Queer as Folk Series Review: No Apologies, No Regrets

Imagine 2000. The Boy Scouts of America banned not only gay leaders, but gay youth. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell discriminated against and silenced gay members of our military. Not a single state legally recognized gay marriage.

Queer as Folk aired its first season in 2000. A show centered on the loves and the lives of a group of gay friends in Pittsburgh, it swept the nation with its graphic portrayal of the urban homosexual lifestyle: it held nothing back in terms of sex, drugs, or language. Many were surprised that it survived more than three episodes, and they were shocked to see it carry on for five whole seasons. It made no concessions to its straight audience and delivered both brash humor and bold emotion in every episode.

My new Facebook cover photo. I have no shame, only pride. Image via tumblr.com

My new Facebook cover photo. I have no shame, only pride. Image via tumblr.com

That’s one of my favorite parts of Queer as Folk. It doesn’t conform to one-dimensional stereotypes, heterosexual standards, or family-friendly levels of appropriateness. When I close my eyes and conjure an image of the show, the two adjectives that stick out are brave and revolutionary. It tackles a gamut of issues with strong social commentary – heteronormativity, drug use, marriage, AIDS, semidiscordant relationships, etc. – without preaching or plowing viewers with lessons on right and wrong.

But the best aspect of Queer as Folk is its characters. Peter Paige, the actor who played Emmett Honeycutt, once said, “People came for the queer, but they stayed for the folk.” Every issue thrown in, every sex scene included, every curse word used, deepens the complexity of the characters and the pathos of the problems they experience. The cast starts out simple: Michael, the do-good doe-eyed boy next door, Emmett, the out and proud queen, Ted, the conservative accountant, Justin, the emotionally intelligent yet sexually inexperienced seventeen-year-old, and Brian, the hottest and most successful guy on the block. By the end of the first season, they veer from their established archetypes and possess a plethora of depth. Even the more minor characters, like Lindsay and Melanie, the group’s committed lesbian friends, or Debbie, Michael’s loudmouth mother, worm their way into your heart. This magical ensemble’s strengths, flaws, dialogue, ability to pick themselves up, and ability to pick each other up is amazing and at least for me, feels like a second family.

In 2005, after five seasons of drama, laughter, love, and tears, Queer as Folk ended. Now it’s 2013, and the show still has a large amount of relevance to the gay community today. Even as the years fly by, its impact will never be forgotten. I will always remember the hours I’ve spent with my friends analyzing various plot lines and characters and the endless amount of fanboy freakouts I’ve had regarding Brian and Justin’s relationship. Queer as Folk has inspired me not only to become the best homosexual I can be, but the best human, as a whole, possible.

Brian and Justin, my OTP. These two have taught me so much about love, life, and sacrifice. They have also allowed me to make many comparisons to Jane Eyre. Image via ohkate.tumblr.com

Brian and Justin, my OTP. These two have taught me so much about love, life, and sacrifice. They have also allowed me to make many comparisons to Jane Eyre. Image via ohkate.tumblr.com

Has anyone watched Queer as Folk? If so, what are your thoughts? If you want to discuss anything spoiler-related message me and we can chat – I just finished the show two days ago and I’ve probably shed more tears within that time than in the last several years of my life. If you haven’t watched it yet, I hope I’ve motivated you to at least watch an episode or two to see if you like it! It’s not for the frail of heart but it is for the open-minded. Though I probably won’t post much about the show on this blog, I will continue to obsess over it and analyze it on my Tumblr. On that note, now I need to read more and maybe start Six Feet Under. Have a splendid day, everyone!

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54 Comments

Filed under Society, Television

54 responses to “Queer as Folk Series Review: No Apologies, No Regrets

  1. Where did you happen to watch it? I’ve been meaning to check it out for years.

  2. I watched the first episode years ago because I kept hearing people say that Brian/Justin was their OTP, and I hated Brian in the first episode, so I decided not to keep watching. I suppose I should have realized that he would eventually get better – I was just impatient and had so many other things to watch. But yeah, I definitely want to give this another chance now!

    • I don’t want to spoil anything so all I’ll say that Brian is the most complex television character I’ve ever encountered and definitely in my top ten most complicated fictional characters – his character develops, a lot. I’m glad I’ve motivated you to give it another shot! Thank you for reading and commenting.

  3. I’ve never even heard of this show outside of your blog. Sorry!

  4. I love the quote by Peter Paige! I have never seen the show, although I would like to. But I’m sure it paved the way for the L Word which I absolutely adored! lol. ;-)

    • Yes, I’ve heard the L World referenced in relation to Queer as Folk various times – I hope you enjoy the show if you decide to watch it!

  5. I’ve never seen it Thomas, but you just gave it a very intriguing write up.

  6. I have never heard of this show until now… But I do believe that you sometimes put pictures of Brian and Justin together in your post sometimes? This sounds really good, though! The characters seem like one reason alone to watch the show. Um, where do I watch it? Lol, I can’t find it anywhere :P

    • Ha ha yes, for my last few posts I’ve always put pictures of Brian and Justin together. (; But yes, the characters are the focal point of the show and they make it as strong as it is! Also, I’ve messaged you.

