Brian Kinney is one of the main characters on Queer as Folk. He is the childhood friend of Michael Novotny and partner of Justin Taylor in the series. He is portrayed by actor Gale Harold, Brian serves as the show's antihero.
Brian, throughout the series, "redefines promiscuity" and can usually be found in the back room of the popular gay club Babylon. Brian's biggest fear is losing his youth and beauty. His best friend, Michael, often tells him: "You will always be young, and you will always be beautiful. You're Brian Kinney, for fuck's sake!" Lindsay, a sister-like figure to Brian, sometimes fondly calls him 'Peter', in reference to Peter Pan, the boy who never grows old; He calls her 'Wendy' in return. Brian came from a broken home with an abusive alcoholic father and an overly-devout mother, and as a result, fears becoming "a shitty father" to his son. In one episode, George Shickle calls him "The love child of James Dean and Ayn Rand", as Brian often appears to practice Rand's philosophy of Objectivism in that he first helps himself so he is then better able to help others. This trait is one that is often misunderstood by his some of his friends, who merely see him as selfish.
Despite Brian's seemingly uncaring and amoral nature, he is shown as loving his friends and often makes great sacrifices for them, even though he won't admit that he cares for them. He plans a wedding for Lindsay and Melanie after theirs falls apart; he gives up his parental rights to Gus, so that Melanie and Lindsay will reunite in the first season. He pushes Michael away, so that he will go back to his boyfriend; he also helps Justin recover after a bashing at his senior prom, which Brian attended to please Justin. He gives up his job and money to beat the anti-gay candidate for mayor, Jim Stockwell, and is willing to give up his loft and nightclub to be with Justin in the final episodes.
Sexually irresistible, beautifully turned out, and highly successful, Brian has nonetheless been an extremely controversial character in the LGBT community. Some people feel that he represents the community poorly, embodying a promiscuity and an inability to grow up that are negative stereotypes among the larger community. This conflict is represented within the series as Brian's ongoing antagonism with Pittsburgh's Gay and Lesbian Center. Others regard Brian as the most moral character on the show, and one of the most morally uncompromising characters on television.
Brian is a tall Caucasian male, tan skin, brown hair and is naturally very handsome or "very good looking". When at work he sports a variety of business suits. Outside of work, Brian’s wardrobe excentuate his muscular physique to attract men. Ethan Gold and several other characters have commented on Brian’s beauty.
He is eccentric, promiscuous, vain and hedonistic, but ultimately fiercely loyal to his friends; especially Michael and Lindsey and ultimately Justin too.
Brian at the surface presents himself as vain, hedonistic, and very arrogant. Beneath this facade is a sad and confused boy from a broken household. A clear sign of his insecurity is that Brian still craves his father’s affection. Brian’s outward personality is a result of his upbringing, his father was an alcoholic, his mother was homophobic and strictly religious, and his sister claims he is a “god damn fag” to her children who in turn treat Brian as such. Whenever Brian feels that his vulnerability is exposed he tries to cover it up with vulgar behaviour such as when he saved Ted from legal action but responded to his thanks with a sarcastic remark.
Throughout the Series
In the pilot, he takes Justin home and takes his virginity. In the same episode, his son, Gus, is born to a lesbian couple - Lindsay and Melanie. Because of the simultaneousness of these two pivotal events, Brian often associates Gus with Justin, referring to both as "sonny boy." in the next episode, Brian rebuffs Justin to his dismay.
Instead of going to Melanie and Lindsey's house for the Bris, Brian hooks up with Troy whom he later rebuffs. Michael calls him and explains what the bris is and rushes over in deep concern for his son which upsets Mel and Lindsey.
Brian hits on David Cameron, Michael's new boyfriend, but also grows dislike for him in the process.
Craig damages his jeep with him in it finding out Justin has been with him. He receives minor injuries as a result. Later, Craig physically assaults Brian right outside of Babylon. Justin pulls his father away while the rest of the gang restrains an infuriated Brian. Brian calms himself to calm Justin after he screams that he will never come home again to his father.
Justin stays with Brian, and in his own way, he tries to cheer Justin up about his father despite the animosity he feels toward Justin's father. After so much discussion about their fathers, Brian goes to visit his father at the bar. After the unpleasant visit, he's drunk and goes to Michael's place and Michael comforts him as he sobs knowing he will never change.
Due to Michael still hoping for Brian to return his affections and breaking up with David, Brian throws Michael a surprise birthday for his 30th birthday, but has some unexpected surprises. Brian invites David and Tracy, and he informs her the two dated while he was involved with her which the abrupt news upset more than one party. They all leave angry of how Brian handled things.
