Revisiting Queer As Folk
Regular readers will know that I’ve wittered on loads about how Queer As Folk sparked my desire to move Manchester, the land of the gays. But I haven’t watched it again since its initial transmission 16 years ago. So when my girlfriend suggested we re-visit both series, I thought yes, it’s time.
I’ll warn you now though, I’m not going to talk about the second series. Not because I didn’t watch it again. I did. But because series one is a brilliant piece of storytelling and it’s best to leave it there.
First up, I need to get something out of the way. I’m not sure what gang of lesbians pissed Russell T Davies off, but they sure as hell made an impression. Back in the day I was aware that the depiction of lady-lovers in Queer As Folk (QAF) was a bit off. Watching it again, with more than a decade’s experience of living in the lesbian world, it’s not exactly the most favourable representation. Also, as my girlfriend rightly pointed out again and again, why on earth would any lesbian in their right mind choose Stuart to father a baby over sweet, stable Vince? WHY?
Considering that this drama is 16-years-old, and omitting the period features of fashion, prehistoric mobile phones and gargantuan computers, it still feels relevant. Davies is a master character crafter and storyteller. He captures the youthful arrogance of Nathan and the unravelling psyche of Stuart perfectly. On second viewing I realised, bloody hell, the majority of these characters are so unpleasant I want to punch them in the face. And yet I like them. Even when the performances do go a bit MDF. Damn you Davies.
Nathan, for instance, is an attention-seeking tit. Lie, lie, lie, whinge, whinge, whinge. Yet somehow you can’t help but warm to him. He’s just young and excited, bless him. As for Stuart, the performance from Aidan Gillen is delightful. Even I can see the appeal of walking STD Stuart. This is all except for sideshow Cameron. We should root for him to be with Vince but nah, he’s a dick. Of course, that’s exactly how Davies wants us to react. Lovely Vince deserved a man who would dote on him and yet the love story is Stuart and Vince. It’s the whole bloody point of the show. There’s nowt better than a will-they-won’t-they but you can only drag it out for so long and this is why series two didn’t quite land. I would have rather yearned for another series and not got it. Ending on a high and all that malarkey (OK, I fibbed when I said I wouldn’t mention series two).
Anyway, I’ve gotta talk controversy. A mountain of hoo-ha was made at the time about the sex scenes. They’re graphic but they’re not gratuitous. It’s interesting watching it as a writer now; the sex in QAF is integral to the storytelling and the characters. If it was about gratuity then every single character would be at it like a hydraulic drill. It’s worth noting that Vince barely has any sort of notable sex scene whereas sex is integral to Stuart’s character, therefore he’s rampant.
But the biggest outrage at the time was over 15-year-old Nathan engaged in super-saucy homosexual escapades with an adult. I must admit, particularly in today’s climate, it made even me a little uneasy. But it was never portrayed as sordid or the norm for gay men to bed underage boys. The surrounding characters all display their dismay at Stuart bedding a school boy – a fact that Stuart is unaffected by. But in the very first episode Stuart boasts with a grin that he lost virginity to his male P.E teacher aged 12. Eeesh. If that’s not character-informing I don’t know what is.
As a side note, it was also very cute to see Russell T Davies’s Doctor Who fanboy-ness lived out through Vince, years before Davies was chosen to helm the Doctor Who revival. Sweet stuff.
But the real winner of Queer As Folk is Canal Street. It’s a magical place is that there Canal Street. It just can’t help but look bloody ace on screen. I’m no scene queen but even on a dreary rainy evening, walking under the sparkly lights of the mystical gay village, I defy anyone not to get the feels.
And it’s fun to do some landmark-spotting…
I wonder if that’s Asda Hulme?
Via Fossa hasn’t changed much.
Oh look, McTucky’s!
Nevertheless, I’m left with that inevitable empty feeling that us gay ladies often feel – when is there going to be something for us lesbians?
Freerange Comedy Festival at Brewery Arts Centre Kendal
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