  7. Andreas

    Ah, thank you Thomas! Reading this made me want to continue watching QAF. I’m currently watching Dante’s Cove, another GLBT-themed soap opera. Ever heard of it? It’s quite awesome and I’ll be finishing my last episode tonight. :)

    • I’ve heard of Dante’s Cove, but it doesn’t have that many seasons so I’m not sure whether I should invest time in it or not. Would you recommend it? Also, I’m glad I’ve motivated you to keep watching Queer as Folk – it gets better and better and better!

      • Andreas

        I would recommend it, but maybe only for a fun and quick watch. There are like 12 episodes so I’m sure you could finish them within a few days. It got everything from magic and romance to sex and drugs and I kinda enjoyed it. Just be prepared to see some sizzling hot scenes. :)

        • Okay, perhaps I’ll check it out if I have time! Thanks for the recommendation.

          • Andreas

            Hey Thomas, i just want to let you know that I’m hooked to QAF again! I’m currently on my 2nd season and I can’t wait to finish the whole 5! :)

            • That makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something with my life, to be honest. I hope you enjoy and make sure to keep me updated as you progress, I love hearing people’s reactions to the show and the plot and the characters!

  8. Haven’t watched it, but want to check it out. I loved Six Feet Under, for many reasons. I hope you enjoy it. :)

    • Please keep me updated if you decide to watch Queer as Folk. And that’s good to hear – I’ve heard that watching it is like reading a book, due to how character-driven and emotionally entrenching it is. So excited.

  9. I haven’t seen it but now I want to..especially since you compared Brian and Justin to Jane Eyre! :)

    • Many fans have corroborated my comparison of Brian and Justin to Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester! Britin’s romance is epic, just like that of one of the best-written books of all time. Hope you enjoy it if you watch it!

  10. chadmom

    LOVE QAF! I saw one episode of Season 3 in 2003 and was hooked! I went back and watched 1, 2 and the rest of 3 and then continued on till the end. Fabulous acting, especially Gale Harold as Brian Kinney. Watching the series for Gale alone is worth it, as it is wonderful to watch the character change thru the seasons. Gale can express so much with just a look. Glad you enjoyed and became a fan!

    • Oh my goodness I agree with you so much. Gale Harold knows how to convey emotion so well and he brought life to Brian Kinney – Brian is definitely in my top five fictional characters of all time, and it’s all thanks to Gale. All of the characters in this show are relatable and developed but Brian… I have no words to describe how splendid he is. Thank you for reading and commenting! It makes me so happy to meet fellow fans.

  11. Thomas, have you ever seen Tales Of The City? It’s about to be re-issued on DVD. You can also find it around online. QAF Rules.

  12. i’ve never seen that show, do u know where i can watch it online? after your review i want to give it a go :-)

  13. I have the entire series on DVD but haven’t watched it in a while. Nonetheless I remember the series well. The first episode really reeled you in and the series went on to explore many of the issues facing the community. Who can forget Brian and Justin at the Prom? One additional recommendation, The Original British edition of Queer as Folk. It was done by Russell T. Davies, who went onto reboot Doctor Who and the spin-off, Torchwood. It was quite the cultural touchstone. I have the DVD that were produced by a fledgling gay company that went under but I think it’s since been re-released. Let me know if you can’t find it.

    • I agree, it really did reel you in and capture you from the start. Brian and Justin at Prom… just thinking about that scene makes my heart glow and my eyes water. So beautiful. Anyway, thank you for the recommendation – perhaps I will obtain the DVD but I think Netflix has the series available so I may watch it there. (:

  14. I remember how much I loved Queer as folk when it first came out (although I watched the UK version) and how much an influence on me growing up. Reading this post has got me reaching for my Ebay app to get hold of the US version.

    • Keep me updated if you watch the US version, I highly recommend it! The first season, from what I’ve heard, follows the first season of the UK version somewhat closely – but, trust me, it still packs so much emotional punch. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  15. Gayathri

    I finished watching this series a month ago and am still not able to get over it. It’s by far the best TV show I’ve ever seen. It’s definitely changed my life to a large extent. Brian is one of the most complex characters and it takes a while to understand him but once you understand him you can do nothing but love him. I’ve recommended this show to all my friends and I think it’s a must watch…

    • It’s been a few months for me and I am still in love with it. It’s great that the show has changed your life, and I agree that Brian is extremely complex but you cannot help and love him as the show progresses. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has had their perspective on life changed because of Queer as Folk. I try to recommend it to my friends who I think can handle it too – we must spread the pulchritude that is Queer as Folk!

