Saturday, February 7, 2009

"Milk" a film about the assassination of a gay activist politician is also a message of hope

I came out of "Milk" actually feeling elated with such an achievement in film making. This story leaps into harsh reality the minute it opens and does not depart from it in my opinion. It is so strong that it kind of dwarfs all the other films I have seen this year that are contenders for honors. This film is the best picture of the year in my opnion, and I can't imagine a subject more difficult than the story of how gay activist Harvey Milk runs for city supervisor in San Francisco over and over until he is finally elected to the highest political office a gay had achieved at that time in the US. I also did not know that Harvey Milk fought a law that was proposed and had passed in Florida, Witchita, and other places, that would have gotten all known and suspected gays fired from jobs as school teachers, social workers where they interacted with children in California. Thanks to his activist efforts and debates, the law did not pass.
How unfair that kind of legislation seems to me as I had grown up with teachers I felt absolutely had to hide their sexual orientation in order to keep their jobs in a judgmental society. In other words, in order to be school teachers they were forced to lie their whole lives. My dad was a rancher, and he felt he had to lie. What a dreadful world that is when people must lie to please the religious dogmatic who are citing their authority as biblical. I have never thought that anyone could help what they felt sexually whether they inherited or developed those feelings along the way. They could not change their feelings, but I always thought that ignorant and unreasonable people were demanding that they do. This area has always been such a loaded minefield for society, where it is so easy to condemn without having ever walked in those shoes.
Yes, I would be the first to say that we must protect the children from predators whether they are homosexual or heterosexual, but if homosexuals are forced to lie to keep their jobs that is branding all gays a danger to the children which is simply not so. And all we will get from such policies is more people who have to make a living feeling forced to hide their sexual orientation, the same results that have usually always prevailed in backward societies, in my opinion. Because some people are always going to be homosexual, so these people will only be made to feel like outsiders, moral lepers you might say. Without just cause! The way to protect our children is through honesty from all, open debate, knowledge, acceptance, and civil disagreement.
Harvey Milk kept exhorting the gays to come out, to be honest about who they were no matter the fallout. He insisted that society needed to be able to accept the gays right to life, a place in society, so they could exist without having to lie. I got mad again at Anita Bryant in the film as I did back then when she did so much damage to gay rights in the name of biblical authority. Too much unreasonable condemnation of all gays can turn religion ugly, as it did in Dan White, a right wing supervisor, who eventually shot both the mayor and Harvey Milk after they had been too successful with the gay rights agenda. The worst part of it is he was only given a short sentence for manslaughter and served only two years. He punished himself far worse by eventually committing suicide.
It is always unsettling to have to accept that a parent, a child, relative, a friend, someone does not march to the same drummer as we 'normal' people do. I always thought that my father was a gift from God to me to study and try to understand and tolerate. I was close enough to him to perceive strengths as well as faults and failings. I did not have homosexual feelings but because of him I became the friend of tortured souls I met who struggle with these issues their whole lives, feeling condemned before people even knew them.
Harvey Milk cries out that out of his six relationships, five committed suicide. And he was due for still another suicide in his life when his partner when he was elected eventually killed himself, too. I felt that suicidal was my father's middle name.
This is a great movie. It seems to me almost a miracle that a story this complex has been told on film so well. Sean Penn has done his very best work to date in my opinion, earning his own right to be called a great activist.

1 comment:

ADB said...

Discrimination in any form is not acceptable, Gerry


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