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Opinion: Why 'It's a Sin' resonates for the Covid generation

February 19, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 22%. 2 min read.


"It's a Sin" resurrects the 1980s at the right time, says Kate Maltby, because even though the show is about what went wrong -- it depicts the most dire years of Britain's AIDS crisis -- it also offers cogent lessons about science and shame during a pandemic, one that unfolds amid a masterful representation of the decade's cultural touchstones and ethos of desire and ambition.

Davies, the showrunner behind the 2005 revival of "Dr Who" and 1999's "Queer as Folk. " Now he's retelling the history of how HIV/AIDS first cut through London's gay scene.

But a lot of people get medical facts wrong in "It's A Sin. " One young man, Ritchie, is convinced that warnings being spread about HIV are part of a homophobic conspiracy to stop gay men having sex.

Like many characters in the show, Ritchie has escaped from a repressive home and, exploring the gay party scene as a student in London, feels he's only just begun to live.

This is why "It's a Sin" feels so important at this moment: it's a show which humanizes characters who make mistakes in the face of a pandemic.

One character doesn't reveal his AIDS diagnosis even to his other gay friends, for fear of being labeled promiscuous.

Like many of these characters, he returns to his unloving family home to die: back in London, "going home" becomes a euphemism in gay-friendly circles for death by AIDS.

In the final episode, Jill, with the clarion moral certainty of the showrunner's voice, confronts a homophobic mother whose son has just died, explaining that her son was killed by shame.

Jill is the only female lead character -- and fair enough, this is a show which specifically sets out to tell the story of the impact of the pandemic on gay men -- but she's also the least complex.

All this is reminiscent of Matthew Lopez' brilliant recent play, "The Inheritance," which reworks the experience of the post-AIDS generation of gay New Yorkers as a modern adaptation of EM Forster's novel "Howard's End", another superb work of art, but one whose only female character-- a regretful mother who has turned herself into the Mother Theresa of the AIDS hospice -- appears in the final 20 minutes.

In "It's a Sin," two central characters die of AIDS.

Davies clearly aims to make feminist TV: the very first words uttered in "It's A Sin" come from a young man expressing his horror at historic restrictions on women.

For a show that seeks to take the AIDS stigma out of sex between gay men, there's oddly little mention of anyone dying from other forms of HIV transmission.

They are the first generation who can't remember anything of the shadows of the 1980s and 1990s: the recent success of both "It's A Sin" and "The Inheritance" is a corrective to the era of "Will and Grace" or "Queer as Folk," when gay-led stories in pop culture were notable for avoiding references to the trauma memory of AIDS in gay communities.

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