      • Gayathri

        Thank you for responding to my comment… It feels great to talk to someone about this show and about Brian… I don’t have friends with whom I can really talk about this show… So, I’m really glad you responded…

  16. Ana Laymen

    Honestly, I think I’m addicted to this show. I finished all 5 seasons in one week about a 3 weeks ago and since then I’ve been constantly rewatching. I have not and will not get tired of the intensity of Brian and Justina relationship. Their constant push and pull is so enticing. I mean I am absolutely in love with Brian Kinney. Gale does a phenomenal job as the role of Brian. There is something about his attitude that just gets you obsessed and wanting more. I love how hr becomes more open about his feelings after the whole prom thing.. I mean it was about time Kinney swallowed some of his pride! Haha. But I think that even from season 1 ep 1 Brian had always cared about Justin. I love how all these characters grow throughout the 5 seasons! This show is absolutely beautiful and I got my friend to watch it who is now on the end of season 1 and she just started today. Just as reeled in and obsessed as I was. These were phenomenal characters and I wish it hadn’t ended. But thankfully its still getting millions of views on YouTube and other sites. The seasons may have ended but its story and legendary love will last a lifetime! Love this show to pieces and can’t describe the fan girl feels I have while watching this fantastic show! I love QAF!!!!

    • Ugh, yes, this comment just made me flashback to the period when I watched all of Queer as Folk with my best friend. I agree with all your sentiments – this show is beautiful, inspirational, life-changing, etc. The characters will live on even after the show has ended and they will continue to change the world; Queer as Folk is so underrated and more people should watch it. Just thinking about the show (and the ending, which we will not explicitly talk about it in case we spoil it) makes my heart ache and burn and long for Justin and Brian’s relationship. Essentially… yes. Queer as Folk = yes.

  17. queenie

    honestly, my biggest problem with queer as folk was that there weren’t really any strong POC characters. as a lesbian asian woman, i feel like the (very limited) queer narrative in the US ands to focus on white people. I want to see more people like Wanda Sykes and George Takei and me on the show, you know? it was great show that focused on a lot of important issues, but 2000 wasn’t that long ago. they could’ve and should’ve included more minority representation. :/

    • You’re right that the show did a poor job of including POC characters – I discussed this with a friend, and that was definitely a trend with shows in its time period, like Friends, Seinfeld, etc. While I do not think this justifies Queer as Folk’s lack of diversity in that regard, I still love the show for how much it pushed forward the varied and accurate representation of homosexuals in the media.

  18. Jo

    I just finished all 5 seasons and it changed my life. From how I see and value myself to my little place in the sun. Everything you said and more. I also think it depends when you watch it in your life, when it came out I didn’t care much for it, but now I can’t believe how I ever could’ve not liked it. Obsessed but I do have a special place for Emmet in my heart.

    • So glad that another Queer as Folk fan finds my review appropriate, and I agree that when you watch it in your life has an impact. My friends and I intend to rewatch the entire series every five years or so, and I’m looking forward to seeing how my views and my experience changes each time. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, and Emmett is truly a superstar!

  19. little Alex

    Have you watched the UK version? I find it funnier and grittier. I do love Brian Kinney and his no apologies attitude though.

    • I haven’t, but perhaps I will when I have time. It’s shorter than the US version so it might be worth the investment to see where the US version originated. Thank you for the recommendation, and I’m glad you love Brian!

  20. Bea

    I’m currently rewatching, actually, and all I can say is that it doesn’t loose anything on second-watch. There’s something so (im)perfectly human about this show that I think it will always ring true. The amounts of love I have for the characters and for the story never ceases to amaze me.

    I’ve seen the UK version too, actually. It’s cool, mostly because the base of the show is the same but they turn out to be two very differenet pieces, if only because of their length. It’s worth the watch, I think, and I agree with little Alex that it’s grittier and just… I guess one would have to say “more British”.

    • Hm okay, based on your recommendation if I have time I will try to watch the UK version. Though I still can’t wait to watch the US version again – I agree that there is something imperfectly human about the show that makes it so honest and relatable. All of the characters have such nuance, yet all of them come alive with an undeniable vibrancy as well. Always glad to hear from a fellow QAF fan (and I’m writing this while staring at my QAF poster in my dorm room, ha ha).

  21. Sheila

    I am neither gay nor male, but I just finished watching the last three episodes of Queer as Folk on Showtime and I’m so sad to see the show end. Luckily, Showtime decided to air all five seasons once again. I so looked forward to seeing each and every episode. I cried my heart out when Justin was attacked at his Prom. To watch the tears streaming from Brian’s eyes while Michael tried to console him was heart wrenching. I tried so hard to find out the exact version of Parce Mini Domine played at the end of this episode, but people kept saying it was by Jan Garbarek & the Hilliard Ensemble, but it was a very different version from this one. The music really added to the emotional ending of this particular episode. I’m going to order the DVD series on Amazon. I think I’ll also order the original English version as well. I found myself getting so involved in these characters. I’d get so frustrated with Ted! ;-) Emmett had such a good heart. Michael could become very “preachy”. Justin was, undoubtedly, the most intelligent and mature well beyond his years. Brian was the beautiful “Bad Boy” with a heart of gold, something he kept a guarded secret whenever possible. There were several other very interesting characters who would come and go. I truly wish the series never had to end! Never a dull moment!

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