“Tales of the City”: Logical Family (Of Friends)

Sooner or later, though, no matter where in the world we live, we must join the diaspora, venturing beyond our biological family to find our logical one, the one that actually makes sense for us. We have to, if we are to live without squandering our lives. Armistead Maupin, Logical Family: A Memoir

In 1994 the United States wasn’t ready for author Armistead Maupin‘s Tales of the City on TV. Tales mixed LGBT characters with non-LGBT in a created family of friends—what Maupin calls in his memoir a logical family. “…(A)fter six highly successful episodes, PBS chose not to renew the show almost as soon as it had begun in the face of vigorous conservative opposition” (New York Times).

The sequels since then have fared better, though. And now a new televised reboot has entered the scene. This Tales of the City is introduced below by Kathryn VanArendonk, Vulture:

The sweetness and sincerity of the original series has returned in the Netflix revival, as have many of the original cast and characters. Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis reprise the roles of Mary Ann and Anna Madrigal, as does Paul Gross as Mary Ann’s former boyfriend Brian. There’s also Michael (Murray Bartlett), a cheerful gay Barbary Lane resident from the original series, and his new boyfriend Ben (Charlie Barnett), as well as a new set of younger characters, including Brian’s daughter Shawna (Ellen Page), young queer couple Margot (May Hong) and Jake (Josiah Victoria Garcia), and a brother and sister pair of social media influencer types (Ashley Park and Christopher Larkin). As in the original series, the makeup of Barbary Lane residents is meant to reflect San Francisco at a certain moment in time — older people, younger people, all with shifting ideas of what identity means and how the world works.

Tales of the City has its origins, of course, with Maupin’s newspaper columns, then his books. Following are a few representative book quotes that highlight the benefits of having both a logical family and a strong sense of individuality and independence:

I’m not sure I even need a lover, male or female. Sometimes I think I’d settle for five good friends.

The answer is that you never, ever, rely on another person for your peace of mind. If you do, you’re screwed but good. Not right away, maybe, but sooner or later. You have to…learn to live with yourself.

My life is full of love; I designed it that way. I try to make my own experience about love and I look for kindness in others. That’s the thing I value the most: it will get you through everything.

On a related note, a lot of LGBT folks face difficulties coming out to their biological families. In order to clearly convey one’s identity and what it means, therefore, many a heartfelt letter has been composed. Maupin’s own coming out letter, published in 1977 (San Francisco Chronicle) as though it were written by gay Tales character Michael Tolliver, recently received an emotional reading by stars of the new Netflix series. See it (and weep) at this Dorothy Surrenders link.

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