Queer As Folk Final scene - Brian and Michael dancing at Babylon

Queer As Folk – The Ending (My Thoughts)

I kept thinking I would sit down and write about my thoughts on Queer As Folk again before reaching the actual conclusion but it never happened. It’s been a roller coaster. It’s Feb 8th and I started watching the series about the beginning of December. So five seasons in just over two months. I could have really rushed it but it was already a lot to absorb. It took folks 20 years ago watching it the first time five years to watch these characters live their fictional lives.

I’m glad to have watched it. It was basically a glimpse at what might have been. Not that TV characters are life-like depictions. They are more akin to archetypes. But still it was a window into what it was to be queer circa 2000-2005, from right around the time I was 28-33, the flip phone era. Although they were my age it was very far from my life at the time. There are definitely moments that connect but keep in mind I was so utterly shut off from that aspect of myself then that I didn’t even know this show existed until practically modern day.

Thematically the show suffered from what a lot of episodic TV that keeps getting renewed. The characters could only grow so much. In fact, it felt like they tried to pour all of Brian’s growth into the last few episodes. It was so disconcerting that when he and Justin were planning their marriage I started to think it was all a dream. I wondered if Justin was in a coma and this was how he imagined it happening because bomb blast or not, Brian’s sudden shift seemed alien to the character. And then they zagged back to Brian and Justin going their separate ways. I mean, they nodded to the fact they would always be close to each other but wow… It was more in character but it gave me whiplash at the same time.

The last season was in many ways still relevant. What caught my attention was the whole monogamy versus sexual liberation theme which still plays out now. I cannot tell you how many times I see other gay men on social media bemoaning that there are no monogamous gay men. I see it so routinely that it suggests there are men who want that relationship style but they are just having a difficult time finding one another rather than they don’t exist. I guess given that we are a minority overall they may genuinely have a hard time finding them in their back yard but every time someone states it, there are more saying they want it as well.

This is an area that my expectations have evolved over the past couple of years. Before and soon after coming out, I would have unquestionably said I was looking for a monogamous partner in this thing called life. And being 100% transparent I still lean in that direction. Yet, I also recognize that it is probably not an inherent desire. Rather it’s the same social pressure that kept me paralyzed in the closet for so much of my life. The same heteronormative culture that values being straight also gives brownie points to monogamy. Once you remove one brick from that wall, the rest of the system becomes more clearly manipulative. We “want” monogamous relationships because society says they are best.

So you might think that puts me on team Brian in this case, but not really because Brian took it to the extreme. He couldn’t appreciate that liberation means letting people choose. If his friends wanted to be in monogamous relationships, he shouldn’t resent it so loudly. The thing is by the end the show was clearly into showing Brian as being the odd one out. Where even Justin who had seemed to appreciate their arrangement came to be unhappy with it. And gosh down to a small storyline about Brian having a case of syphilis. It felt very much like slut-shaming. I definitely felt we were seeing the writer’s value judgements slipping in to view.

Who was my favorite character by the end? I’m not sure. I loved Emmett a lot. When the show started he was not a character I resonated with. By the end, Emmett was still far from my personal experience but I could dream of being so free and accepting of myself. He may have had the most growth of any character. Ted did finally come into his own in the last season but he was still sort of a loser, constantly almost connecting and not. I know we’re meant to think he and Blake finally ended up together but it was so last minute. Of all the characters, Ted had the worst luck and I felt like they could have just let him end up with Tad instead of that being yet another of Ted’s moments of ignoring red flags.

Brian and Michael who are basically the main characters never did a lot for me. Michael I could at least imagine being friends with him but I can’t imagine it being more. And Brian I can’t even imagine having him in my friend group. I just found him to be that abrasive. Every so often he did the right thing but it was often because it suited him not new found altruism.

Because Brian did nothing for me, I wanted to see Justin end up with a romantic love interest like his violinist boyfriend which I wrote about in the last post on Queer As Folk. And then they kept putting him and Brian back together. This is a problem I have with series TV in general. They kept repeating those two in a will-they-won’t-they sort of scenario. Those plot devices get on my nerves period. It’s even worse when the two characters are in an actual relationship. So the question was never would they have sex but could Brian admit to loving Justin and being a “real” couple. That was even more grating to me.

I can’t let this post pass though without giving a shout-out to Sharon Gless as Debbie Novotny. I don’t recall seeing Sharon Gless in anything since her Cagney and Lacey days back in the 80’s. She was a fierce momma bear not just to Michael but to his friends and the other queer characters that passed through. She was the epitome of the queer ally. I already loved her but the peak point was when her character proclaimed she wouldn’t marry the love of her life, Carl, until Michael and Ben could marry legally. I wish they would have a reunion special just because it was another ten years after the show ended before that day came to pass. I’ll just have to imagine that she and Carl finally married that year. It was hard for me to understand how Michael could see someone like Brian’s mother and not realize he struck gold with his Mom.

In the midst of this I also watched the UK version of Queer As Folk. Usually I love the original British shows best. This time…. I’m not sure what to say. On one hand, it’s an unfair comparison. The UK version even with it’s truncated second series has less episodes than the shortest season of the US version. The UK Version also ended on a very meta note. The characters were larger than life from the outset but by the end they were just completely meta characters larger than the story they inhabited. Still being a short run was a plus and a minus. The characters didn’t have as long to develop but they also didn’t become repetitive characters… I liked both series for different reasons with a slight edge to the US version.

I’m not sure if I intend to watch the more recent Queer As Folk 2022 revival. I’ve heard it ends on a cliffhanger and since it was cancelled, I’m not sure I’m up for watching a one season reboot that ends without resolution.

Since it was apparently a reboot entirely, I think for me my Queer As Folk watch ends with Brian and Michael and friends dancing in Babylon. I also don’t see myself picking up any series this long again for awhile. Two months was an investment of most of my spare time.

Queer As Folk Final scene - Brian and Michael dancing at Babylon

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