Let's See How Far We've Come
At the outset, "Queer as Folk" and "The L Word" are the same show; it follows a group of gay 20-30-somethings in Pittsburgh who spend their time...being gay, mostly. As one of the first mainstream pieces of queer television, it puts itself out there in a way that seems abrasive and downright campy now. But between the year 2000 and 2015, so much has changed in terms of how the gay community functions in the U.S; "Queer as Folk", in that sense, acts like a time capsule for what it was like to be gay in conservative America.
Being a soap opera, "Queer as Folks" answers for inquiring minds stretches the boundaries of logic several dozen times over the course of the show, but you're not watching this show because it's smart or insightful. You're watching this show because it promises you a damn good time. And, mostly, it damn well delivers one.
"Drunk as Folk": The Rules
1. Drink for Title Drops: That's every time you see or hear the full title, "Queer as Folk".
2. Drink when they drink.
3. Drink for daddy issues.
4. Drink when someone says the words "gay", "lesbian", or "homosexual".
5. Drink if people have sex. Drink again if one of those people is Brian.
6. Drink when you see dancing men. Not for each individual dancing man, that would be ridiculous, but once per scene when this happens. And it happens a lot.
7. Drink when someone takes illegal drugs or mentions illegal drug usage.
All the above rules apply. Also...
1. Title drops: Drink when someone says the word "queer".
2. Drink for stronger homophobic slurs. Brian likes to call lesbians "munchers".
3. Drink for references to porn or masturbation. Boys.
4. Drink when a gay person compares himself or other gay people to straight people. I'll explain this a little more later.
5. Drink for film or television references. You should be able to name the movie or TV show.
All the above rules apply. Also...
1. Drink for allusions to superheroes or superpowers. Our main character is a comic geek, before it was cool.
2. Drink for fundraising or awareness-raising of any kind.
3. Drink for angry shouting.
4. Drink when you see a man in drag.
Krissy Pappau: Hates that she likes this show (Medium)
Pooh Daddy: Token gay man (Easy)
Some Guy: Token straight man (Medium)
Bride of Buggerlas: Glitter Queen (Medium)
Big Moose: Living in a completely different show (Hard)
Mean as Folk
About halfway through our first episode, episode 103 "No Bris, No Shirt, No Service", we got a glimpse of Babylon, the most popular gay club on Liberty Avenue, for the first time. It was awesome. Between the dancing shirtless men (drink), the illicit sex in the back room (drink), and the tendency to attract people the characters least want to see, Babylon is THE hotbed of dramatic action in "Queer as Folk". You just can't get that kind of heat and passion at Woody's or Liberty Diner.
If literally anyone else said those words, it would sound like an insult. As it was, we burst into laughter, and Bride of Buggerlas erupted into a manic string of apologies. It's so rare for any one of us to say something mean on purpose, that when someone is accidentally mean, it's nothing but hilarious.
The guys on "Queer as Folk" are mean, and not in a cute way. A lot of them really seem to hate each other most of the time. Brian heaps disdain on everyone in equal measure, but Michael, the one we're supposed to sympathize with the most, is often petulant and whiney, especially to his mother Deb who's just trying to be supportive most of the time. Deb's no shirking violet either, though; she can dish out sarcastic and cutting remarks just as well as the rest of them.
It's the biggest question of the series. Why do we care about Brian Kinney? How is he able to get away with his assholery? I've never bought that being handsome and good at sex was enough to excuse his terrible behavior. From a narrative standpoint, it's simple: without Brian, nothing would get done. Every other character on the show seems content to stew in their own emotions and blame all their problems on outside forces.
Bride of Buggerlas brought up the question that was on all our minds: "Why can't they make a show about gay people who aren't the fucking worst?"
Interestingly enough, "Queer as Folk" has an answer for that question.
Gay as Blazes
No, but seriously, the cast of "Queer as Folk" is split about how to view this show. Many of the characters appreciate that the community is being portrayed in a wholesome, moral light, but Brian in particular finds the show unrealistic and dangerous, rejecting the idea that the best a gay man can aspire to is everything a straight man could want: monogamy and stability.
This debate comes up again and again in the show: can gay men be accepted by society at large without conforming to society's norms? Should gay men allow themselves to want the "straight" ideal, and if so, is a gay man who doesn't want domesticity and true love giving the rest of the community a bad name? It's the thematic question of the show, whether the creators realize it or not, making this episode one of the most important in the series. It's the episode where the show addresses its critics, defends the members of its cast that don't live up to society's moral code, and blatantly takes down the idea of a moral ideal in the first place.
There's something to be said for the flamboyance this show has to offer as well. As a counterpoint, in 2014 HBO premiered its first season of "Looking", a modern take on the young-gay-men-looking-for-love story. Already in the first episode, you can see stark differences between it and its predecessors. The lack of a soundtrack, the muted colors, the naturalistic acting style, even the simple fact that these men regard being gay as just another aspect of their psychological makeup marks "Looking" as an indirect descendent of "Queer as Folk". The characters on "Looking" are all regular dudes, laid back, normal. As Pooh Daddy says, "the focus of the show is not that they're gay."
You know what the biggest criticism is about "Looking"? People think it's boring.
You know what happened to "Looking"? It got cancelled. Last weekend.
Show Me the D
Michael has a female co-worker who has a huge crush on him and makes no attempt to hide it. He fears that if he tells her he's gay she would tell everyone he works with at the Big Q (think K-Mart) and he would lost his job, so he strings her along and pretends that he is also interested, at least when they're around other co-workers. Michael is obviously an asshat for doing this, and this results in a lot of hurt feelings down the line, but in 2000 he would not have had legal protection at his customer service job. He absolutely could have been fired for his sexual orientation.
After Brian crashes his biological son's bris, the kid's lesbian parents Lindsay and Melanie have a huge fight. Melanie feels sore that Lindsay continues to take Brian's side over hers when they're supposed to be a commited couple. Melanie is making a really big deal out of this, as well she should, but her anger is further compounded by the fact that as her son's biological father, Brian has more legal rights over the kid than Melanie does, even though she is financially and maternally providing for the boy.
Not to pretend that these things don't still happen, but legal and federal protection of the LGBT community has come a long way in fifteen years. However, there's one big prejudice that I see over and over again on this show that has not been eradicated.
The absence of dicks.
But I have to figure that the main demographic for this show is gay men, and I am pretty sure they would have loved a lot more cock than they actually got. Eventually it happens, but I'm convinced that people must have written letters to Showtime complaining about the sheer lack of stiffies.
And this lack of penile attention continues even today! Think about Game of Thrones. How many breasts do you see in an episode? Enough for me to make it a rule in my drinking game. How many dicks do you see in a SEASON?
Drink whenever Brian calls Michael pathetic.
That Brian Kinney. What a great guy.
Drink whenever a gay character pretends to be straight.
A bonus drink if they fully commit to doing someone of the opposite sex!
Oh yeah, also bisexuality doesn't exist on this show. Womp.
Finish your drink if you see at least one penis.
We actually played with this rule during our game, even though I was convinced we wouldn't have to use it. Sure enough, during his Bris, we catch a glimpse of Gus' tiny dongle.
Meaning the show showed us a BABY penis before showing us a grown man's.
For Your Inebriation is written by Krissy Pappau (Hollis Beck). All "Queer as Folk" images are owned by Showtime Entertainment.