Friday, April 3, 2009

Sean Penn in "Milk"

Tonight I watched the movie, Milk. Wow, what an acting job Sean Penn did!

Within minutes into the film, you see beyond Sean Penn and see Harvey Milk. I told a friend not long ago I could not recall when I became a gay activist, or at least began to lean that way.
Now I remember. It was Anita Bryant that did it! I wonder how many of us non-gays pulled away from Florida orange juice for while in the late 1970s because of her attitude. Did we replace fresh Florida orange juice with Tang about that time? Many all over this country were outraged about her attitude and bias against homosexuals. And the more she was outspoken with the bias the more irritated people became.

Living in California in those years, I knew a lot about what was going on over gay rights, especially in San Francisco, I remember John Briggs and the Briggs Initiative, and I do recall the tragic deaths of San Francisco Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk. When I first saw the trailer for the movie, I recalled seeing the news clip of our now Senator Dianne Feinstein making the announcement of the shootings and death of her San Francisco colleagues.

Even though Harvey Milk died, his passion and dedication to the gay rights cause did bring the gay rights issues into the forefront, and hopefully we are making strides to bring about equality.

Isn’t it interesting that the Briggs Initiative was based on fear, just as Prop 8 was again in November here in CA. Politicians are so good at using fear to manipulate, and damn, it too often seems to work. You’d think people would wise up to that game.

The late Randy Shilts (1951-1994), openly gay journalist, reporter, and best-selling author, in a biography of Milk, wrote that Harvey Milk's life was a “metaphor for the homosexual experience in America.”

Shilts also wrote the best seller, “And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic,” an excellent non-fiction book. It was made into an award winning HBO movie.

Sadly, Randy Shilts died of AIDS at the age of 42. Cleve Jones, gay activist and friend of Harvey Milk, and cofounder of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and who conceived the AIDS Memorial Quilt, described Shilts as a hero and characterized his books as the most important works of literature affecting gay people. Having only read one of Randy’s books, “And the Band Played On,” I would agree the book is of significant importance to understanding AIDS in America.

If you’ve not seen Milk, I highly recommend it for a well-written screenplay by Dustin Lance Black, fantastic acting by Sean Penn, and for a look back at history, and acknowledgement of the on-going fight for equality and tolerance. We’re getting closer but not there yet. When people can set prejudices and judgment aside, and keep fear out of the way, someone like Harvey Milk or Matthew Wayne Shepard (1976-1998) will not have died in vain.

Read more on my previous Blog
Oscar Winning Screenwriter, Dustin Lance Black, and Milk Movie



Ricky Kendall said...

Milk was definitely a moving film. It brought back many memories. Loved it!!

John Hayes said...

Really enjoyed your review & your retrospective-- yes, I think Anita was a galvanizing force; I'm hoping that perhaps laws like Prop 8 will also ultimately be galvanizing forces, especially for straigbht folks, to stand up against this discrimination. It's pretty crucial that we let the forces who stand for laws like Prop 8 that we see this as a civil rights issue.