Have you ever had a tv relationship leave such a strong impact on you that years later, you still look back on those characters with fondness, remembering all the good times as if you were there and the challenges they’ve overcome with pride. Maybe you even learned something along the way.
I have a show like that. The leading man was arrogant, narcissistic, a bit of a whore and mean. And I loved him for it. Brian Kinney, played by Gale Harold, was my hero because deep down behind that a$$hole veneer was a heart of gold. As for the mean…it wasn’t so much mean as brutal honesty. He called it like he saw things and he didn’t ever pull punches. I think I loved him a bit for that… No one could ever say that they didn’t know where they stood with him…and his kindnesses showed itself at the most unusual moments in the most original ways.
At first glance one might think, whoa! That age difference doesn’t bode well for this relationship. Normally, you might be right. If the younger guy was anyone but Justin. He’s an oddly compelling mix of innocence and wisdom. He’s the actual grown up in the relationship, emotionally speaking.
The show? Queer As Folk, a Showtime Original TV show back in the early 2000’s. My absolute favorite scene happened at the end of Season One, when the young man, Justin Taylor played by Randy Harrison, who caught his eye (a high school senior) asked him to prom. He said no. He was concerned that maybe the relationship wasn’t so appropriate because of their age difference. He was in his late twenties. He does, however, decide to show up for one dance…
Sadly, after that dance, tragedy strikes. Justin walks Brian to the garage where he’s parked to kiss him goodnight. Brian starts to get into his jeep. As Justin heads back to finish the prom with his best friend, Daphne, a football player from his school with a baseball bat hits him in the head from behind. Brian, seeing him coming from his side mirror screams Justin’s name, but it’s too late. The damage is done. Brian fights the guy off and calls the ambulance for an unconscious Justin. Fortunately, Justin survives and eventually recovers.
Brian always thought he could hold himself apart. That he wouldn’t allow anyone close enough for him to love them. Except somehow, Justin was able to sneak in. Debbie, played brilliantly by Sharon Gless, is his childhood best friend, Michael’s, mom. Unaccepted by his own family, she knows him best… I love this scene where she calls him out on the feelings he’s trying so hard to avoid.
Then there’s what Queer As Folk taught me about gay marriage. Lindsey Peterson, played by Thea Gill, is Brian’s female best friend and the mother of his child. Well, okay, technically he’s the sperm donor for her baby with her girlfriend, Melanie, played by Michelle Clunie. After one problem after another in planning a wedding that won’t be recognized by anyone but their friends, Brian brings their friends together to help them put together the wedding of their dreams…
It was actually through this show that I saw all too clearly why legalizing gay marriage is important. Here’s my take based on what I learned. If it were simply a matter of love, many would probably be okay with commitment ceremonies. But it’s not just the love aspect that makes marriage so important. Actually, it’s the legalities that we heteros take for granted.
For example, in season one, Gus, Lindsey and Melanie’s son becomes ill. When they rush him to the hospital the only people they’d let back with him to the doctor was his biological parent. When Brian arrived after Melanie called to let him know Gus was sick, he wondered why she wasn’t with their son. When she explained, he became furious on her behalf. In the end, they were both able to go back (mostly because the “biological father” approved it). It didn’t matter that she was the parent raising the child.Later, to ensure that both mothers would be able to care and be responsible for Gus, he allowed both women to adopt him, effectively signing his parental rights away despite the fact that he obviously cared about him.
In a later season, an anti-gay activist group (I’m sure you know which “religious group” they resembled) decide to blow up the local dance club, Babylon, during a fund raising event to “Stop Prop 14”. In the explosion many were hurt and several were killed including one of Lindsey and Melanie’s lesbian friends. She was the mother of two children. She and her life partner had been together for years. When she passed away, not only did her partner lose her, she lost their children. Why? Because she wasn’t the biological parent and had no legal rights. Technically, those went to the family who’d never approved of their relationship to begin with. That just struck me as wrong on so many levels for both the kids (who knew her as mom, and for the woman).
I know that this may not be a very accurate depiction of how things work these days. I’m sure there are legal documents that can be created that will protect some of these rights. But still… There are still so many places who won’t give health insurance to life partners, but will approve it for spouses. And that’s just for starters.
When I look back on this show, I appreciate how it broadened my horizons. I loved the characters and the plot lines. And I’ll forever love Brian Kinney and Justin Taylor. In my little universe, they found their happily ever after. (And yeah…I found their sex to be smokin’ hot!) Of course, with these guys of mine, they had to go and put a twist on the series finale…
Has there been a show that’s opened your eyes? Maybe helped you grow? View the world just a little bit differently? I’d love to hear about it. And Debbie’s final question is a valid one…How the hell DO you return a water buffalo?