On Vince Tyler, 13 years after Queer As Folk

Cover of Queer As Folk UKIt was about 13 years ago since I first watched the British version of Queer as Folk, something that led to my coming out that very summer. I was 16.

Not completely out at the time, the 15-year old Nathan character was loitering in the gay district of Manchester, UK, and eventually got picked up by the much older, very sexual Stuart where the story began. Nathan didn’t just come out of the closet — he flat out exploded out of the closet, and at the time that was something I thought I had to do in my conservative Chinese family. There was just no other way.

But as much as I was trying to relate to Nathan (mostly due to our similarity in age), it was Vince, Stuart’s best friend, who completely captivated me. Geeky, handsome, and a constant giver to Stuart, it was Vince that I was most related to. Being 16 at the time, Vince seemed like the perfect man, not to mention someone I hope to eventually become.

Craig Kelly as Queer As Folk's Vince Tyler
Vince Tyler in Queer As Folk (UK)

Just recently, Queer as Folk was brought on to Netflix, and in the past week I’ve been re-watching, and re-living, the entire series.

I don’t think there’s anyone in my life, other than my friend Florent, who will quite understand my obsession with Vince. 13 years since finishing the series, I can still recite most of Vince’s dialogues. (“There’s always some new bloke, some better bloke, just waiting around the corner. That’s why you keep going out.”) He’s just as geeky, charming, and relatable as the first time I saw him on my Aiwa 12″ CRT television-VCR combo I picked up at Costco with my then-clueless dad.

Then something happened. I was surprised to find out that Stuart and Vince were not “much older” as I initially had in mind. They were actually 29. I’m 29.

Looking at where I am in life, it’s not a far-fetch to say that, Stuart aside, I have pretty much become Vince. I may not be as big of a Doctor Who fan as he is, but in terms of hitting that geeky, adorable, “I’m everybody’s friend” niche, there are at times little difference between watching him on the show and staring at myself in the mirror. (My closest friends even call me Wins for Pete’s sake.)

Stuart: You’ve done nothing Vince. You go to work, you go for a drink, you sit and watch cheap science fiction. Small and tiny world. What’s so impressive about that, what’s there to love?
Vince: …yeah.
Stuart: It was good enough for me.

Now, I know — there’s nothing wrong with being everybody’s friend. But there is also this side of Vince I’ve never noticed before. The part where he’s full of insecurities and how he’s constantly picking up after Stuart. What I once saw as commitment and loyalty I am now reminded of that line from Train’s Drop of Jupiter: …a man who is too afraid to fly so he never did land.

Vince: Unrequited love. It’s fantastic, ’cause it never has to change, it never has to grow up and it never has to die!

Of course, not all is bad. At the end of the day I am my own person. I have my faults just as much as my strengths, just like Vince and everybody else on the face of this blue planet. For every blunder I’ve had in the past, I’ve also had an equal amount of accomplishments with my family, my career, and in myself. The fact that I’m openly writing about my sexuality (and also sharing the link on Twitter & Facebook where my friends, family, and co-workers will see) is something I could not do even a couple years before.

Who were you at 16 and who are you now? It’s easy to think you’re still that nervous, insecure child, stagnant of any growth. But just like most things you create, it’s sometimes more helpful to give it some room and come back to look with a fresh pair of eyes. You’ll be surprised to see just how much you’ve grown.

<3 wins


Winson Shuen works at IGN but is not an editor. All opinions expressed here are solely his own and do not represent his employer by any means. You can follow him on Twitter @vdot90.

2 thoughts on “On Vince Tyler, 13 years after Queer As Folk”

  1. I watched the American version of this show, well the first season anyway, just before I went into my final year of school. I had began a binge on every gay TV show and film as I tried to figure myself out. I bonded with Justin, Michael and Brian at two in the morning, in the spare bedroom with earphones in, terrified that anyone would here.

    In theory I should have related to Justin the most as he was the youngest guy, attempting to find his place in both the world and the gay scene. And in ways I did, the way that he could move from being so confident in himself to being so closeted was something I related with. T

    But I was never truly him. I wasn’t brave enough to be him. Never would I have spread caution to the wind and wondered up town to the gay bars. I’d never have flirted with Brian the way he did. And I was neither as angry or as frustrated with the world. I was just scared, lonely and searching.

    I think that’s why Michael had a truly unique effect on me. Michael was a collection of everything I wanted to be and everything I didn’t want to be. He was the gay character that I most related to. His kindness was a factor that I really liked about him and the way he helped others was really great. But a flaw his character had was that he cared about those other people way too much, at his own expense.

    And he wasn’t as selfless as he looked at first glance. Sure he wanted people to think that he put them before himself to help them but a part of him wasn’t. In part, it allowed him to hide his true identity. He could rationalise his own inability to destroy his insecurities by telling himself he was helping other people.

    At the risk of sounding sensational and babyish, it really had profound impact on me. It was as if someone had shoved a mirror in front of me. Glaring back at me was a person I really didn’t want to be. So in that sense, TV really has helped me to become who I am. It probably would have happened without Michael but his character undoubtedly quickened that process for me.

    Even now I look at Michael’s character occasionally as I go about my business. Most recently, I discovered how harsh I had been on my family. They weren’t Justin’s parents, again they were most like Michael’s – good, honest people and yet I was embarrassed by them for some reason. Watching the show pointed that out to me and helped me mature faster than I would have.

    I can’t really answer your final question because it’s only been nine months since I stopped being 16 but it’s unreal how much I’ve changed in a period of about twelve months ( roughly when I watched Queer as Folk) yet I have. After reading a letter by Stephen Fry to his younger self, I write a letter to myself every six months. It’s a really good way of keeping up to date with my changing self!

    My goodness, I didn’t think I had written as much as this!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I’ve never watched the US version of QAF (I don’t agree that TV shows should be “kept alive” just to keep the ratings, not saying QAF is one of them. But look at The Office, for example.)

      And thank you for telling me about Stephen Fry — that’s a wonderful idea! I think I might start doing that.

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