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01/02/2009

'Milk', as seen by Anita's modern ilk

by Jeremy Hooper

After weighing all of the elements of the film, Focus on the Family's "Plugged In Online" movie review site sums up Milk with the following terse wrap up:

"In a sentence or two, Milk presents hurting people thrashing about for peace and acceptance. And it suggests that God and His people are the source of their pain."

Now, it's not a shocker that one of America's most anti-gay organizations (whose leader, James Dobson, was a voice of queer antipathy at the time in which the film is set) would find fault with Picture 37-5the film. That was a given before the first actor was ever cast. In fact, we'd be a little scared if FOF did like this flick, as a "pro-family"-approved version would've cast Kirk Cameron in the lead role and had its title character denouncing the Castro and falling in love with Anita Bryant!

But here's the thing they are largely overlooking in both this wrap up and their entire review: The film is a biopic. The people who are "thrashing about for peace and acceptance" in the film were genuinely hurting in the late '70s, just as many of us are today. But there is NO suggestion that God is injecting this pain -- the suggestion is 100% that those who have taken it open themselves to speak for God are the source of the pain! And again, it's not really even a suggestion, but rather a highlight of the historical record. Anita Bryant and her words are fact, and they are presented in the film through historical footage. John Briggs and his initiative are historical fact, with several of his on-screen counterpart's comments culled directly from the record. The deaths, including that of Harvey himself, are not Hollywood creation -- obituaries bear out their veracity. And it's a fact that the evangelicals were leading this anti-gay charge. The same crew that FOF now riles up in order to keep gays unequal.

The problem is that groups like Focus on the Family can't/won't draw distinction between God and their self-appointed God Squad. They see a people at war with faith-based discrimination and harassment, and so they just go right ahead and say, "Oh, these people hate the big guy in the sky." This leap in logic is handy for them, as it allows them to more easily wash their hands of the pain that they've so directly fostered. But for those of us who are hurt by measures like Prop 8 (which FOF supported with HUGE wads of cash), we know the true place from where the pain of those who battled Prop 6 came. We realize that it came from the unreasoned, unfair attempts to define "morality" in ways that don't jibe with reality. We see that it came from the sorts of divisive mindsets that we think a fair and just God would stand against. We know, without question, that it came from the same sort of "save our children" movement that FOF still embraces. We, like all objective audiences, get what it's all about.

What audiences see in Milk is a once-famous woman whose name is now a synonymous-with-discrimination national joke, a frighteningly intolerant politician whose attempts to ban gay teachers was appallingly awful, and a civil rights pioneer who helped inspire oppressed gays to rise above the intolerance. So why, if they are honest with themselves and others, do anti-gay rights groups like FOF really dislike what they see? Well, because it's quite possible that somebody in the year 2038 will make a nostalgic flick about the early 21st century gay rights fight, and they know exactly how their side will look through that future lens. Milk has provided them with what we'd imagine is an eye-opening template.

Milk Review [Plugged In]

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Your thoughts

What pisses me off the most about the Anita Bryant era, is gay activists highlight the "save our children" BS, but scrubs her most sinister line about "doing away with the homosexuals".

Falwell was behind this, as well as their second attempt in the 80's, with his "Moral Majority" publicly discussing executing gay people.

Just because some fundies want to scrub that part of their past doesn't mean gay people should let everyone forget that part, too.

Posted by: Scott | Jan 2, 2009 3:44:29 PM

Oh, well I can assure you, Soctt, that it wasn't intentional on my part. I just used the "save our children" line as shorthand.

Yea, I too believe that this era, the real rise of the so-called "moral majority," should be discussed openly and frequently. By now they have learned how to shape the rhetoric so that it is publicly palatable. But back then, before they were as political savvy, their words were far less coded and far more honest!

Posted by: G-A-Y | Jan 2, 2009 3:47:25 PM

If they knew that Milk would include "ungodly material", than why did they watch it? On Sunday, televangelists are all over the networks, but I think that I've only seen "In the Life" one time on P.B.S, than it dissappeared. (sorry for the run-on sentence)

Posted by: Emily | Jan 2, 2009 4:21:50 PM

Sean Penn totally WAS Harvey, gosh that movie was amazing! And James Franco is mine bitches, so back off.


I'm to the point where I don't even hear what these jackasses have to say. It all just runs together into a giant pile of bullshit. I feel like they have made themselves so clear that there is nothing left to be shocked about.

They are the enemy, that much is already certain, so there is not much more they can do to lower themselves in my eyes. You can argue against an us/them mentality, but I think the conservatives have taken it way past me giving them fair consideration.

Posted by: Brandon h | Jan 2, 2009 10:37:07 PM

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