Think about your biggest dream. Got it? Now, imagine you are a queer kid from the outskirts, maybe you live in a family where queer topics are taboo and you are closeted. What’s your biggest dream, now? Family, respect, love. The biggest dream of a lot of young queer folks is ‘just’ to find a community where to express themselves without constraints. The story of the protagonists of It’s A Sin starts like this – young gay men in the 80s are searching for family, the “chosen family” that we already got familiar with in previous Russel T Davis “Queer as Folk” and the more recent Netflix show “Pose.” In 2021, queer and allies are fighting every day to create a world where legal, medical, political and social equality is the norm. That is why, It’s A Sin is the series you need to watch.
It’s A Sin: Young gay men and the AIDS pandemic
The five episodes of It’s A Sin tell the story of Ritchie (Olly Alexander), Colin (Callum Scott Howells), Roscoe (Omari Douglas), Jill (Lydia West, Bethany from the other Davis’ masterpiece “Years and Years”) and their friends blossom as part of the London queer community. Love, friendship, dreams and duties are all contextualized in the background of a community that is going to be devastated by the AIDS epidemic. Those young, smiling and charming faces are the protagonists that never leave the stage, even under the most dramatic circumstances. It is the honest beauty of It’s A Sin’s protagonists that makes us smile through tears, while we see their lives devastated by the pandemic.
AIDS, the other protagonist of the series, makes its entrance at the end of the first episode – set in 1981 – where [SPOILER] we see Colin’s co-worker and mentor Henry Coltrane (Neil Patrick Harris) falling ill and die alone, locked in a separate room of the hospital. As the series progresses, the AIDS epidemic spreads – Jill tries to learn more on how to protect her friends, whereas Ritchie with his flamboyant attitude is in complete denial. Elder members of the community try to educate the youngsters, but the thirst for life is too strong. Colin, the introverted guy from Wales nicknamed ‘Colin the Virgin’, falls ill leaving all the others with astonishment. We will see later in the series that Colin had sex with his ex-landlady’s son, forcing the viewer to question the actual advancement of AIDS within the British population.
It’s A Sin: the wide-spread consequences of parent’s reactions
Colin’s storyline brings another relevant topic on screen – parents’ role in the pandemic. Parents still play a huge role in the acceptance of queer people’s own identity and in the way they develop their lives. Too many young kids are forced to remain in the closet while fearing their parents’ reaction, with severe repercussions on their mental health. It’s A Sin portrays different parents’ approaches and their consequences on the kids’ lives. Colin’s mother – a single mother from the Welsh valley -does not hesitate in supporting her kid throughout the course of the disease, taking care of him in the hardest moments and until the end. Ritchie’s parents, on the contrary, take the kid away from the city hospital where AIDS patients are treated and keep him at home without medical care, far and isolated from his friends.
It is shame, Jill will tell Ritchie’s mother, that harms these kids. The shame of admitting to have the disease, the feeling of deserving it, the guilt and confusion around it. It is shame that makes HIV positive kids have unprotected casual sex – a shame that pervades the community and slowly kills it. It’s A Sin finally tells the story that young generations need and want to hear. A beautiful mix of fun, life, sorrow and death. In a time where stigmas surround minorities, It’s A Sin must be watched now, because it is only through the respect of every single life that common struggles can be overcome.