Netflix’s ‘Tales Of The City’ Is A New Chapter In An Iconic Story
Embrace your chosen family at 28 Barbary Lane…
By Courtney Hardwick
Family is important, but as many LGBTQ+ people know, a family doesn’t necessarily mean you’re related by blood. In fact, sometimes the most important people in your life are the ones you choose. Armistead Maupin’s original Tales of the City book series, which spans from 1978 to 2014, is all about the people you choose to have in your life – the ones who really get you.
Netflix’s new limited original series, based on the books and following in the footsteps of three previous miniseries, is described by the streaming giant as the “lasting value and importance of a chosen family, who fully embraces and accepts you just as you are. Whether you are rejected by your biological family or just not fully understood, your chosen family provides a haven as you navigate through the sometimes-turbulent journey of discovering your true self and who you want to be in this world.”
The new iteration – which can be enjoyed as a standalone series or as a continuation of the original characters – is set in present-day San Francisco. Mary Ann Singleton (Laura Linney) has returned to 28 Barbary Lane to celebrate the 90th birthday of Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis), a woman well-known in the community for giving LGBTQ+ people a home and somewhere to feel like they belong. Despite Mary Ann’s decision to leave San Francisco years before, she clearly still has a soft spot for the city and the people she met while she was there – but she also has a few relationships to mend.
Linney and Dukakis both appeared in Showtime’s 1998 and 2001 miniseries, and have reprised their roles. Ellen Page, Paul Gross, Zosia Mamet, Molly Ringwald and Murray Bartlett (among many others) also make appearances.
Netflix’s new chapter is also notable for its all-LGBTQ writer’s room, including Andy Parker, Patricia Resnick, Marcus Gardley, Jen Silverman, Hansol Jung and Thomas Page McBee. The directors are also part of the LGBTQ community, including trans directors Silas Howard and Sydney Freeland.
Armistead Maupin published the first Tales of the City novel in 1974, which was around the same time he came out as gay. The series featured characters from across the LGBTQ+ spectrum and over the years touched on timely issues such as the AIDS epidemic. Its close connection to the real world makes the series an important representation of the LGBTQ+ experience and how it has evolved. For example, in the first episode, a young trans couple talk about whether it’s a good thing that they “pass” as a straight couple to strangers.
The world wouldn’t be what it is today without the wide variety of individuals who have fought to be who they are, and Netflix’s new Tales of the City chapter is another reminder that LGBTQ+ characters deserve to be well-rounded and nuanced rather than just another iteration of the token gay friend.
Barbary Lane represents a place where anyone can feel accepted no matter who they are – and isn’t that what we’re all ultimately looking for?
COURTNEY HARDWICK is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Her work has appeared online at AmongMen, Complex Canada, Elle Canada and TheBolde.