LONDON – In what could be a perfect formula to help a well-made TV show go viral, all five episodes of ‘It’s a Sin’ hit a UK streaming service in late January, the Friday before a snowy weekend. , during a national containment broadcast.
The drama, created by Russell T. Davies, tells the story of a group of friends navigating 1980s gay life in London as AIDS turns from a whispered American disease to a defining aspect of their youth. life. Episodes aired weekly on Channel 4 television, and the show broke records for the channel’s streaming service, with 16 million streams.
Below is an overview of the British response to ‘It is a sin’, including sharing their own experiences of the AIDS crisis, improving understanding of the HIV treatments available today. and by deploring the absence of the epidemic in school curricula. This piece contains a few spoilers.
A critical success
Davies has had a long and celebrated career in British television, including relaunching “Doctor Who” and directing other hit LGBTQ shows like “Queer as Folk” and “Cucumber”.
“It’s a Sin” has received numerous five-star reviews from UK critics, as well as praise for Davies’ writing. In The Telegraph, Anita Singh noted that he makes viewers “care about these characters from the first minute we see them,” adding that “like so much of his work, he seamlessly switches between the tragedy and humor ”.
In The Times of London, Hugo Rifkind said: “This is a drama that could only have been achieved once the stories of gay love and gay life had become an undisputed part of mainstream popular culture, and obviously it’s thanks in large part to Davies that they have. “
There was also praise for the performance of the actors and the relevance of many of the characters. In the TV Radio Times magazine, David Craig saw himself in several characters.
“I remember feeling the same shyness as Colin (Callum Scott Howells) when I first tried to explore my sexuality,” he wrote. “Likewise, I remember making long phone calls home when I was still in the closet, unable to discuss what was really on my mind, like Ritchie (Olly Alexander).”
Discussions about HIV today
“It’s a sin” has also sparked renewed public interest in HIV prevention and treatment. The Terrence Higgins Trust, an HIV and sexual health charity, said it saw a huge increase in donations through its website, an increase in the number of HIV tests requested at the start of HIV Testing Week. HIV and a 30% increase in calls to its help line.
“It really has been phenomenal,” Ian Green, chief executive officer of the charity, said in a telephone interview. “It rekindled the story about HIV in the UK.”
A few weeks ago, on the popular daytime show “This Morning”, Dr. Ranj, one of the show’s contributors, took a live HIV test. Nathaniel J. Hall, who plays Donald in “It’s a Sin,” spoke about living with HIV on the talk show Lorraine. “I’m on medication and my viral load is what’s called undetectable,” he said. “This means I cannot pass the virus on, so my partner, Sean, remains HIV negative.”
After worrying that the drama could lead to misconceptions about contemporary HIV treatments, Channel 4 now advises viewers after each episode where to find more information.
A celebration of ‘Jills’
“It’s a sin” also drew praise for allies of those affected by the disease: friends who visit people in the hospital when their families do not show up, protest and campaign on behalf of those living with HIV.
The character of Jill (Lydia West) embodies these loyal friends and is loosely based on a real woman, Jill Nalder, who lived in London in the 80s and is a friend of Davies. On the show, Nalder plays the character of Jill’s mother. Remember the period of Subway newspaper, she wrote: “The LGBTQ community must be seen as trailblazers because not only were they fighting for their lives, but they were medical guinea pigs – sometimes taking 30 pills a day just to survive.
“If you’re a gay man, I hope you have a Jill,” Guy Pewsey wrote to Grazia.
However, some viewers were frustrated with the lack of representation of women affected by AIDS on the show. Lizbeth Farooqi, a fictional Muslim lawyer played by Seyan Sarvan, is one example, but she is a relatively minor character. “It infuriates me that much of the show’s coverage has focused Jill as an avatar of good femininity and being this lovable, gentle, supportive person,” said Lisa Power, co-founder of the association. British LGBTQ charity Stonewall, at The Guardian. “I want to know more about the stroppy lesbian lawyer, which most people haven’t even managed to read as a lesbian.
The drama also touches on legislation affecting the LGBTQ community in Britain at the time. In particular, the consequences of section 28, a 1988 law introduced by the conservative government of Margaret Thatcher banning education that promoted “the acceptability of homosexuality as a so-called family relationship”.
In one scene, Ash (Nathaniel Curtis) is asked to check books in a school library to make sure they are complying with the law, only to find that they have. “I looked at all the vast halls of literature and culture and science and art,” he said. “There is nothing.”
Section 28 was repealed in 2003, but some say its consequences are still being felt in Britain today. Speaking to The Telegraph, Howells, who plays Colin, lamented that the AIDS crisis is not being taught in schools. “Why? How? How can this happen, literally killing millions of people, and yet they can’t even apply it in education?” He asked.
Some people have also drawn parallels between the stigma that gay, lesbian and bisexual people suffered in the 1980s and the experience of trans people in Britain today. On Twitter Michael Cashman, another of Stonewall’s co-founders, wrote that some lesbian, gay and bisexual people who lived through this period “now face the same stigma, misrepresentation and dehumanization of trans people, especially trans women.”
The power of ‘La’
On the show’s first episode, Ritchie walks up to a crowd at a house party, dressed in drag, to sing a single syllable: “La!”
“Is that right?” someone in the crowd is yelling back. His friends react hysterically. From there, the characters say “La!” as a greeting and a goodbye. Speaking to “It’s a Sin: After Hours,” a Channel 4 backing show, Davies said “La” was a joke among his friends when he was growing up in Swansea.
Philip Normal, an artist from London, decided to make and sell a T-shirt with the wording, the proceeds of which would go to the Terrence Higgins Trust. “For me, that really underpins the love of the characters on the show and the respect and love I experienced in the LGBT community when I moved to London as a young gay man,” a- he said in a telephone interview.
He said he had now raised £ 200,000 for the charity, adding: “I didn’t think it was going to take off! I thought I would sell, like five.