance to show their story. You don’t often see teenage and adult drama mixed together like this which is the unique factor at play in this show. It was highly talked about and remains one of the best drama series I have seen. 10/10.

There are some great shows to come and some I am keen to start include Normal People, Snowpiercer, White Lines and Noughts and Crosses.

Happy Watching,

Robyn