Where Did the Meaning of the Show Title 'Queer as Folk' Originate? Here's What We Know

With the premiere of the 'Queer as Folk' reboot on Peacock, we wanted to know — what does the phrase, "queer as folk," actually mean?

Katherine Stinson - Author

Jun. 14 2022, Published 6:50 p.m. ET

Armand Fields as Bussey
Source: Peacock

Spoiler alert: The following article contains spoilers for Episode 1 of Queer as Folk on Peacock.

With the recent premiere of the eight-episode Queer as Folk reboot on Peacock, we couldn't help but wonder — what exactly does the phrase "queer as folk" mean?

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The original Queer as Folk series ran from 1999 to 2000 in Britain. It was the first television program in history to focus solely on the lives of gay characters. Doctor Who's returning showrunner Russell T. Davies created Queer as Folk. He also wrote every episode of the original series. Russell now serves as an executive producer on the Queer as Folk reboot on Peacock.

The show was previously rebooted in the U.S. for Showtime by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, running for five seasons from 2000 to 2005.

Here's what we know about where the show's title originated.

(l-r) Armand Fields as Bussey, Eric Graise as Marvin
Source: Peacock

Armand Fields as Bussey and Eric Graise as Marvin in Peacock's 'Queer as Folk.'

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Why is it called 'Queer as Folk'?

The Peacock reboot of Queer as Folk centers around a group of friends whose lives are forever changed after tragedy strikes their go-to gay bar, Babylon.

According to LGBTQ Nation, the actual phrase "queer as folk" originated from an old expression in Northern England that went, "There’s nowt so queer as folk."

Let's translate that saying to modern-day English: It basically means that there's nothing stranger in life than people.

Russell told The Hollywood Reporter about how the title, from his perspective, wasn't remotely safe when he created the show back in 1999.

He said, "As a title, Queer as Folk is not remotely safe. The word 'queer' all those years ago was death. Even some people today don’t like the word. I love the fact that there’s a great big queer franchise that has existed now for [nearly] 25 years. It is not and has never been safe."

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The original creator of Queer as Folk applauded Rob Cowen and Daniel Lipman (the creators of the first U.S. adaptation) and Stephen Dunn (the creator of the Peacock reboot) for not playing it safe with their iterations. Russell stated, "These lovely men I’m looking at here, these torch-bearers who have done work beyond my imagining, are never taking safe options."

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Although the original Queer as Folk centered around the lives of three gay men living in Manchester, England, the main characters in Peacock's Queer as Folk find themselves dealing with the aftermath of a tragic shooting at the fictional gay bar Babylon in New Orleans.

The real-world parallel to the tragic 2016 Pulse shooting in Orlando, Fla., is obvious. Stephen explained in the same interview with The Hollywood Reporter why he chose to include that parallel in the reboot.

Devin Way as Brodie
Source: Peacock
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"Before the Pulse nightclub shooting, New Orleans was the location of the other largest mass murder in the U.S. [at a gay club], at the UpStairs Lounge in 1973," he said. ".... One of the reasons we chose New Orleans is because it’s a city that has survived so much and maintains a distinct voice with its strong queer community and pool of queer artists and drag queens."

He added, "The inclusion of that storyline is to bring attention to the community that has to rebuild in a way that is bigger, better, safer and more inclusive than the space that was before it."

You can now stream Season 1 of Queer as Folk on Peacock.

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