Russell T Davies’ new powerful and educational drama, It’s a Sin, addresses the effects of the Aids crisis on the gay community.
The Channel 4 drama follows the lives of three gay men, Ritchie (Olly Alexander), Roscoe (Omari Douglas) and Colin (Callum Scott Howells) who move to London in 1981 to experience the freedom of city life.
They evolve into their own little family, which isn’t uncommon within the LGBT community, along with Ritchie’s best friend Jill (Lydia West). The group arrive in London as the first cases of Aids are coming to light across the Atlantic in the US.
The pleasure-seeking Ritchie leaves his loving, homophobic home in the Isle of Wight to study at university and Roscoe, has run away from his religious household who are set on ridding him of his homosexuality. Colin, from the Welsh valleys, is quieter and less promiscuous, excited by his new job at a tailor’s.
Colin befriends an older colleague, Henry (Neil Patrick Harris), a lovely gentleman who has been living with his partner Pablo for the past 30 years. Within the first episode the couple both fall ill around the same time but the doctors have no clue what it is.
Pablo is taken home by his mum and Henry is left isolated in a hospital ward. The doctors think the mysterious illness could be psittacosis, a lung disease contracted from birds such as parrots. Colin asks Henry if he has a parrot, Henry replies with: “Of course I haven’t got a f***king parrot.”
Throughout the show people with Aids are isolated and locked away. This is very reminiscent of the beginning of the Covid-19 virus. The fear of how it’s spread, the uncertainty of what caused it and the irrational responses of some people to the virus.
Much like Trump’s advice to drink disinfectant to protect yourself from the virus, Ritchie opts for a similar solution by drinking battery acid to prevent his HIV from turning into Aids.
The show centres on Ritchie’s denial of the virus as he frequently sleeps around. In turn, Jill does everything she can to educate herself and eventually visits wards dedicated to helping people with Aids to support the gay men who don’t have family or friends to be with them.
The five-part drama powerfully conveys how ignorance, fear and shame dominated the response among the authorities and wider society which led to the deaths of so many gay men.
In an interview with the BBC, show writer Davies addresses the importance of the show: “We’re reaching a stage when the parents are going and so the memories are going, that’s one of the reasons why this needs telling now. Before it passes into history, while it’s still there in memory. Just a nice little chance to preserve it for a moment, hold it there and salute them.”
I recommend grabbing the chance to watch It’s a Sin as it gives a powerful and educational insight into the struggles the LGBT community has faced. If the Aids crisis had been met with less ignorance we would have had a bigger, beautiful generation of older gay men free to love who they want.