WHY "QUEER AS FOLK" IS GOOD FOR THE GAYS

WHY “QUEER AS FOLK” IS GOOD FOR THE GAYS

I remember signing up for Showtime the day that “Queer as Folk” premiered. Since I live in West Hollywood, a city that actually seceded from Los Angeles because L.A. wasn’t gay enough, I wasn’t the only one bugging my cable company for the last-minute hookup. I was placed on hold for what felt like an hour, then a guy with a thick Texas accent came on the line. He knew right away what I wanted. “Everybody’s callin’ fer Showtahhhm today,” he said. “You’re wantin’ to watch that new show, are ya?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Yer out in California, huh?”

“Yeah, where are you?”

“Ah’m out in Houston. Yeah, thurr sayin’ that’s a good show, Ah guess. What’s it called agin?” He asked as if he knew the title perfectly well but didn’t want to offend me by saying the word “queer”.

“Queer as Folk.”

“Oh, rahhht.” He continued barraging me with questions, which, if the phones were really that busy, he probably shouldn’t have been doing. He was perfectly polite, but extremely curious. I wondered whether I was the first gay person he had ever spoken to. He seemed fascinated by me. Sure, it’s possible that he was a closeted homosexual, but I got the feeling he was just a friendly, sheltered-but-open-minded Southern gentleman who wanted to be nice to the gays.

I only watched a few episodes of the show. I could go into all the reasons why, but they all center around its terribleness. (Is “terribleness” a real word? I can’t believe it’s not coming up in my spell check. Hey, it is!) Once I got Tivo, I stopped trying to follow the boneheaded storylines and just fast-forwarded for the gratuitous nudity. Eventually, even that got boring, and I deleted the show from my season passes altogether. I should’ve canceled my Showtime, but that would’ve meant calling the cable company again, and laziness won out over frugality. I can just picture the call I would’ve had with Tex. “Yeah, lotsa people are cancelin’ Showtahhhm. I hear that gay show ain’t no good.”

Soon after I lost interest in the show, I got a call from the brother of a friend of mine. He worked at Showtime, and they gave him a free copy of the Queer as Folk Season 1 DVD box set. Clearly, I was the #1 homosexual in his address book, as he was giving me first dibs. Just like my Texan friend, he just wanted to be nice to the gays. “I don’t watch it myself,” he said. “I hear it’s good, though.”

The next day, the package arrived by FedEx. I felt guilty accepting a gift I didn’t really want, but it made him feel good to give it to me, and I’m really bad at saying no. It sat on my shelf for about a year, and the next time I heard from my friend’s brother was when the Season 2 DVD was released. He asked me if I enjoyed the first season he’d sent me. “Oh, yeah,” I lied. The next day, another FedEx arrived.

Both seasons sat unopened on my shelf until, several months ago, I learned that they retailed for about $120 each. I didn’t know who would be crazy enough to pay that much money for a “Queer as Folk” box set, but whoever they were, I wanted to get in touch with them ASAP. I considered eBay, but although I’ve bought plenty of things there, I have a fear of becoming an eBay seller. I can’t help feeling like once you’ve sold something on eBay, you’ve crossed some kind of line and rewired yourself to start scouring thrift shops for discarded treasures you can mark up and unload on strangers.

Drew said I was crazy to sell them on eBay, where I’d only get 75% of their value, tops. He suggested waiting until the week after Christmas, when, according to him at least, stores are happy to take returns without receipts. It seemed far-fetched to me, but I agreed to wait it out. Then, a couple days after Christmas, I took those generous but misguided gifts to Best Buy.

When I walked in, the alarm sounded. Oops. I hadn’t suspected that Showtime armed the complimentary copies they gave to their employees with shoplift-protection. A security guard rushed right up to me. “Yeah, I’d like to return these,” I said, guiltily, “but I don’t have a receipt.” Not surprisingly given that I’d just tripped an alarm, he was a bit skeptical. I got turned away.

Drew scoffed at my amateurishness, and a couple of days later, he went to Best Buy and returned both sets for full value. Thanks to my favorite master of deception, I ended up with a store credit of about $225.

All of this poses an interesting moral quandary, I guess. Yes, I feel a tinge of terribleness in my heart. But I’m enjoying my new digital camera, which I bought for almost nothing.

And I think that everyone involved would be glad to know they did something nice for the gays.

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