Queer as Folk creators face down critics
At a Saturday night panel discussion with the creators and stars of Showtime's Queer as Folk in Los Angeles, one of half a dozen protesters made it inside the auditorium to address the panelists directly. Talking about developments in the February 24 episode of the series, protester Michael Buchanan told the show's creative team, "We are very upset that you have perpetuated fear [of HIV-positive people] by having Debbie [Sharon Gless], a PFLAG mom and sister to someone who is HIV-positive, tell her son she wished he wasn't gay [because it put him at risk for HIV infection]."
"I'm thrilled that you're here," responded executive producer Daniel Lipman, according to an account on Zap2It.com. "Aren't you happy that there's a show bringing up these issues?" Buchanan, who founded a group called Queers Against Queer as Folk, is upset over the current story line in which lead character Michael (Hal Sparks) dates a man named Ben who's HIV-positive. Debbie, Michael's mother, and two of his best friends try to convince him to drop the guy for fear of Michael's becoming infected; in one scene, Michael himself elects to cut short his lovemaking with Ben, upset by seeing all the pills in his medicine cabinet. Buchanan argues that the story line will contribute to prejudice against and rejection of people with HIV or AIDS.
The QAF panel, held at the Directors Guild of America, was part of the annual William S. Paley Television Festival, presented by the Los Angeles Museum of Radio and Television. (The gay-inclusive HBO series Six Feet Under will be the subject of a similar program on Saturday, March 9, at the DGA.) The evening's program began with a screening of QAF's most recent episode, which Buchanan told Advocate.com didn't make him any happier. "I ended [my questioning of the panel] with, 'How do you feel knowing there are queers outside who don't like how you've treated HIV?' " Buchanan said. "Of course no one addressed that question."
"Queer as Folk does not put a pink ribbon on life," said Sharon Gless, who plays Michael's mother, Debbie, in response to Buchanan, according to Zap2it.com. "It's real life."
Added executive producer Ron Cowan, "We're trying to challenge politically correct thinking. We all enjoy going to that place where we're a little scared. I think what we're trying to do is get people to feel the way you felt." Buchanan responded, "You're not challenging me; I'm here to challenge you."
Apart from the exchanges with Buchanan, however, the evening's program was largely a mutually supportive interaction between the show's creators--executive producers Cowan and Lipman and much of the principal cast--and the enthusiastic, sell-out audience. Indeed, most of those in the packed auditorium clearly did not share Buchanan's concerns. The program ended immediately after the protester's give-and-take with the panel, and those attending gave the participants a long and loud standing ovation.
Buchanan, however, is undaunted, promising another protest at the GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles on April 14. His rallying cry: "Take back Queer as Folk!" (For a full transcript of Michael Buchanan's letter to Advocate.com, go to www.advocate.com/html/letters.)