By now, I hope most of you have seen the new 5-part drama from Russell T Davies called It’s a sin so hopefully any spoilers won’t ruin it for you. This isn’t really a review in a professional sense, but rather my feelings on the show and how I remember the 80’s.
There is much positivity to say about this show which has received rave reviews. I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t think it was brilliant. And its timing is perfect as this month is LGBT history month. A look back on how it was in the 80’s would be exactly hitting this brief. The show is described as a drama which follows the story of the 1980s, the story of AIDS, and charts the joy and heartbreak of a group of friends across a decade in which everything changed. The absolutely best thing about this show is it has motivated lots more people to get themselves tested for HIV and also more are googling the effects of AIDS. People were especially shocked by Colin’s storyline and his fits.
It is hard to believe for someone of my age who lived the 80’s that there are whole generations who don’t remember the tombstone advert or who lost someone from this terrible disease. The 80’s were hedonistic. They were a time where the young generation felt they could have it all. The post punk generation. There felt there was no limits to our creativity and expectations. We worked hard and we played hard.
The story telling and character development for the main characters is fantastic but there are issues with this show and no one seems to be mentioning this. Firstly, for me as a woman, there is a distinct lack of women in the show. Gill should be a main character. She is best friends with Ritchie and they end up buying a house together. But Gill does not get the depth of character that she deserves. Why in the 10-year span that the show covers doesn’t Gill have any relationships? Her gender and ethnicity are not mentioned at all either. It seems very discourteous, almost bordering on misogyny. While I appreciate it is mainly about the male gay scene, to say women were not in that scene is incorrect. Gill feels like an afterthought of Russell’s when he realised there wasn’t a female lead. Its shameful that women are treated this way and is a disappointment to the show.
I would hesitate to call myself a Gill but I was there and lived the 80’s. I remember it all. Many of my friends were/are gay and we all hung together. It was just like a group of friends rather than split by gender or sexual preference. It was welcoming of all including trans. There was still a lot of discrimination against LGBT and racism in the early 80’s and although that it touched on; I was surprised how little it featured in the show.
I had a discussion with someone yesterday who said he doesn’t remember gay bars in the 80’s playing Abba. I don’t remember any gay bars where I lived back then, but rather gay-friendly bars where everyone was accepted. The music I remember was HI_NRG. I love that music so much that on my significant birthday I had an hour of HI_NRG in my party. One of my gay friends said to me, ‘were you a gay man in another life?’ as I completely nailed my choices. My pronouns have always been she/her and I love being a woman, but it shows I know what music should be featured. I think the show misses this, especially in the early to mid-80’s. Ashes to Ashes covered 81 and 82 and they absolutely got the music spot on. It’s not hard to do the research.
I also feel disappointed with the hair and make-up. It isn’t accurate of my early to mid-80’s and no one seems to understand big hair or how many colours of eye shadow was acceptable (a minimum of three and including blue and pink!). I had big hair. Very big hair. Elnett hairspray was an essential item. There seems no mention of the new wave/new romantic/alternative scene in the early 80’s. The show has completely air brushed it out as if it didn’t exist yet that was where a lot of LGBT found their tribe.
All in all, it’s a great show and is doing good work highlighting the risks of HIV. It represents our loss of loved ones, our shock of how badly people were treated and even family members pretending their dying son had cancer rather than AIDS. One of the last scenes with Gill and Ritchie’s mum made me so angry. I thought about what would I do. If it was now, I would have gone to his mum’s house and sung songs outside his house so he could hear we were there. But if I am honest and think back to our 18-year-old selves, I would have probably respected his mum and not done that – but would be really unhappy that he didn’t know we were there and caring for him. To allow someone to die alone is unacceptable – and in this case avoidable.
If a show can generate this much emotion (and I was sobbing not just at the death scenes, I was sobbing at the protests) it’s hitting people’s emotions and that is probably the most important thing.
If you haven’t seen it – you have to watch it.