It's A Sin Completes Russell T. Davies' 20th Century Gay Life Trilogy

It's A Sin is a critical and ratings hit in the UK and a critical hit in the US. It reaffirms Russell T. Davies as the premier screenwriter of gay life in Britain on top of one of the UK's best TV writers and showrunners. It's A Sin takes place in the 1980s, following a group of young gay men coming out in London and exploring the freedoms of being away from home for the first time to pursue a lifestyle of clubbing, shagging, and generally discovering their sexual identities, just as a new virus starts to kill gay men. Davies identifies the AIDS Crisis and the homophobia that fueled it as the defining legacy of modern LGBTQ history. Every gay man of a certain age will have known and lost friends and lovers to HIV.

its a sin
Image: BBC

It's A Sin seems to complete Davies' unofficial trilogy about 20th Century gay life in Britain that began with Queer as Folk in 2000. He adapted Robert Preston's book A Very English Scandal into a miniseries for the BBC in 2018, which took the true story of the MP who tried to put a hit on his hapless gay lover and turned it into an Ealing-style comedy with a poignant message at its center. The secret gay affair, blackmail attempt, and subsequent murder attempt would never have happened if it hadn't been for institutional homophobia, hypocrisy, and the fact that homosexuality was still illegal in Britain. Davies has since stated that It's A Sin cements the fact that the AIDS Crisis and its aftermath cast a shadow in all his dramas set in the present day. Queer As Folk was a celebration of young gay life post-AIDS, out, proud, and without the stigma of shame. Its shadow also looms in Davies' 2015 series Cucumber, a more dour but still funny series about middle-aged gay men and their lives in the 21st Century.

Davies is an entertainer down to his bones, but a not-so-secret activist at his heart. His scripts are fast-paced and witty. He has a talent for vivid characters and hilarious, unforgettable dialogue, killer scenes, and dynamic action, and he knows how to use his talents to serve a cause beyond mere entertainment.  He has done more than anyone to change the British perception of gay people and normalize LGBTQ people in British society through the power of TV drama. This started with Queer as Folk and continued with his work on Doctor Who and Torchwood, which are responsible for turning John Barrowman into an international star. He has always believed in the power of television to change hearts and minds and be a tool for the public good. Davies might have a similar rage as the late American gay activist and writer Larry Kramer. Kramer was unyielding in his activism and uncompromising in his work. But in the end, Davies is more optimistic, hopeful, and funny. He undercuts the darkness and despair with empowerment, snarky humor, and irrepressible fun. He has used his clout from hit shows to represent LGBTQ characters in mainstream TV. You could say Years and Years is a chronological endpoint in his fiction universes. It's a Science Fictional state-of-the-nation story with a gay romance at the center of its family saga as it delves into the future of Humanity with the Singularity looming. It's A Sin feels like the secret heart of his work all along.

It's A Sin is now streaming in the US on HBO Max.

About Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist who just likes to writer. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.