On Some Thoughts on Milk (Reader Comments)

04Dec08

In which The Gay Recluse turns to the mail bag.

Chances are if you’re geigh, you’ve heard about this movie called MILK! You might even feel guilty if, like us, you haven’t gone to see it yet because you’re gay and it’s about someone who’s gay and you should be eternally grateful that Hollywood would deign to tackle such a dirty and disgusting topic, although it’s great for laffs when the straight actors go on late-night teevee and asshole comedians groan and squirm about what it’s like to — ewwww! — kiss and “play gay.” But we digress! The point is, your editors at The Gay Recluse live in an actual (as opposed to gay) ghetto, with no movie theaters, and are too lazy to go see any movie in the theater, which means we probably won’t see MILK for ten years, when it reaches the top of our NetFlix queue.

Fortunately for us, Reader CB went to see MILK and provided the following analysis (in part a reaction to our post about subway homophobia), which we wanted to reprint in full. 

I went to see “Milk” tonight. It is, as the New Yorker and Charlie Rose had promised, quite well done.

I know the story from the excellent 1984 documentary, “The Times of Harvey Milk.” So I can’t say any of it came as a surprise. What did catch me off guard, however, was the degree of fury that rose in me as the picture neared its climax. I was literally shaking in my seat, and my fingers went numb, until I caught myself hyperventilating.

When I thought about it after, I connected to two, internal sources of anger:

1) The awfully ignorant, intolerant world of Anita Bryant, the Briggs Initiative, and the equation of homosexuality with bestiality, pedophilia, and worse, was the world in which I passed my formative years and adolescence. In my “sheltered” upbringing, I knew nothing of the hope and triumphs of the gay rights movement. It was rough going, and scars remain. The kind of violent hate crime touched on in the movie was very much a threat in my early adulthood, throughout the eighties, even in the supposedly more-enlightened world of Manhattan. One always had to be wary, and bashings were a regular fact of gay city life. So was suicide (a topic also woven into Milk’s story). The film coalesced feelings I haven’t visited much of late, but have certainly grappled with in my life: how much damage and pain was caused — to me, to people I knew and loved, to our culture — by dumb, hateful, or murderously insane people who felt strangely entitled to dictate the course of my life and other people’s lives, and of history? How is it that such people got away with the havoc they wrought?

2) How come they still get away with it? There are simply too many parallels between the world in the movie, with its obstinate, heartless, self-appointed “normals,” and our experience today. Recent statewide ballots (not to mention the past eight years of American government) make plain the ongoing co-opting of American sensibilities by homo-ignorant bullies. (As does the Recluse’s subway moment.) On the other hand, there’s little of the activism of Milk’s era today, nor the hope of setting an example: much of the civilized world has passed us by on civil rights. The cozy gay couple I saw the movie with provided cold comfort: they exist in complete and willing ignorance of the history “Milk” tells, and of the fragility and cost of the insulated, ghettoized “freedom” in which they live their material, suburban lives.

I came home from the movie to the Recluse’s sad subway saga. It was all too familiar, and too, too old a story. Not exactly an antidote to feeling that the gap between 1978 and 2008 is only a football field wide, perhaps, rather than a Grand Canyon which cannot be easily crossed back over.

“Milk” is an important, humanizing piece about a recent, pivotal moment in American (and gay) civil-rights history. The story is moving. But its reminder that the Dark Ages are far from over is chilling. I’m not so much sick of that, as shaking in my seat with rage.

Thank you for sharing, CB. As we always say: celebrate the new dark age.*

*Also the incredible title of an equally incredible Polvo record.  
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3 Responses to “On Some Thoughts on Milk (Reader Comments)”

  1. One just needs to take the time to educate the masses…these are a good start:

    http://thinkb4youspeak.com/Videos/

  2. Thanks for sharing that, AGD! (And btw, cute pic — woof!) I think the frustration stems from the constant exposure to the (low-level) abuse, as well as the continuing inequalities under the law that to a certain extent reinforce the idea that gay relationships are in fact inferior.

  3. Yeah, I got that shaking-with-rage thing when I read And the Band Played On earlier this year. You want to think things have changed, but the old ‘polygamy and bestiality!’ ballad from the 80s sounds incredibly familiar.

    We shouldn’t dispair, though, eh gays? Marriage is in the mail, if not yet actually delivered, and there are urban enclaves where we at least don’t have to worry about our physical safety. Yes, it’s a cliche to say ‘but things are so much better now’. But they are. Hey, pretty soon we might even get Iran to admit we exist.


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