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Review: It’s a Sin, A Captivating Depiction of Queer Experience During The AIDS Crisis

By David T. Valentin

It’s a Sin is a five episode mini-series that follows along a group of queer friends who either move or run away from their homes in an attempt to discover themselves through nightlife shenanigans, hook ups, and plenty of heartbreak to come as the looming threat of the AIDS epidemic haunts our main cast.

The pilot episode is everything you could wish for in a story that tells the queer experience without shame, without guilt and plenty of exploration. The first episode is ripe with quick hook ups and nightlife bonanzas that’ll make anyone watching from the comfort of their home under lockdown instantly miss the home feeling of queer nightlife.

What I liked most about the episode is that it is instantly captivating in its raw portrayal of emotions. Right from the opening first few minutes Ritchie Tozer, played by Olly Alexander, is just itching to go away to college to get away from his painfully conservative and suffocating parents. Not only is he itching to explore a queer world with an array of queer people and queer experiences, but he’s also ready to explore the awkward moments of his first sexual experience and the awkward learning period of sex. I enjoyed these scenes because it’s different from what Hollywood portrays of coming out stories; coming out stories as the peak of queer identity, rather than just the beginning.

There’s also Roscoe Babatunde, played by Omari Douglas, a son of Nigerian parents who runs away after he threatened to be taken back to Nigeria. He’s unapologetic, feminine, and dramatic. Although he doesn’t get too much screen time in the pilot, I am hoping they explore more of his character, more specifically his identity as a queer African Black man coming of age at the beginning of the AIDS crisis.

Then there’s the adorably shy Colin Morris-Jones, played by Callum Scott Howells, who finds himself moving out of his house in order to pursue a career in selling suits. At the shop he meets Henry Coltrane, played by Neil Patrick-Harris, who acts as Colin’s gay, father/mentor. The relationship is wholesome and sweet and makes you kind of wish you had a gay-father/mentor growing up to coach you through all the awkwardness, distress, and eventual self-discovery that queer children go through while going up. Their relationship takes a turn for the worst, however, when something happens to Henry. Colin is left to find his own family and that’s when he stumbles upon Ritchie’s band of misfits.

What I like most about the show is that it’s not another coming out story, but instead almost a celebration of queer culture and identity. However, there’s this looming sense of doom because of the AIDS crisis and you know what follows after that.

Although I have yet to watch the second episode, I already can see the writers sprinkling in the lack of misinformation, action, and abuse the queer community most go through because whole governments are not helping. Which is completely fitting for the time, as we come up on the second year of dealing with the Covid19 pandemic along with the terrible slew of anti-vaxxers, Covid-deniers, and inaction by the government. It is a stark reminder that, yes, history repeats itself, but we have not learned from the AIDS crisis largely because it was affecting a great many queer people. It’s a part of history that most people don’t know, but that few are quite familiar with.

Although I have a sneaking suspicion there will be no happy ending by the end of It’s a Sin, I will be watching the rest of the mini-series not only for its captivating tale, but to also educate and understand queer folk who have come before me.

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