If you lived under a rock in the late '90s/early '00s, allow me to catch you up on a very prominent slice of pop culture. Showtime Entertainment produced a television series called Queer As Folk, which followed the lives of five gay men, two lesbians, and a slew of other characters living in the gay community of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was heralded as the first realistic glimpse into the actual realities of being a modern homosexual. Such topics as coming out, same-sex marriage, gay-bashing, drug use, underage prostitution, gay adoption, and ex-gay ministries were just the tip of the iceberg, and the critics said that it was a strong depiction of what being gay is all about.
That must be how it went back then in Pittsburgh, 'cause I've never met anyone like these characters in the Maine gay community. Does that mean that they're all hiding at another bar, being all quirky and (dare I say?) unrealistic, like charicatures? Don't get me wrong, I realize that these people are just that: characters on TV. And there are traits to these characters that definitely helped set the gay community aside from that go-to impression that your dad's buddies do while having a beer and they need to articulate how gay something is. I get all of that. But just as it's obnoxious for a girl to ask if they're "more of a Carrie, or a Miranda", the absolute last thing that I want to see happen ever again is people watching a TV show about my culture and then expecting to get that same experience when they hang out with me, especially out at a gay club.
Raise your hand if you've ever been the token __________ before. There's a lot of pressure involved with that, and it often ends up shaping your personality towards what society has set up for you against your will.
Sheesh, listen to me. Sister Soldier over here needs to dial it down a bit.
At the very least, I want to pose this question: Did shows like Queer as Folk and The L Word reform the mainstream images of the gay community for better or worse? Overdramatization needs to be taken into account in this argument, because there is quite a lot of it going on. So as long as that's noted, let us look at the buck-naked view of Portland, Maine's gay community, shall we?
We have quite a few gay establishments, though they don't necessarily market themselves as such. The two prominent gay bars are Blackstones and Styxx. Blackies is a wood-paneled-wall kind of haunt with great drinks and a pool table, nestled between a porno store and the beautiful buildings of the West End. Styxx is the dance club that went from being a crazy, coked-out sex dungeon of yesteryear to an almost-upscale cocktail club where you can go and dance, and nobody will bug you.
Now, lets take a look at the two bars they frequent in Queer As Folk: First, Woody's is relatively the same as Blackstones, with a bunch of gay men who just want a damn beer. Only difference is that there is hardcore gay porn on the TVs in Woody's, which the camera conveniently pans towards in and out of almost every scene they spend there. Then there's Babylon, a dance club, with tons of muscley linebackers in tiny Speedos, dancing like they've never been so gosh darn free in their whole life on a platform, while glitter rains down on all the 700 patrons. The main characters often will say something like "Yadda yadda yadda... oh wait, hey, he's hot and he's looking at you. Go have some fun!" and then the character will disappear with this random man into a series of tunnels upstairs. The camera follows them, and people are mid-fuck, turning and saying "Hey Michael! Having fun tonight?!" as if it's nothing.
I honestly hope I don't REALLY need to say this, but to all those out there that watched this show and now think they have a realistic view on the gay culture, understand that this shit doesn't really happen. At least not here. And thank the high priestesses for that, 'cause wow. Queer As Folk was groundbreaking and in a lot of areas probably really relevant and honest, but from what I've seen working extensively in the gay community for the past 5 years, Portland doesn't have that side of things tucked up it's sleeve.
Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm just not paying attention, and this type of seedy activity is all over the place, being overly dramatic and wild and covered in glitter and rainbows. All I know for sure is that if I were a character on QAF, I'd probably shoot myself from the oversaturation.
But that's not stopping me from watching the entire series start-to-finish.
To all you fabulous gays out there that saw this show when it was originally airing and chose to base your adulthood off of the actions these characters portrayed, re-evaluate. If I followed everything that people on my favorite shows did, I'd be making meth with a balding science teacher or entering myself in toddler pageants right now.