News · TV

How ‘Queer as Folk’ Can Evolve for a New Era

Another noughties touchstone is making its way back to TV.
Queer As Folk Uk
Channel 4
By  · Published on December 19th, 2018

One of the most important LGBTQ-centric television shows of the noughties will come alive yet again with a brand new small-screen incarnation. As announced by Variety, Queer as Folk will be making a comeback thanks to Bravo. The series, which was first conceived as a short-lived British program, has already been remade into a five-season soap-adjacent drama of the same name in America.

However, this newest rendition will bring together fresh characters and a brand-new location, with most of its details being kept under wraps for now. What we do know is that the series is described as a modernized version of Russell T. DaviesQueer as Folk UK. In the latest rebooted show, several “club-going friends” will go about their daily lives until tragedy strikes. The gay community then comes to their aid in their time of need.

Davies, who created and wrote the original Queer as Folk, will serve as an executive producer on Bravo’s show. Directing and writing duties have been handed to Stephen Dunn (possibly of Closet Monster fame, but there is no direct confirmation of this). What’s exciting is that the latest iteration of the series could very well emulate other turn-of-the-century properties focusing on LGBTQ issues; ones that have found a renewed cultural salience upon reboot, such as Netflix’s Queer Eye.

Back when finding strong storylines about the LGBTQ community on screen was virtually unheard of, both the UK and US versions of Queer as Folk became thoroughly influential in shaping the media landscape for gay representation. Although it only ran for 10 episodes, Queer as Folk UK shot Davies to the forefront of the British TV scene as an acclaimed writer. Particularly in its first season, Queer as Folk focused on channeling archetypes through its main characters. This slowly evolved to incorporate a more serious tone, but with a truncated second season, the show came to an abrupt end.

The frankness and the endearing nature of the characters in Queer as Folk UK are noteworthy. It isn’t without some glaring issues, though, most notably borne out of the one-night stand between two of its main characters — one adult and one underage — that ushers the show into existence during its first episode.

Amid successes and shortcomings, Queer as Folk UK ultimately opened doors for its US counterpart to be the first hour-long TV drama to air in the United States that zoomed in on the lives of gay folks. Despite the fact that Davies had no involvement in this newer production, the blueprints for the characters of Queer as Folk US shared similarities with the UK version (including the problematic underage liaison).

However, over the course of subsequent seasons, the series finds its feet in portraying a variety of topics that courted controversy yet made it truly groundbreaking. Anything from coming out to cruising, from same-sex marriage to sexually transmitted infections, is fair game.

Of course, much like other similar media milestones, experiencing and celebrating them doesn’t come without some warranted pushback. Just as shows like The L Word is criticized for a glamorized, insular view of lesbians, so can Queer as Folk be called out for its own stereotypical masculine depictions and lack of diversity. Both the UK and US versions of the series have been negatively received by a portion of LGBTQ activists concerned with whether or not positivity can be found in the grimness that is explored in these programs.

That said, the rebirth of such shows isn’t actually all bad. Will & Grace, which was revived more so than rebooted, is currently in its 10th season and has found its niche in the cultural and political lingo of today. The revitalized Queer Eye — although critiqued for its clunkier treatment of intersectional issues like police brutality and trans identity — should be everybody’s blatant unguilty pleasure due to its good intentions. As stated in its very first episode, “The original show was fighting for tolerance. Our fight is for acceptance.” The reality series is subtle and imperfect in its quest to uproot stereotypes about queer as well as heteronormative communities, but it is an optimistic, accessible start.

That’s primarily where Bravo’s Queer as Folk should head toward in its exploration of LGBTQ life in the present-day. Right off the bat, the strength of the series lies in finding a wider representative pool of central characters. Hopefully, this time, some of them will more appropriately and openly embody bisexuality or pansexuality. Trans and non-binary identity should have a place in the show, too. And finally, as glossy onscreen depictions can tend to forego, class remains an important factor that affects identity greatly, and it would be wonderful to see that intersection discussed.

Finding a fresh voice to champion Queer as Folk is already a great start, regardless. Davies has himself stated this in the past, opining that “I’m the last person who should be [writing a remake of it].” In spite of yet another project fitting snugly into reboot culture, I am optimistic for something as relevant as Queer as Folk to get a deserving makeover and perhaps become a voice for a new generation.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)