Brian is depressed over Michael, but tries not to make it obvious.
After Brian and Michael rekindled their friendship, Brian sleeps with Kip, a new young, ambitious gay employee that Brian recognized for his ideas.
Lindsey leaves Gus in his care, but Justin ends up babysitting. Melanie finds out Brian is not taking care of Gus and the two feud once more.
Brian visits and comes out to his father, Jack Kinney, after he finds out he has cancer. He confronts his father verbally (but restraining himself physically) after a disrespectful statement and leaves after stating he is not the one dying of cancer, "you are." While Lindsey and Gus are over, Jack comes by with an old photograph of him and Brian as a baby which Brian initially declines. Brian ultimately introduces Lindsey and Gus, as his baby and baby's mother to his surprise.
Brian dislikes how David has changed Michael's way of living, and challenges him to live his OWN life.
Brian's father passes away. Brian shows reluctant emptiness in his passing with Michael comforting him. When his sister Claire Kinney ask people to share how they remember their father, Brian gives a painful memory of their father shocking everyone in the room.
During the second season, Brian helps Justin recover, both physically and emotionally. Through the process the bond grows thicker.
After witnessing Justin's prom bashing, Brian is traumatized. No one - except Jennifer Taylor - knows that Brian stands secret vigil outside Justin's hospital room every night for weeks. Upon Justin's release from the hospital, Jennifer Taylor bars Brian from seeing Justin.
Jennifer later asks him to 'take' her son, because Brian is the only one he trusts.
Justin confronts Brian by asking if the reason he is still living with Brian is because he feels guilty. Brian says that guilt was the reason he took Justin in, but its not the reason he wants him to stay. To restrict Brian's promiscuity and protect himself, Justin sets some rules and they become official partners.
Brian ignores Justin's 19th birthday at first, but then purchases him a hustler which Justin wasn't very thrilled about, but ultimately accepted the gift. At the end, Brian almost purchases Justin red roses, but decided to pass on it.
After so many rebuffs, Justin feels alone in the relationship especially seeing Brian continue to see other guys. Justin starts to have the affair with Ethan Gold and coming home at very late or not at all. Brian find out Justin's affair through the scent when he didn't shower and stops intimacy saying subtly angry towards Justin, "Go take a shower. You stink."
In Episode 2.20 - Brian tells Justin to decide who he wants to be with. Despite this, he throws the debut party for their comic book debut. During the debut, Justin finds Brian hooking up with someone in the backroom and makes his decision. Brian comes out of the backroom to find Justin leaving with Ethan Gold. Brian is hurt when Justin leaves him to be with Ethan, but will not admit it. Despite his outwardly-detached nature, he misses Justin.
During the third season, Brian's loneliness is evident from Justin's departure.
Michael irritates Brian when he confronts him about how Justin ran off with Ethan, and Brian punches him out while at Melanie and Lindsay's house. Brian makes it up to him with a gift, a first saying it was His mother's heart, but is actually expensive meat. Michael refuses to speak to Justin even after Brian insists on them getting back together for a second issue for Rage.
While at the diner, people at the diner ask about Michael's comic and when the next issue is going to come out. Brian also in the diner asks the same question following up some of the patrons.
Due to Justin leaving, Brian becomes more needy towards Michael. Ben moves in, and Brian comes over looking saddened. Ben suggests going out with him to cheer him up. Brian oversteps and attempts to hang out with Michael every night which almost leads Ben to move out.
After the struggle with tuition, Justin finds out Brian is continuing to pay for his education despite breaking up with him as he gives him his art equipment and says, "a deal's a deal." Later, he goes to Michael with a suggestion for their new comic. When Michael asks why he changed his mind, he said what Brian said, "A deal's a deal."
The second time, while he is still with Ethan, he makes Brian's nephew tell the truth about whether or not he had molested him. Justin find out where Brian's nephew hangs out. Justin, now 19, is still able to use his youth to his advantage by smooth talking Brian's nephew. He notices Brian's bracelet on his arm and simply remarks "nice bracelet" and walks away. he has informed Carl Horvath, Debbie Novotny, and Claire Kinney of John's deception about his uncle. Justin takes his bracelet and gives it to the rightful owner. While there is still romantic tension between them, they salute each other towards their separate ways.
Justin, feeling like he has nothing in common with Ethan's snotty friends, ends up ditching Ethan and his friends and goes to Babylon for a raffle that Brian is holding for The Center.
