The “Queer as Folk” Reboot Is Good for New Orleans’ Imperfect Real-Life Queer Scene

What Peacock’s new “Queer as Folk” reboot nails when it comes to painting a picture of New Orleans’ true gay culture is that if you want to be part of a vibrant, inclusive, non-Trump-supporting scene, that’s enough is to understand the references to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” you have to make it yourself.

The original White as the Driven Snow series, which debuted on Showtime in 2005, is only getting a name rebirth with this new iteration featuring a cast of fresh faces that are diverse in an intentionally all-encompassing way that wouldn’t have even crossed showrunners in the early 2000s, and is a fantasy reflection of the current LGBTQ scene here in New Orleans, where my wife and I transplanted ourselves from New York in 2015. If it took seventeen years for 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.

RELATED: “Queer as Folk”: The UK version is sexy, as it should be, but the US version is immature and not even hot.

I’m a 45-year-old married lesbian balancing on reticence, so my current nightlife is mostly watching old episodes of “The Real World” and singing songs to my dog. It wasn’t always like this, but I can easily track his unique journey. I spent my high school years in Southern California, where I came out at age 14 after dreaming about kissing Winona Ryder. Living in Chicago in my early thirties, I did my best to keep going and take for granted what would eventually become the closest circle of lesbian friends I would ever have. When I moved to New York and met my wife, I allowed myself to sink into a nesting lifestyle that is very on-the-nose lesbian and one day I woke up and realized I didn’t even have one good gay friend had. Life happens, we all get socially lazy at times in our lives, but I felt the need to fix this for myself, and still do. So when my wife and I moved to New Orleans, I told myself I would try to immerse myself in the gay scene here, which I felt was wild and weird in a way that matched my own personal interests. Flash forward to me very *cough* who briefly served on the Nola Pride board as the token lesbian for a racially troubled, family closed, and Trump-leaning board of directors.

The gay culture of New Orleans, the little I can see when I peek out the window of my house, like Mrs. Kravitz from “Bewitched,” isn’t what I had in mind. If others who live here think it suits them just fine, blessings to them. As I flip through all eight episodes of the new “Queer as Folk” I get excited about what I know is out there somewhere; what I know may be possible for a city of talented gays to change. I like how this show sees New Orleans’ LGBTQ culture, and the seeds it has planted for what could be, but isn’t quite there yet.

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The first season of the “Queer as Folk” reboot kicks off with a shooting that takes place in Babylon, a fictional queer space on Frenchman Street, a nod to a club of the same name featured in the original series. In a harrowing scene reminiscent of the mass shootings that have taken place in the US in recent years, namely the Orlando shooting in 2016 at Pulse, a character named Mingus (Fin Argus) finds himself in the midst of a fantastic “The Craft”- themed drag occur when a lone gunman enters the club from behind and opens fire on the room, killing a friend named Daddius (Chris Renfro). From this point on the rest of the core 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.

During the filming of the show in January, a real-life recording took place in the afternoon on St. Claude Ave. in the Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans, causing production to stop for six hours. As shots were fired from a passing vehicle in the street outside, the show’s cast and crew were lining up at the New Orleans Healing Center where Cafe Istanbul was being used as the interior for a club scene.

“I just thought it was a crew loading or setting up a new scene,” actor Kynt Kenneth Bryan said in a quote to “I am extremely sad. … I have been acting in many different productions for a long time and never in my wildest dreams thought that an incident like this would happen.”

If I was lucky, I myself had a near miss with this incident, having rarely left the house to visit the Food Co-op at the Healing Center to buy a slice of cake. Occupied by my annoyance that the parking lot was overflowing with film crew equipment and vehicles (not new, they’re always filming something here), and the fact that the Co-op was all out of the king pie, I was later relieved to learn that I moments before the shooting had left. Others were not 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 make the most of dire situations much more often than any city ever should. Often credited for his resilience; New Orleans, and especially the LGBTQ community, would like to get to a point where they can just relax without braces for the next major, potentially life-threatening tragedy; whether that be hurricanes, ridiculously long blackouts, daily gunfire, or a crippled Pride Board.

Jesse James Keitel as Ruthie, Devin Way as Brodie in “Queer as Folk” (Peacock)

In “Queer as Folk”, still reeling from the Babylon shootings, the group of friends and loved ones we bond with during this first season create a DIY space called Ghost Fag, an ironic reference to hate crime graffiti they encounter after a tragedy. Mixing different subcultures within the LGBTQ scene such as drag culture, punk culture, sex worker culture, and a mishmash of all of the above, the Ghost Fag scenes reminded me of my favorite gay event I’ve ever attended New Orleans, a party called Big Dick’s House of Big Boobs. Ghost Fag, like Big Dick’s, shows queer life at its best, a room full of loud music, sweaty bodies of all kinds, and not a single Catholic flyer or corporate sponsor to be found. The cast of “Queer as Folk” found hope here, and I found hope when I saw them find.

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