‘Noah’s Arc’ trailblazed being black and gay in Hollywood
In 2005, the Logo cable network launched a series called Noah’s Arc. Many of the incredibly loyal fans of the show referred to it as the black & gay Sex and the City – the four main characters loosely mirror the archetypes featured on HBO’s classic comedy.
I played Noah, the hopeless romantic writer who spent the series (which amounted to two seasons and a feature film) in an on-again/off-again romance with Wade, the man of everybody’s dreams. The Carrie-Mr. Big similarities weren’t difficult to discern there. Noah’s three best friends were also not unlike Carrie’s crew of cosmo-connoisseurs. Ricky was the promiscuous party boy, Chance the uptight intellectual, and Alex a little too obsessed with his boyfriend.
Granted, the black men on Noah’s Arc were grounded in very different realities than the well-to-do white women on Sex and the City. Alex performed in drag once, but he wouldn’t have been caught dead in Charlotte’s pearls or pink Chanel. Ricky’s HIV scare was resolved with much less drama than Samantha’s battle with cancer. And while Chance did drive his mini-van into someone’s living room to catch his husband cheating, he was far too proud to eat chocolate cake out of the trashcan like Miranda.
In the ways Carrie and her friends gave women everywhere permission to talk about their sex lives and be fabulous on girls’ night out, Noah and his friends offered gay black men a new model of friendship & family we had never before seen on television.
Sure, we had Queer As Folk, Will & Grace, and David & Keith on Six Feet Under. But Hollywood had never presented as amiable a group of unapologetically gay black men living full lives and balancing love & career, doing it all in bold, bright colors.
Since Noah’s Arc ended in 2008, we’ve seen a shift in programs featuring gay characters. With the exception of HBO’s Looking (which also encompassed two seasons and a feature film), there hasn’t been another Hollywood-backed series dedicated to a group of gay friends.
Gay characters have instead been integrated into stories ostensibly aimed at more mainstream audiences, with supporting roles on hit cable dramas like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, and notable leads on network sitcoms like Modern Family and The Real O’Neals. It can certainly be argued that an increased presence in shows that appeal to broader populations serves to normalize the gay experience for more people, but fans of shows like Noah’s Arc are missing the camaraderie and coded cultural references that truly affirmed their own experience.
The Sex and the City cast is reportedly getting back together for a third film. While Sarah Jessica Parker insists on not being called a feminist, the current political climate could easily be countered by another film featuring independent women calling the shots.
While I don’t see Noah’s Arc making a comeback any time soon, I do believe stories featuring unapologetic queer folks of color in lead roles will offer solace and support to many who are fearful about some recent, sharp changes in the West’s sociopolitical climate.