weekend binge

As a new year dawns, take a moment to reflect on a dark moment in queer history

It’s a Sin

Welcome to the Weekend Binge. Every week, we’ll suggest a binge-able title designed to keep you from getting too stir crazy. Check back throughout the weekend for even more gloriously queer entertainment.

The Historic: It’s a Sin

As 2021 winds down–and as the world grapples with another viral pandemic–we want to again highlight one of the best TV series of the year: the AIDS tome It’s a Sin.

Russell T. Davies takes a chapter from his personal history in this HBO series, a chronicle of the lives of a group of friends–mostly queer men–living in London in the early 1980s. At first, the city offers wild gay liberation and sexual freedom. Then, before long, rumors of a so-called “gay cancer” begin to circulate. Friends begin dropping dead, quietly at first. Within a matter of years, the entire LGBTQ community huddles under political assault as HIV claims the lives of scores of gay and bisexual men, as well as transgender women.

The only thing more shocking than the real-life events depicted in It’s a Sin is the grim reality that many young queer folks today fail to understand the significance–or the toll–of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Watching, we get the sense that Davies shared the youthful idealism of his characters. Ritchie (Olly Alexander), Roscoe (Omari Douglas), Colin (Callum Scott Howells), Jill (Lydia West), and their friends have a familiarity to them: these seem like people we could meet today walking down the street. That relatability makes the pain of it all cut so much deeper.

By the time the series concludes, we’re not filled with hope so much as burning rage: rage at the cold indifference with which society treated the AIDS crisis, rage against the political demagogues that demonized the gay community, rage for the families that abandoned their children to disease, rage over the suffering the community endured. For all the fuss over the all-gay, all-talented, male leads of the show, it’s Lydia West’s Jill that seems to articulate Davies’ own experience. Jill’s final scenes of the series burn with raw. righteous anger. We suspect that her words are identical to Davies’ own.

It’s a Sin deserves a spot alongside Pose and Angels in America as one of the greatest works in TV history to ever confront the AIDS crisis. That owes to a capable cast and, above all, to the power of Davies’ writing. Not a queer person alive today–regardless of age, or even self-awareness–has not had his life defined, at least in part by the HIV/AIDS crisis, and its ongoing ramifications. As we stand beneath the six colors of the pride flag–whether in solidarity or celebration–we must always remember our fallen. As one year gives way to another, take a moment to reflect.

Streams on HBO Max.

Note: This article contains portions of previous posts on Queerty.