The year 2000 had just passed. Computers had not unleashed any chaos, the world was still there and for two television series we made a pilgrimage to the house of the lucky ones who could pay the premium cable subscription: Buffy Y Queer as Folk. At another time it would be necessary to describe those gatherings and their specific way of watching television, between ironic consumption and reverential admiration. On Buffy, well-deserved rivers of ink have flowed; Here I have been asked to write about Queer as Folk.
The series told the life of a group of gay friends and a lesbian couple, between adolescence and the terrifying frontier of 30 (that’s how, at least, it was experienced by the characters), in a way considered bold and realistic for the time. . This basically meant that the bonding melodrama alternated with scenes representing highly detailed sexual practices, in a set of settings codified by the LGBT+ community: the bar, the disco, the gym, the art space, the dark room, etc. the room. In the first episode, the central character of the series – an attractive, successful, self-sufficient and falsely insensitive gay man – became a father by artificial insemination (with his lesbian friend) and later met a high school student, with whom had an encounter undoubtedly hotin which the boy lost his virginity. The concept was quite clear, politics and sex, or rather, sex politics, and also a bit of épater le heterosexual (and warm up the non-heterosexual public, of course).
So far it would seem to be a single series, but in reality there were two. The American version arrived first in Latin America (actually, a remake of the other). HBO premiered it in mid-2001, and it was such a success that a few months later it repeated the entire season late at night. Eventually, it settled on the Friday schedule. In November, I-Sat premiered the English version. To this day, controversies persist regarding the superiority of one or the other. The original was much more explicit in the representation of sexual encounters, and had a more realistic or crude aesthetic in concrete terms, but its consumption was more restricted. The most viewed, like it or not, was the American version, with its glamorized ethnography of the gay world.
Why was it important, or at least why was it important to us, the gay public or friendly (in those gatherings for collective consumption, as far as I remember, we were mostly whores and women)? You have to remember the time. After the activism of the 1970s, more linked to political agitation, and that of the 1980s, sadly linked to the HIV-AIDS epidemic, at the end of the 1990s sexual dissidence experienced a new process of presentation in society. It was no longer just about having their own spaces (such as the disco or the gay bar) or preserving the right to live without the aggression of the Police. Subtly, unmarked public spaces began to appear as gay that clearly took us into account. I will never forget the first time that, in Buenos Aires, when I was twenty years old, I entered Memorabilia. Born in 1976, I had internalized or made peace with the idea that being homosexual was deciding to stay apart, outside, and suddenly there was a restaurant open to everyone who considered me part of “everyone”. From the hand of “young” designers, the windows of the malls also took an unexpected turn. In 2001, the same year as Queer as FolkArgentine magazines News Y Twenty three They put local personalities on the cover doing their coming out public, a phenomenon that was reiterated in different countries of the region.
In a very short period of time, homosexuality ceased to be shameful and became fashionable. To a certain extent, we were aware of the relationship between this opening and neoliberalism: capitalism allowed us to emerge as consumers (and even models of consumption). In tune, the series offered a model of advertising homosexual life, capable of provoking and fascinating the “common” public. Now, what led us to accept this quid-pro-quo, what convinced us that it was important to sustain and promote those spaces, those brands, Queer as Folkwhat pushed us to effectively practice consumption as part of a sex policy, was the clear notion that it was not a battle won.
So we took charge of the situation and consumed to exist. No, it was not “our life”. In the Latin American context, and probably in the whole world, Queer as Folk it offered not so much the reality of the homosexual world as an aspirational model. And yes, it was part of the opening that changed our life chances, but for that very reason it also transformed them.
Looking back, it is clear that the series was one of the cultural devices that contributed to a decisive reconfiguration of our social and affective practices. In principle, of course, its “gayfication”, the focus on the model of the middle-class professional male as the only possible version of sexual dissidence, but also the definitive adoption of a hegemonic model of beauty often linked to that same masculinity whose absence both irritated heterosexuality (“don’t be a fagot”), and even the division into standardized and standardizing identities (the twinksthe studetc).
Beyond the proposed models, that standardization (that is, the transformation of identity into a reproducible and consumable type) was in itself so effective that the response to these glamorized bodies, years later, comes hand in hand with another standardization: the Bears. Finally, there is no doubt that the mode of representation adopted for the sex scenes contributed more than a grain of sand to the process of pornification of sexual practices that today becomes manifest in the constant proliferation, diffusion and exhibition of photos of the body itself. nudity in social networks (the need to assert themselves not only as desiring but also desirable, consumable bodies) and even widespread participation in more or less amateur pornography networks (the most emblematic case would be OnlyFans). Thus, homosexual “promiscuity”, which for decades had been the reaction to secrecy and marginalization, became a form of consumption.
Mass culture is rarely limited to “giving voice” to one sector or another; Rather, by giving it a space, it molds it, mostly according to economic interests. Is it naive, then, that for some of us Queer as Folk, with all its limitations, even with its marginalization of other dissidences, arouses a certain nostalgia? Are we victims of an illusionist effect, of the perennial attraction of ideology? Before rushing an answer, smiling at the naivety with which we thought we were doing something important by watching/consuming the series, remember everything that has changed from then to now. Yes, there are new legal frameworks, we have other rights, and not only that. There is another social dynamic, we are allowed to occupy the public space in a different way, and “was fucking” ceased to be the sung ending of hundreds of jokes. More important: adolescents who today discover their dissidence/s can do so with much more freedom.
But far from the “already gone”, the battle is not a thing of the past. Different right-wing political formations, in an increasingly less concealed way, are today determined to make us go back. The “homosexual lobby”, the “gender ideology”, the “defense of the family” are some of the forms that repeat over and over again discourses that assume that our very existence comes to take something away from them. Because the idea is that the world is theirs, only theirs. They want us to exist in the shadows again. They want to shut us out again. And for that, even fully aware of its limitations and pitfalls, Queer as Folk It continues to be a point of reference for us, a pivotal moment. Sometimes you have to accept that ideology is only fought with ideology.
It will be interesting, then, to see what shape these dilemmas are given by reboot of the series announced for June 9, with a cast that includes, among others, Kim Cattrall and Juliette Lewis (the latter, a more than eloquent nod to the nineties) and, perhaps acknowledging the limitations of the former, more diverse is advertised. Located this time in New Orleans, the history of the queer group begins with a homophobic attack, inspired by the shooter who in 2016 produced a real massacre in a gay disco in Orlando. Perhaps that kick is the recognition of a new moment, of new tensions, in the political experience of sexual dissidence. Or perhaps it is, as often happens, just an element of impact to draw the attention of the viewers, who will then be offered a glamorized and reassuring version of reality.
The author is a cultural critic, writer and translator. He has a Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania.