"Queer as Folk is a celebration of the lives and passions of a group of gay friends. It is not meant to reflect all of gay society"
Queer As Folk was originally conceived by Russell T Davies as a comedy drama set in Manchester's gay village. It followed the lives of three gay men: swaggering, self-assured Stuart Allen Jones, his less-self-assured best friend Vince Tyler who has an unrequited crush on him, and their new friend Nathan Maloney, a young man just finishing school and discovering the Scene.It was eventually remade for the US. Now with a Character Sheet! Due to the series approaching Loads and Loads of Characters territory, any help is appreciated.Like Sex and the City, except with men in the stereotypical gay man roles. Also compare The L Word (for lesbians), and Noah's Arc (for Black gay men).
Pun-Based Title: The title is a Northern British phrase meaning roughly "there's nothing stranger than people." However, the title could be misheard as "Queer as Fuck" (when spoken with a Manchester accent, the two words are even more similar) or, for the American show, "Queer-Ass Folk."
According to Word Of God, the working title of the UK show was, in fact, Queer As Fuck.
Though the moment is somewhat undercut by the fact that he did sleep with a fifteen-year-old at twenty-nine.
All Gays are Promiscuous: Played with. Stuart definitely fits this bill...but he's shown to have some deep-seated psychological insecurities. Vince also seems to fit this, but he's emulating Stuart and has the least amount of hookups (and one serious boyfriend). They also both settle down together. Stuart's views seem lean this way, though. He accuses Vince of being a straight guy who has sex with men because he wants a relationship instead of casual sex.
Vince:"Oh my god... when did that happen? Gotta go- so, what did they do? It's my neighbour, someone's broken in downstairs, she thinks it's kids- yeah, I'm coming now, I'll have to check the flat..."
Stuart: [picking up his phone, which Vince has used to call his own] "Fuck off, Vin..."
Blackmail: One of Stuart's nephews finds images on his computer outing him. Previous to this, the nephew didn't know Stuart was gay. On finding out, he demands 25... 50... 100 quid a week or he'll tell Stuart's parents, who don't know. Instead of capitulating, Stuart outs himself to his parents and accuses his nephew (who's 8, mind you) of being the most disgusting individual in the family.
Biggus Dickus: Well it's about gay sex, so naturally the joke comes up from time to time.
Stuart: "If that's what Big Bill calls 'big,' then I'm a co-loss-us."
Boomerang Bigot: The self-loathing Bernard Thomas, from his first meeting with Nathan on Canal Street, to his advice about coming out to one's parents:
"They way they see it, it's not gay. It's not homosexual. It's cock. You like cock. [beat] Fair dos, it is revolting."
Coming-Out Story: Nathan with his supportive mother, homophobic father and bullying classmates.
Country Matters: Vince tries to reassure Nathan over Stuart not wanting a proper relationship with him: "Nathan, he's a cunt."
...not to mention Nathan's awesome comeback: "You're friends with a cunt."
Disproportionate Retribution: Oblivious salesman making general homophobic comments? Drive a car through his window! ten year old nephew blackmailing you? Dunk his head in the toilet! Your friend's mother is a complete bitch to him right after his father dies? Blow up her car in front of her!
...and of course Phil Delaney's fatal cocaine overdose
Early-Installment Weirdness: The odd voiceover segments featuring members of the main cast talking to the camera while seated in front of a neon screen, which were used to establish a few character traits and then promptly disappeared after the first episode.
Earn Your Happy Ending: Boy, does Vince earn his eventual ride into the sunset with Stuart. Poor guy had literally been waiting for that moment more than half of his life.
Establishing Character Moment: Stuart invites Nathan back to his place, leaving Vince to take care of his car. Possibly a Relationship Establishing moment- as Phil Delaney puts it:
"So, he brings the car, gives you the keys so you can't drink, then he buggers off. Nice system."
Gaydar: Nathan's mother claims to have honed hers through working as a teacher: "Sometimes there's a boy and it's just shining out of him".
Geeky Turn-On: Inverted. Vince makes the choice to end an unhealthy relationship when he learns that his partner can't name all of the actors who played the Doctor. It's awesome.
Girl on Girl Is Hot: Averted. The resident lesbian couple never share more than a kiss on the cheek onscreen, while the gay male relationships are portrayed very frankly and graphically. Considering the creator, it's probably plain old Author Appeal.
It's All About Me: Nathan in the way he treats Donna. While exaggerating his problems with his actually very tolerant mother he completely fails to notice that Donna is going through some genuine family problems of her own. When he tries to tell Donna that she doesn't understand what it's like being in a sexual minority she has a great comeback:
"I'm black. And I'm a girl. Try that for a week."
In a later episode he makes the arrogant assumption that a guy giving Donna some grief was actually staring at him, causing Donna to tell him "It's not all about you, you know".
...and when he sees his mother out on Canal Street with Hazel, who reminds him: "This place isn't just for you, you know!"
Alexander, at Phil Delaney's funeral: "This could be me! I could be dead! Mind you, I think I'd draw more of a crowd..."
...and at Vince's 30th birthday, when Cameron gets him a more impressive present: "I have never been so upstaged!"
Jerk Ass: Stuart, what with his constant sleeping around, blowing off and insulting his friends, and neglecting his son.
....or the fact that he intentionally shags men that Vince fancies, just to prove he can. Not to mention making a pass at Vince's boyfriend.
...or hosting Vince's 30th birthday party, then inviting a work colleague who has a massive crush on him so she can discover that he is gay in the most humiliating manner possible...
Land Down Under: Alexander on meeting Vince's boyfriend Cameron, and seizing an opportunity to make many Double Entendres: "Australian? Very nice! Down Under, mammals with pouches... loads of material!"
Most Important Person: Vince and Stuart, so much. So much that the notoriously promiscuous (and insensitive Jerkass) Stuart eventually goes on record explaining to Vince's mom why he's never slept with Vince: because the love between them is so intense and unique that a sexual relationship would seem almost trivial by comparison.
Stuart: You've gotta fancy 'em. Never mind love. Love can fuck off. If you fancy him, there's blood, there's a hard-on. If you just love him...
Men Are Uncultured: Vince appears to be this and proud of it when his boyfriend takes him to a gallery opening.
Name's the Same: Russell T Davies likes reusing names. Tyler is one of his favourites — here it is Vince's surname, and later it was to be Rose's surname in Doctor Who. There are also characters named Martha Jones and Donna, both of which were used as names of major characters in Doctor Who.
Race for Your Love: The final ten minutes of the series, in what probably cements Vince and Stuart as the official romance of the show. Their tempestuous relationship had finally convinced Stuart to split for London, and Vince being too delusional or too stubborn to make an effort to stop what would have undoubtedly spelled the end of their time together, the situation leads to Stuart actually packing up and on being the verge of leaving town. However, Vince's mom pulls all the stops in an effort to get Vince to Stuart before he leaves, and they end up reuniting and reconciling moments before Stuart drives off (and leaving town together, apparently for good.)
Slow Loading Internet Image: Stuart clicks on the online profile of a guy on a gay dating site. All we see is half of the guy's body (you can guess which half) and the picture hasn't even fully loaded before Stuart is out of the room, off to find the guy...
Stalker with a Crush: Nathan for the first few episodes. He dogs Stuart all over town, and even uses Stuart's taxi tab to do it. According to Vince, this isn't the first time Stuart's had this effect on a guy.
Straight Gay: Most of the main cast (with the exception of Alex)
Transparent Closet: Nathan's mum claims to have realised her son was gay when he was just ten.
Unrequited Love Lasts Forever: Invoked by Vince after he dumps Cameron (and spies an excuse to quote Doctor Who): "Unrequited love. It's fantastic, 'cause it never has to change, it never has to grow up and it never has to die!"
Unresolved Sexual Tension: The UST between Vince and Stuart fuels the entire series. Vince has been hopelessly in love with Stuart for years, and Stuart, while sleeping with a different guy every night of the week, never gets around to Vince. Apparently, they had an (interrupted) tryst as boys, and at one point in the show they actually check into a hotel room with the intention of resolving everything... but somehow, it just doesn't happen and they simply end up sharing the bed. As of the finale, after much emotional-rollercoastering the two of them have left everything else behind in favor of spending the rest of their lives together, but it is still uncertain whether their relationship will ever move beyond that of incredibly devoted friends.
It's worth noting that in any other series, their romantic relationship would probably count as canon (they kiss multiple times, hold hands, seriously consider sleeping together, and are obviously in love in their own ways), but compared to the many explicit sexual relationships between men in Queer as Folk, Stuart and Vince still fall into the UST category.
Age Is Relative: Old man jokes about the well-preserved fortysomething David.
Emmett was somehow never made fun of for dating George, an actual old man.
All Gays are Promiscuous: Michael's relationships are the only completely monogamous ones on the show, and even he goes for random hook-ups when single. Notably Mel and Lindsay, in spite of occasional infidelities and one threesome, show much less inclination to promiscuity on the whole. The show's official philosophy seems not so much to be that gays are promiscuous, but that men are.
Abusive Parents: The biggest reason Brian grew up into the man he is today.
And Ben and Michael's eventual adopted son Hunter, who was abused by his own mother and pimped out as a child prostitute. And when she found out Hunter got positive during the custody battle between the guys and his mother, his mother's reaction was so foul that the judge grants the custody to the gay couple.
The Beard: Ted and Emmett at the wedding of Lindsay's sister.
A unsuspecting Tracey when Michael wants to get a promotion in Season 1.
Big Applesauce: Averted. While the setting might be PittsburghIn Name Only, even that was a refreshing change of pace since most gay media is based in New York or California by default.
Lampshaded in the episode when the gang went on a charity bike ride to Toronto (where the show was actually filmed) and the characters remarked how much it reminded them of Liberty Avenue.
Book Ends: The last shot of the series, which ended up deleted to cut down the episode's running time, showed a young twink stepping into Pittsburgh's gay nightlife for the first time, exactly how the series began with Justin.
California Doubling: Set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, filmed in Toronto. Which makes the show hard to watch for some who know Pittsburgh well.
Date Rape: This almost happens to Justin when he goes to a party his boss from Babylon throws.
Deconfirmed Bachelor: Inverted with Brian. Although Brian and Justin call off the wedding, it's obvious during Brian's second proposal to Justin that as firmly as he was against marriage before, Justin changed him.
Deadpan Snarker: Brian in almost every episode, and Ted and Vic also have their moments.
The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: Averted. It is no secret that Vic, Ben, and Hunter have HIV. And although Brian initially does not want to admit it, it soon becomes common knowledge that he has cancer.
Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Brian is too proud to ask or accept help. However, he rather takes unoffered ones with an entitled attitude (for example crashing into Mike and Ben's first night living together).
Drugs Are Bad: Ben's use of steroids; Ted's season one hospitalization and season three addiction; Blake's addiction.
Much drug use never has consequences, though. One position on drugs is stated by Brian: "Only do drugs with your friends, because they're the only ones who give a shit about you."
Double Entendre: Played straight and occasionally subverted. The age old 'I'm coming' gag has never been played.
Unless you count the time when Prop 14 supporters knock on Michael and Ben's door while they're having sex, and Michael angrily yells, "I'm coming!" right before he and Ben finish.
Downer Ending : The season one finale. Justin gets gay bashed and his fate is left ambiguous, Blake basically dumps Ted who reacts badly and Michael ends up not going to Portland with David. The music that plays during the last few scenes doesn't help.
Fag Hag: Debbie, who probably qualifies as the Queen of the Fag Hags.
Gayborhood: Liberty Avenue (though it is not this in Real Life); the suburb Michael and Ben move to in Season 5.
Gaydar: How many times could we see someone heterosexual trying to seduce or drooling after a main character? And how many times could we see a main character fancying someone from the same gender who turned them down due to Incompatible Orientation? David? Gay. Ethan, Ben? What a surprise, gay. Not to mention Drew...
Has Two Mommies: Gus and Jenny Rebecca. Also Hunter, for having two daddies.
Heartbroken Badass: Brian. The first time, although he barely shows it, when Justin leaves Brian for Ethan. The second time, Justin leaves Brian because Justin wants to eventually settle down, get married and have children. Brian is a very vocal opponent of these desires and Justin decides that there is no point pursuing their relationship if it won't grow. Brian is much more visibly affected when this happens and even blames Michael for Justin's decision.
Hey, It's That Guy!: Anyone who's seen the various "I Love the _____" shows might be surprised to see Hal Sparks as Michael. He's much better known for his comedic, musical, and martial-arts talents.
Incompatible Orientation: Debbie and Loretta. Debbie eventually has to sit Loretta down and explain to her that a relationship between them can never happen because 1) Debbie is straight and 2) Debbie is in love with Carl.
In Love with Love: It's quite urgent for David to make Michael settle down, without being really interested in him.
Irony As She Is Cast: Michael says in one episode, "I thought straight actors don't accept gay roles?" Hal Sparks is straight, as are Gale Harold (Brian) and Scott Lowell (Ted).
Also Melanie, even through we are supposed to see her as butch.
Love Dodecahedron: In the first few episodes: Ted wants Michael, Michael wants Brian, Justin wants Brian, and you see a hint of a spark between Lindsey and Brian. It doesn't go anywhere, but still we can tell there's a history.
Manly Gay: David, Ben and Drew. Michael, Brian and Ted seem to be in the most neutral part of this. Completely averted with Emmett.
May-December Romance: Played straight with Jennifer and Tucker. This is extremely difficult for Justin to accept, despite the fact that there is over a decade separating his and Brian's ages. Jennifer calls him out on this.
Meaningful Name: Brian ('strong'), Justin ('upright'), David ('beloved'), Melanie ('dark'), Deborah ('bee').
Monochrome Casting: An egregious example since African-Americans make up over a quarter of Pittsburgh's population.
Actually not that surprising. The gay community is often criticized to be pretty monochrome in real life.
But it's hard to excuse them on those grounds when they went to the trouble of placing a disclaimer at the start of every episode that they don't reflect gay society.
Averted and parodied in Gay As Blazes, the show's resident Show Within a Show, where there seems to be a black character just to project political correctness.
Morality Pet: Emmett occasionally fills this role for Brian.
Most Important Person: Michael and Brian, for each other. Through "adopt-a-tricks", gay-bashing, boyfriends, husbands, cancer, and Debbie, they're it for each other. While Brian and Michael are clearly in love with Justin and Ben (respectively), they have also been each others' anchor for years. That does not just go away.
The Muse: Brian to Michael and Justin, creating Rage.
Ethan claims Justin is this for him.
Mushroom Samba: Arguable. It's unclear whether Emmett was aware that the mushrooms he ate at the Fairy Retreat were hallucinogenic, and it isn't until after he accepts his fairy self and declares a fairy name, Clear Day, that he finds out that the man he spoke to who helped him come to this epiphany was not only the creator of the Fairy Retreat, but that the same man died three years earlier.
My Beloved Smother: Debbie, so very much, and not just to Michael. She smothers Brian, Justin, and the rest too.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Brian entered David into the Babylon beauty contest to affront him, but it turned out to be an eclat for David. He also does this when Debbie implores him to let Michael be with David.
Later, he ends up losing his job and most of his money when he successfully sabotages the electoral campaign he created for Jim Stockwell.
No Bisexuals: For all its messages of tolerance, bisexuality as an orientation is rarely mentioned; almost all of the characters are gay or straight.
Especially weird in the case of Lindsay. She and Brian share a passionate kiss and reference a previous sexual relationship in the first episode. She also has an affair with a man in Season 4 and acknowledges an attraction to men when she breaks it off, saying that she has "many rooms" in her house but only occupies a few. Nevertheless insists "I'm a lesbian."
When Ben and Michael discover that Hunter has a girlfriend, they just assume that he's straight, despite Hunter having an earlier crush on Brian.
Not Good With Rejection: A mild version in the case of Brian and Brandon. Brian is used to getting whomever he wants, whenever he wants. When Brandon rejects him in the backroom of Babylon, Brian has issues letting it go.
Not With Them For The Money: Emmett genuinely falls in love with a wealthy older man who dies and leaves his fortune to Emmett, but includes the clause that he not be publicly outed as a gay man. Emmett struggles with the idea of being rich or being honest, and eventually decides it's more important to tell the world who George was and that they loved each other than to have money.
Taken to an extreme in the final episodes after the explosion at Babylon.
The Runaway: Hunter. Justified with his mother, who was abusive and in and out of jail. He eventually runs away from his foster parents, Michael and Ben, after it's revealed to his entire school that he has HIV and received it from his days as a gay prostitute. He comes back after Michael is hurt at the "No on Prop 14" benefit bombing.
Sanity Slippage: Brian tears Justin's drawings apart and pees onto some of them in his tantrum of jealousy after seeing Justin and Michael sleeping together on his bed.
Sex Sells: Brian's entire philosophy as an ad exec.
The philosophy of the show too, considering the massive amounts of sex scenes and implications. Gets really evident with Lindsay and Melanie's sex scenes, clearly crafted to attract straight males and lesbians.
Television Geography: Residents of Pittsburgh get quite a kick out of the show's depiction of their city as a gay mecca, centered on the decadent and lively nightlife of Liberty Avenue (an actual, but fairly ordinary, major downtown thoroughfare). In fact, you might say that the fictional Liberty Avenue looks a lot like Church Street in Toronto, an actual gay neighborhood in a very gay-friendly city, and where the show is actually filmed.
Coupled with the Monochrome Casting example above, it really makes one wonder why the show wasn't just based in Toronto to begin with. But at the other hand mayn problems that appear epsiecially in later eeasons, wouldn't be so problematic, if the series would have been settled in Canada at all.
The original UK version is in a industrial city (Manchester) so the producers thought Pittsburgh would be the US analog.
Lampshaded in Season 4 at the Liberty Ride when the gang gets to (real) Toronto and keeps pointing out how much it reminds them of Liberty Avenue.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Michael and Brian. They can fistfight, scream at each other, refuse to speak to each other, treat each other horribly (mostly on Brian's part), but if anyone but Brian insults Michael, Brian will unleash hell on them. Only he's allowed to call Michael "pathetic", thank you.
Your Cheating Heart: Practically everyone cheats on their significant other at least once throughout the series. Melanie and Lindsey each cheated on each other once, Melanie with another woman and Lindsey with a man. Emmett gets into a relationship with a football player who is cheating on his fiance with Emmett. Ted cheats on Emmett with a bunch of guys during his downward spiral into drugs. And then of course there is Ethan who cheats on Justin for no apparent reason at all.
And Brian has sex with someone besides Justin practically every episode. Multiple times. Of course it's not really cheating since Brian does have Justin's blessing. Hurray for open relationships.
But Justin turns out to be the more unfaithful one. Ok, Brian screws another guy every night, but Justin gives a handjob to Chris while falling in love with Brian (and crying after he sees him with a guy), he sets the no kissing rule and is the first to break it, not to mention the too romantic affair with Ethan.