Television’s ‘Necessary Fictions’: Queer as Folk, The L Word and the Imagined Gay Community

Authors: Pullen, C.

Conference: Screen Studies Conference

Dates: 30 June-2 July 2006


This paper examines the representation of the gay community and ideas of citizenship in Queer as Folk (Showtime, 2000-present, US; Channel 4, 1998, UK) and The L Word (Showtime, 2004-present). A central proposition is that these texts may be considered (in Jeffrey Weeks’ (2000) terms) as ‘necessary fictions’, which offer discursive space in the construction of an imagined gay community. At the same time this paper contextualises imagined differences between citizenship ideas in American and UK culture. Through comparing the British and American versions of Queer as Folk, it is revealed that the original British version disassembles the idea of ‘gay community’, through its focus on drama and isolation (conceding gay identity to dominant ‘outsider citizenship’ norms), while the American adaptation works towards the representation of a politically motivated integrated gay community (echoing ideas of civil liberty in the US constitution). In this way the significance of Russell T Davies’ original version of Queer as Folk is re-examined. It is suggested that whilst it was groundbreaking in vivifying gay identity, it was disconnected from the idea of a ‘working’ gay community. Showtime’s Queer as Folk and The L Word are discussed as offering more radical and assertive versions of gay communities. This moves beyond the purely sexual, the isolationist, and the provocative (of old world orders, and UK Queer as Folk), and towards the largely political, the cohesive and the connectedness of new identity forms.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Christopher Pullen