‘Queer as Folk’ reboot pays homage to New Orleans’ flawed real-life queer scene
What Peacock’s new “Queer as Folk” reboot nails when it comes to painting a picture of real New Orleans gay culture is that if you want to be part of a vibrant supporting scene , inclusive and not Trump is enough to understand the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” references, you’re going to have to make those yourself.
The original series White as the Drived Snow, which debuted on Showtime in 2005, is reborn only in name with this new version that features a cast of fresh faces that diversify in an intentionally inclusive way that wouldn’t even have crossed the spirit of the showrunners in the early 2000s, and is a fantastic reflection of the current LGBTQ scene here in New Orleans, where my wife and I transplanted from New York in 2015. If it took seventeen years to writers and casting agents to get this show right; maybe, if we’re lucky, the city it was filmed in will only take seventeen years to catch up with it.
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I’m a 45-year-old married lesbian teetering in loneliness, so my current nightlife mostly consists of watching old episodes of “The Real World” and singing songs to my dog. It hasn’t always been the case, but I can easily follow his unique journey. I spent my high school years living in Southern California, where I came out at age 14 after dreaming of kissing Winona Ryder. In my early thirties, I lived in Chicago and did my best to sit back and take for granted what would end up being the closest circle of lesbian friends I’d ever had. When I moved to New York and met my wife I allowed myself to sink into a nesting lifestyle that is very lesbian on the nose and then one day I woke up and realized that I didn’t even have a close gay friend. Life happens, we all get socially lazy at times in our lives, but I felt the need to figure this out on my own, and I still do. So when my wife and I moved to New Orleans I thought I’d try to immerse myself in the gay scene here, that I felt like I was wild and weird in a way that corresponded to my personal interests. Flash before me very *cough* serve briefly on the Nola Pride board as a token lesbian for a racially problematicclosed to family and pro-Trump board.
New Orleans gay culture, what little I can see of it peeking out my window like Ms. Kravitz from “Bewitched,” is not what I had in mind. If others who live here find it very suitable for them, blessings be upon them. Going through the eight episodes of the new “Queer as Folk,” I’m excited about what I know out there somewhere; which I know may be possible for a town of talented fags to turn itself around. I love how this show sees New Orleans LGBTQ culture and the seeds it has sown for what could be, but isn’t quite there yet.
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The first season of the “Queer as Folk” reboot begins with filming taking place in a fictional queer space on Frenchman Street called Babylon, a nod to the club of the same name very present in the original series. In a heartbreaking scene reminiscent of the mass shootings that have taken place across the United States in recent years, namely the 2016 Orlando shooting in Pulse, a character named Mingus (Fin Argus) is in the middle of a fantastic “The Craft” theme. drag the performance when a lone gunman enters the club from the back and opens fire on the room, killing a friend named Daddius (Chris Renfro). From this point on, the rest of the main characters Brodie (Devin Way), Ruthie (Jesse James Keitel), Shar (CG), Julian (Ryan O’Connell), Noah (Johnny Sibilly), Marvin (Eric Graise) and Bussy (Armand Fields) support each other to heal and reclaim a space that no longer feels safe.
While filming the show in January, an actual shoot took place in the afternoon on Avenue Saint-Claude in the Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans, which halted production for six hours. As shots were fired from a passing vehicle on the street outside, the show’s cast and crew moved inside the New Orleans Healing Center where the Istanbul cafe was used as an interior for a club scene.
“I just thought it was the team loading or setting up a new scene,” actor Kynt Kenneth Bryan said in a quote to Nola.com. “I am extremely saddened. … I have been in many different productions for a very long time and never imagined in my wildest dreams that there would be an incident like this.”
As my luck would have it, I had a near miss with this incident myself having made a rare departure from home to visit the food co-op inside the healing center to purchase a piece of royal cake. Busy with my annoyance that the parking lot was flooded with filming equipment and vehicles (not new, they’re always filming something here), and the fact that the co-op was out of royal cake, I was then relieved to to learn that I had left moments before the shooting. Others weren’t so lucky.
“Queer as Folk” reflects the violence of New Orleans, which anyone who has ever lived in a city knows is inevitable. But what it also reflects is New Orleans’ ability to try to make the best of dire situations far more often than a city ever should. Often credited for his resilience; New Orleans, and especially its LGBTQ community, would love to get to a point where they can just relax without preparing for the next big, life-threatening tragedy; be that hurricanes, ridiculously long power cutsdaily gunshots or a Lame Pride Board.
Jesse James Keitel as Ruthie, Devin Way as Brodie in “Queer as Folk” (Peacock)
In “Queer as Folk,” still reeling from filming in Babylon, the group of friends and lovers we grow closer to in this first season create a DIY space called Ghost Fag, which is an ironic reference to the hate crime graffiti they encounter after the tragedy. Blending different subcultures within the LGBTQ scene along the lines of drag culture, punk culture, sex worker culture, and a mishmash of all of the above, the scenes in Ghost Fag m recalled my favorite gay event I’ve ever attended. New Orleans, which was a party called Big Dick’s Home of Big Boobs. Ghost Fag, much like Big Dick, shows queer life at its best, a room full of loud music, sweaty bodies of all kinds, and no Catholic flyers or corporate sponsors to be found. The cast of “Queer as Folk” found hope here, and I found hope watching them find it.