Brian's success as an advertising executive comes into opposition with his beliefs when he is asked to head up a conservative, anti-gay mayoral candidate's campaign, Jim Stockwell. Though, he is initially instrumental in the candidate's rise at the dismay of his friends and fellow LGBT around Pittsburgh, he eventually, with Justin, destabilizes the campaign through various methods.
Brian goes to the bar to find him, and he does. He buys him a drink and asks if a picture rings a bell as he shows Jason Kemp's photo. Reichert denies. Brian continues to reveal to him that the hustler he sleep with was such a rascal and took a magazine with his name on it, along with the condom with his semen that matched the specimens found inside the kid in the photo. Brian continues to question why he killed him. As Brian dug deeper with the question, Reichert becomes so defensive to where he is oppressed with a demonic guilt on his face as he lunges for Brian. Brian attempts to reason with him before he abruptly leaves.
He finds out that Detective Horvath later goes to attempt bring him in for questioning, but found that he has washed his car and shot himself in the head.
Brian and Justin are found by Jim Stockwell and Gardner Vance at his place one night. After a discussion with his co partner, Vance, he is fired for corrupting Stockwell's campaign. Full of anger, he devices a way to completely destroy his campaign by buying television advertisements explaining the truthful circumstances of his campaign, his involvement with Kenneth Reichert, and covering up the murder of Jason Kemp. From his advertisement, Jim is not only defeated in the voting polls, but he is held with federal charges and forced to resign. Brian becomes more of an anti-hero in his fellow LGBT community to end the season.
However, in the fourth season, he founds his own company, Kinnetik Corps. After a casual sexual encounter at Babylon following Vic's unexpected death (there is evidence that Vic was an important person in Brian's childhood), he discovers he has testicular cancer. Battling this is especially tough because of his narcissism. After beating cancer and completing a bike ride from Toronto to Pittsburgh, Brian reevaluates his life, deciding to take a more active role in his son's life and asking Justin to move back in.
In the fifth season, things between him an Justin seem stable until Brian buys Babylon and becomes envious of a new contender for his crown as Top Stud in gay Pittsburgh. Because of this, along with catching syphilis as a result of his promiscuity, Justin moves out, frustrated at Brian's inability to form a committed relationship. After a bomb goes off at Babylon, Brian admits his love for Justin and mends his relationship with his best friend, Michael, who is gravely injured in the blast. Brian proposes to Justin but later tells Justin that he should go to New York to pursue a promising art career. They spend one last night, knowing that even though they are separating for the time being, they still love each other. Brian shows Justin that he has kept the wedding rings as a symbol of hope that they will have the chance to be together again. The series ends with Michael and Brian dancing in the ruins of Babylon which transforms to show it restored as they dance with all their friends, giving the impression that despite the odds, Brian Kinney will survive.
Only several people can see right through Brian’s façade and see him for who he truly is: Debbie, Michael, Lindsey and later Justin. In turn, Brian shows a great deal of affection towards these individuals. When Debbie came to thank Brian for fighting against Stockwell’s homophobic campaign, he reminisced and conversed friendly rather than be sarcastic. Brian supports Michael in a variety of ways and knows everything about him, especially his love of comic books. Brian has also shown a degree of respect towards Michael that he rarely shows to other people, when they were traveling to New York, Brian openly admitted to Michael that he can be a terrible person and is grateful that Michael loves him regardless. When their friendship was temporarily broken, Brian was miserable without Michael and couldn’t stop thinking and seeing him.
When Lindsey and Melanie believed their wedding day falling through was a sign that their relationship was not meant to be, Brian planned a whole wedding for them and attempted to pay for their honeymoon but Lindsey insisted that he had done more than enough and was extremely grateful.
Originally, Brian found Justin annoying but over time developed genuine feelings for him. Brian came to Justin’s prom and shared a slow dance. He visited a shrink to help discover how to help Justin heal emotionally from his attack. When Justin’s father kicked him out of the house for being gay, Brian immediately called his father out for his hateful words and offered Justin a place to stay. In the series finale, Brian asked Justin to marry him and took a chance on love by selling his loft and nightclub without knowing what Justin’s answer would be. Brian later told Justin to follow his dreams and pursue a successful art career in New York even though he wanted him to stay, having finally found true love, Brian chose to put Justin’s needs before his own.
