IT’S A SIN IS A CELEBRATORY LANDMARK PIECE OF QUEER TELEVISION
This week, we saw the arrival of Russell T. Davies’ Channel 4 miniseries, It’s A Sin, a gut-wrenching portrayal of the AIDS epidemic that swept through the queer community during the 1980s and early 90s and left a devasting legacy cast over the community. Olly Alexander, Stephen Fry, Neil Patrick Harris, Keeley Hawes and Lydia West star alongside breakthrough roles from Callum Scott Howells, Nathaniel Curtis and Omari Douglas. The series set over 10 years follows a group of friends finding their feet as young queer people living in 1980s London, under the looming fears of HIV/AIDS and internalised homophobia of Thatcher’s government.
Though, frustrating at times, the characters of It’s a Sin, are sweet and flawed characters that will gain our sympathy as they embody the fear and trauma of the HIV/AIDs pandemic that swept through the queer community worldwide during the 80s and 90s. We follow the lives of four young gay men, Ritchie (Olly Alexander), Roscoe (Omari Douglas), Colin (Callum Scott Howells) and Ash (Nathaniel Curtis), as they explore and enjoy their sexuality and newfound freedom in London’s vibrant scene, accompanied by best friend and ally, Jill (Lydia West). Beginning in 1981, as a mysterious ‘gay cancer’ begins to spread through America and across the Atlantic. Which, as the series progress, becomes the tragic veil cast across the character’s lives as members of the group’s social circle begin to disappear from the scene, before it begins to directly affect them.
This evocative and brave landmark series blatantly and unapologetically illustrates the painful legacy of the HIV/AIDS pandemic that cut through the queer community. Davies’s symbolic and poignant series perfectly portrays the lost voices of this era. Though, humorous in places — it perfectly captures the essence of life, but never strains from the tragedy and seriousness of the HIV/AIDS crisis.
As star of the series, Olly Alexander stated, “There’s not been a British Aids drama on this scale ever”.
Anchored with standout 80s tracks from the likes of Bronski Beat, Queen, Kate Bush and Pet Shop Boys, and accurate subdued 80s fashion — Davies has authentically captured the 80s queer scene. Despite, being centred around such a tragic moment of history, it’s arguably a celebratory piece of queer television — dominated by its queer musical references, queer cast and queer cultural references. Moreover, following recent criticism in the press recently, Davies’ decision for a gay cast creates a harrowing and authentic cast, and adds to the poignancy of the series as it carries on the legacy of those lives lost.
As viewers watch under the midst of Covid-19, we can empathise with the uncertainty and the fear that the characters face. We witness Ritchie denying the seriousness of the disease and living under the shame of the illness, in contrast to Jill, taking matters into her own hands by volunteering for the revolutionary LGBT Switchboard and reading all the latest articles of the pandemic. Equally, we can empathise battling with an inadequate government response to the crisis, and how the government failed the queer community, much like they failed British society in covid times.
In conclusion, It’s A Sin is a revolutionary masterpiece celebrating the queer essence of life and highlights the lost voices of a generation and depicts the union of the queer community and their allies as they continue to push forward in an ongoing fight for equality.