Analysis of Queer as Folk

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Since its premiere in 1998, I have been a dedicated viewer of the television series Will & Grace. Writing an essay about it was easy because it revolves around two gay men and their straight female friends who are both irritating and endearing. As mentioned earlier, this show is packed with political themes but it goes beyond being just another LGBTQ+ show (no pun intended). In addition to its humorous moments and enjoyable character interactions, this program was considered innovative and game-changing. It marked the first instance where openly gay characters were showcased on a major network from a completely new standpoint.

In the mid-90s, gay men on television were portrayed as more than just party-goers affected by AIDS. They were depicted in a relatable and family-oriented manner. While this shift was considered positive, it raises the question of whether there can ever be a universally positive representation of gay men on TV. In my opinion, there is no clear-cut answer. A portrayal that is entirely positive or negative for gay men and women on television does not exist definitively, and perhaps it may never exist.

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Will & Grace stands out from other prime time comedies by not using an opening montage of video clips. Instead, it opts for a harmonious theme that instantly fosters a sense of inclusion and connection with viewers. This deliberate choice aims to establish a welcoming atmosphere and entice first-time viewers to continue watching. Furthermore, the show avoids showing scenes of Will kissing another man in its opening credits, ensuring it doesn’t limit its appeal solely to a gay audience.

The title characters, Will and Grace, appear to be in a romantic relationship in this episode. This could potentially serve the purpose of familiarizing viewers with Will’s homosexuality since he is openly gay and Grace is his closest companion. Initially, it may not be apparent that Will is gay until Jack enters the scene. Both Will and Jack are presented as unique stereotypical male figures, which enhances their allure.

On one hand, there is Will, a lawyer who may be perceived as a straight male if the viewer is unaware of the premise of the show. On the other hand, there is Jack, who represents the typical stereotypical gay male, often portrayed as abnormal or unappealing. However, through social constructionism – where humans create realities based on their perception of what is normal or natural – Jack becomes a charming “little brother” figure to Will.

The idea that the personalities of Will and Jack are socially constructed reinforces my stance that there is no definitive portrayal of gay men in popular media. These characters exemplify our perception of certain gay men. Nonetheless, not all gay men possess the same level of masculinity as Will or femininity as Jack. To further bolster my point, I look to a contrasting show that presents gay men and their lifestyles in an entirely different manner.

The television show Queer as Folk was broadcasted on Showtime for a duration of five years and garnered critical acclaim for its authentic portrayal of homosexual men. In the first episode, there is a plotline wherein Justin, a 17-year-old adolescent, engages in sexual activity with Brian, a 30-year-old advertising executive characterized by his pessimistic demeanor (OAF, S1/EP1). This particular scene establishes the overarching atmosphere of the entire series. Nevertheless, I hold the perspective that this representation fails to accurately depict all members of the gay community. While it may realistically portray the lives of these two specific individuals within this community, it may not resonate comfortably with every individual.

The common stereotype of portraying Brian as promiscuous is often attributed to gay characters. This stereotype is believed to have originated from social constructionism, although it differs from the perspective of the television show Will & Grace. Queer as Folk was specifically created and marketed to primarily attract gay men, while Will & Grace aimed for a broader audience including housewives, working fathers, and families watching together at dinner. This illustrates the concept of broadcasting versus narrowcasting.

According to Vasquez (4/2/10), the television shows Will & Grace and Queer as Folk have different methods of targeting their audience. Will & Grace uses a broadcasting approach, aiming to attract a diverse range of viewers. On the other hand, Queer as Folk utilizes narrowcasting tactics to specifically appeal to a marginalized group. The show mainly appeals to middle-class white families from the Midwest, portraying gay individuals in a reassuring manner. Interestingly, despite humorously using the term “queer,” the title of Queer as Folk accurately reflects its portrayal of LGBTQ+ individuals.

The term “queer” has historically had negative connotations but has been reclaimed by the gay community as a term of endearment (Vasquez 4/2/10). In an episode of this show, Brian asserts his superiority over “rich heteros” using the term. “Queer” encompasses various non-normative sexual tendencies. Will & Grace also explores this concept differently. The characters Will and Jack often find themselves torn between their identities as “Homo-gay” and “Hetero-gay,” highlighting the internal struggle within their small gay community. This struggle showcases Will’s unexpected masculine identity as a gay man, while Jack, who embodies stereotypes, frequently clashes with him.

This paragraph discusses a specific scene from an episode of Will & Grace. In the scene, Will expresses his refusal to be one of Jack’s playthings, highlighting the difference between sexuality and sexualities. Jack represents sexuality, with his gay identity remaining constant. Conversely, Will embodies sexualities, as he has the potential to have multiple and changeable sexual identities. This is evident in another episode where it is revealed that Will has had a previous sexual encounter with a woman. This further supports the argument that Will’s ability to lean towards different sexual orientations attracts a more diverse audience.

Despite focusing on the representation of gays on TV, this particular episode of Will & Grace is hopeful about its chances for airing. While it does discuss these politics in a way that may target a specific audience, it is not as extreme as Queer as Folk. However, just because Queer as Folk is tailor-made for a marginalized audience doesn’t necessarily mean it presents sexualities in the media favorably.

Frankly, I am skeptical that there will ever be a favorable depiction of gay individuals on TV. Unless you conform to the stereotype of a masculine gay man like Brian or Will, or a teenager like Justin who is eager to lose their virginity, you might not find a portrayal that truly resonates with you. These shows do not present either negative or positive portrayals of gay people. It is our societal perspectives that shape how we perceive them and determine whether we view them positively in our own minds.

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Analysis of Queer as Folk. (2016, Sep 29). Retrieved from

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