Brian shows a special degree of selflessness towards Michael and Justin. Brian persistently tried to offer Justin financial assistance for his college education and became very concerned with the toll his night job had on his health and grades. When Michael attempted to sever ties with Justin because of his ungrateful attitude and poor treatment towards Brian, which would have ended Michael’s own dream of creating his own comic, Brian immediately stopped him and told him to make amends with Justin and not give up his dreams for him, prioritizing Michael’s happiness over himself.
- Main article: Brian and Justin
They come to share one of the most significant relationships in the entire series. Originally, Brian found Justin annoying, but over time developed genuine feelings for him.
During the first season, his relationship with Justin is unclear. Brian hates the idea of couples but breaks his own rules for Justin, unable to resist the pull he feels towards him. He takes care of him in different ways: letting him move into his loft after Justin's kicked out of his parents' home, going after him to NYC after he runs away, advising him on school situations -- thus over and over, disproving his own verbal declarations of not wanting him around through his actions.
Brian came to Justin’s prom and shared a slow dance. He visited a shrink to help discover how to help Justin heal emotionally from his attack. When Justin’s father kicked him out of the house for being gay, Brian immediately called his father out for his hateful words and offered Justin a place to stay. In the series finale, Brian asked Justin to marry him and took a chance on love by selling his loft and nightclub without knowing what Justin’s answer would be. Brian later told Justin to follow his dreams and pursue a successful art career in New York even though he wanted him to stay, having finally found true love, Brian chose to put Justin’s needs before his own.
This is one of the strongest of friendships in the entire series. They have known each other since they were fourteen years of age, had their first experiences together, and look at each other like brothers, even in Michael's mother's eyes.
In school, Brian has always stood up for Michael, helping him with homework, fending off bullies at school, and simply being there for him. They often read comics and magazines together He is often very defensive of his best friend, Brian, and admits to having some feelings for him. For example, when Justin and Brian split up, Michael tells Justin to get out of their lives. When Michael attempted to sever ties with Justin because of his ungrateful attitude and poor treatment towards Brian, which would have ended Michael’s own dream of creating his own comic, Brian immediately stopped him and told him to make amends with Justin and not give up his dreams for him, prioritizing Michael’s happiness over himself.
Towards the end of the series, they are at odds. While they have shared so many things, their opposite beliefs are put into action. Michael gets that stable household away from the transient LGBT community of Pittsburgh, a husband and family and seemingly leaving Brian behind. After a series arguments, Michael standing up to him about his beliefs, Brian is finally compelled to take more in consideration of what he really values in life.
A sister-like figure to Brian. They dated in college, but have become best friends, later became biological parents to Gus Peterson-Marcus. Sometimes fondly calls him 'Peter', in reference to Peter Pan, the boy who never grows old; He calls her 'Wendy' in return. Their bond is strong and in times of distress, they will confide in each other of their problems. She relies on him for the "cold hard truth" and will even at times refer him to Melanie for it as well to her dismay.
- Main article: Brian and Gus
They are "frenemies" within Michael's main friend group, but they are ultimately friends, but it's complicated. There are many friendships in local LGBTQ communities that resembled "their" friendship mirroring that of a subtle mentor-protégé friendship. In the end, they have learned from and of each other and have a very developed friend support and deeper knowledge of one another.
Consistently, They constantly go "below the belt" with each other on issues with Brian often times with the upper hand. Despite their rivalry, Brian has been the source for Ted's insight and ultimate building of his self esteem through his brutal truths. Ted doesn't know at first, but what he said in some messages Brian DID listen and gained insight as well. Throughout the seasons, Brian proven ultimately that he is Ted's friend and does have his back.
Ted ultimately admires Brian, but is also jealous of his confidence. Later, Brian even shows hints of jealousy; especially when he starts his own business in Porn. Albeit, Brian helps him in the end when Ted is in trouble having accidentally hired a minor in his establishment.
Towards the end of the season, Brian is impressed by Ted's new found confidence and hires him as a CFO and assistant. This work rapport greatly improves their friendship overall as they now confide in each other personally. Ted has also been instrumental in helping Michael and Brian resolve some of their problems as friends.
There is evidence that Vic was an important person in Brian's childhood. They both were important figures in the LGBT lifestyle for Michael.
After a casual sexual encounter at Babylon following Vic's unexpected death, he discovers he has testicular cancer, Vic pops in his dreams when in surgery and teases and mocks him. From the dreams, it is more evident that Brian was influenced by him as an adolescent and they share a similar sense of humor and outlook, however, Brian's is darker due to coping with his immediate family.
Brian and Melanie have much tension from the start of the series. Brian would insult and humiliate her to attempt to rid of her, but as the series unfolds, their relationship improves...
At first, Melanie loathes Brian, but tolerates him around solely because of his connections of Lindsey. Brian fights with her mainly when it concerns Gus as he denied signing the parental rights at first. When Melanie and Lindsey separate the first time, Brian tells her not to beat herself up when she cheat on Lindsey, gives up parental rights for her, and gets them married, they become more "frenemies". When Brian has helped them, Melanie can be seen surprised and where she wants to hug him, knowing the tensions, she will grasp his hands with both of hers.
In the middle seasons, she is friendlier towards him, will even inquire about his trips at times, and even take his constructive criticism when Lindsey told him about her case being taken over by "one of the boys".
Towards the end of the season, they've realize how much they share in common and have a standard friendship, and they have embraced each other as she no longer minds and is actually happy seeing Brian bond with Gus. Their natural tension prior, strong wills, and having so much in common keeps a rivalry alive within the friendship, but it's healthier. They are "frenemies" to some degree, but they have a solid friendship at the end of the series.
Emmett and Brian are pretty solid friends within Michael's main group of friends. They are not too close, but not distant either. Emmett is quick witted and has thick enough skin to handle Brian's darker humor jokes and doesn't take them seriously while Brian pokes funs at Emmett not meaning harm, although, he falls victim to his darker pranks often making the general friend group disappointed and angry.
As they get to know each other more through the series, they become better friends. However in serious times, Brian is key for him getting over ted when he is falling into bad drug habits, helping him realize he is making Michael take side between him and Ted and preventing it, as well as helping him to not be naïve about the television career he gains and the image of him as "Queer guy" is sexless.
Ben and Brian are casual friends due to being Michael's love interest and are generally cordial to one another, although they occasionally clash over their conflicting values and mutual interest in Michael. It is revealed in Season 2 that Ben and Brian shared a brief prior sexual encounter, which initially disturbs Michael.
From the start, they disliked each other. Brian thinks he is attractive and hits on him, but at the same time, feels a certain territory when it comes to his best friend Michael. David, on the other hand, also feels territorial of Michael and feels Brian is a threat rather than a friend of Michael's. At some points, he forbid Michael from seeing him because of so much animosity. Due to David's rigid view of things, Brian felt the relationship wasn't going to last ultimately and he would prove too inflexible for Michael's personality. His prediction proves true as Michael felt the need to feel more of an individual rather than be David's shadow.
They are rivals for Justin's affections.
Brian will never admit it, but he harbours jealousy when Justin leaves him for Ethan. Brian when as far as to tempt him with a business offer to reveal to Justin that he knows who his secret affair lover is, and another business offer to change his mind and tempt him to leave Justin to further his musical career. His second temptation worked as planned and domino effected into more temptation for Ethan leading him to cheat on Justin with an anonymous fan causing, instead, for Justin to leave him disappointed of empty promises.
She is Brian's loyal assistant. Despite being Brian's assistant, she embodies many traits of being a typical fag-hag to homosexual men.
His copartner in his previous firm.
- "No apologies, no regrets" -to the gang
- "I don't believe in love, i believe in fucking" - to Justin
- "Alway have, always will" -to Michael
- "Hey, the only faggots worth laughing at are the ones that don't tell the truth." -to Michael and the gang"
- "It's not their life. I don't need their approval" -to Justin (about their parents)
- "Mikey's got a date!" -to Michael
- "Just tell them: Something came up." -to Michael
Brian's admirers tend to see him as a larger than life icon. The scholar and critic Camille Paglia, reviewing the premiere episode on the website Salon.com, said she enjoyed the show "principally because of the glamorous performance by Gale Harold of cruel-as-ice Brian, who looks like Donatello's David all grown up."
Brian has also been singled out for praise from a liberationist point of view by Paul Robinson, the Richard W. Lyman Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University. In his book "Queer Wars" (University of Chicago Press, 2005), Professor Robinson writes of the character at length, describing him as "someone who has completely liberated himself from the repressive conventions of heterosexuality and whose utter contempt for straight society makes him the ultimate gay hero." Brian's popularity was such that the famous "Brian bracelet" - a simple woven bracelet with cowrie shells which became identified with the character - emerged as a totem in the gay community. One of the contestants on the gay dating reality series Boy Meets Boy was seen wearing one.
- In November 2007, the character was voted the 'The Most Popular Gay Character on Television' by AfterEllen's sister site, AfterElton.
- He is skilled at racquetball.
- He is a decent bowler, but not as good as Ben Bruckner.