Skip

Got Milk?
November 28, 2008 5:58 PM   Subscribe

Thirty years ago yesterday (November 27, 1978) San Francisco Board of Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, another city supervisor. Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the U.S. Prior to his death he championed a movement against a California proposition (Proposition 6, dubbed the Briggs Initiative) which sought to ban gays and lesbians, and anyone who supported gay rights, from working in California's public schools. In the midst of a national right-wing, conservative, religious movement heralded by folks like Anita Bryant the proposition was soundly defeated. Fast forward to today. A new film "Milk" [trailer] (starring Sean Penn in the title role) is garnering critical acclaim and is relevant to current events. "Harvey came up against a lot of obstacles, which I think is the case for any gay man now," says Brolin, who plays Dan White [in the film]. "The irony is that Prop 8 is now what Prop 6 was then."
posted by ericb (60 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great post, ericb. I was just reading the NYTimes review of the film. He was a remarkable man who had an unfortunate passing. It reminds me of a quote from Ali Farahnakian: "if when you die, the cause isn't assassination, you're not taking enough chances."

Also, Twinkie Defense.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:14 PM on November 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks for posting this. We just got back from the 30th anniversary candlelight march here in San Francisco. The local paper has put together some great coverage including articles from 1978, reminiscences from key figures, and commentary on the impact the whole thing had on San Francisco.
posted by gingerbeer at 6:44 PM on November 28, 2008


Also, I highly recommend The Times of Harvey Milk, an Oscar-winning documentary about him. We saw it again last weekend, and it made me cry (again).
posted by gingerbeer at 6:46 PM on November 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


Yeah The Times of Harvey Milk really was a great film. I found the story very inspiring despite his tragic end.
posted by nola at 6:52 PM on November 28, 2008


Thanks for this, ericb.
posted by rtha at 7:04 PM on November 28, 2008




Steve Clemons: Uncomfortable Thanksgiving: Obama, Prop 8, and My Marriage
posted by homunculus at 7:16 PM on November 28, 2008


Blog post on Moscone's contribution to the same-sex marriage issue, among others
posted by gingerbeer at 7:51 PM on November 28, 2008


Thanks for posting this. A little more local history: After Dan White was acquitted based on his defense that excessive junk food consumption had driven him to it there was a riot at City Hall. (First hand accounts: 1, 2, and 3 and footage.) In retaliation the cops swarmed the Elephant Walk, a Castro bar, and smashed it up - along with its patrons and staff.

Incidentally, so far the only on criticism I've heard of the film came from a long-time Bay Area lesbian activist who sent out a mass email saying though she felt the film captured the feeling of the time, it failed to include just about any lesbians. An annoying, and longstanding problem in the "gay community".
posted by serazin at 7:51 PM on November 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


though she felt the film captured the feeling of the time, it failed to include just about any lesbians

The stereotypical portrayal of Harvey's latino lover quite irked my latino partner, and I see where he's coming from. Harvey's lover was the only latino character in the film, and he was portrayed as the ultimate narcissistic drama queen. On the other hand, maybe that's really how it actually was.

At the same time, it's one of the most inspiring movies I've ever seen. It taught me a lot about how far we've come in the last 30 years, and how bad things really were even in the so-called "golden age" of 70's San Francisco. And it seemed like Sean Penn absolutely channeled Harvey . . . every now and then I remembered I was watching Sean Penn, and was deeply astonished.

Still, racism and sexism do still exist in gay culture, and the film should have been way more sensitive to that. How you do that -- while trying to accurately portray the way it actually was -- I have no idea, but I guess that's why I'm not a filmmaker.
posted by treepour at 8:37 PM on November 28, 2008


More irony notes:

The sponsor of Prop. 6, John Briggs, is the father of Mary Kay LaTourneau. In addition to being a major asshole and homophobe, Briggs the fine family man, had a second family.
posted by Sassenach at 8:43 PM on November 28, 2008


After Dan White was acquitted based on his defense that excessive junk food consumption had driven him to it

That's a widely-held misconception. I don't mean to defend Dan White, who was a horrible piece of shit and fully deserved his eventual fate (he killed himself by sucking a tailpipe shortly after his release, after serving 5 years of his sentence for manslaughter, so he was never acquitted first of all). The defense claimed that he was temporarily insane, and part of the defense's effort to prove this was claiming that he had been eating nothing but junk food in the days leading up to the murders, which was totally out of character for him. They never claimed that the Twinkies made him do it, they claimed that it was part of a pattern of weird behavior that demonstrated his temporary insanity. It was still total crap, but not as wacky as everyone believes.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:57 PM on November 28, 2008 [7 favorites]


Fresh Air had three segments over the past week on this movie. NPR was also being underwritten by the movie at the same time. Anyone else notice that? Do you think they get pressured to add some buzz to these films when the studios donate money?

The same thing happened a couple weeks ago with a different movie, but which one it was escapes me at the moment... but Fresh Air's movie reviewer panned that one, so I guess they still have their journalistic integrity.

Also, Teri Gross asking James Franco "OMG how was it kissing Sean Penn?!" was a bit much.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:58 PM on November 28, 2008


NPR sucks. I was listening to All Things Considered the other night and they ran an add for the Department of Homeland Security.
posted by serazin at 9:01 PM on November 28, 2008


Decemberboy - thanks for the totally correct correction. And sorry for giving the simplified - and wrong - version of the story.
posted by serazin at 9:02 PM on November 28, 2008


Oh, also, the cover of Dead Kennedys' first album is a press photo of cop cars burning during the riots following Dan White's trial, and they also had a great song about him, a cover of "I Fought The Law" with different lyrics ("I fought the law, and I won").

And yeah, The Times of Harvey Milk is an amazing documentary, well worth seeking out for anyone interested in the subject. It's full of contemporary footage, news reports, etc. of/about Milk, White, and the aftermath of the murders, and great interviews with people who were close to him. And great narration by Harvey Fierstein.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:05 PM on November 28, 2008


Apropos of nothing at all, what a year Josh Brolin has had. Still remember him from Flirting With Disaster, an underrated David O. Russell comedy.
posted by dhartung at 9:06 PM on November 28, 2008


Saw Milk yesterday. Very well done.
posted by brevator at 9:13 PM on November 28, 2008


And yeah, The Times of Harvey Milk is an amazing documentary...

Siskel & Ebert review: "The Times of Harvey Milk" (which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Film in 1985 and was awarded the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival).

Roger Ebert on "Milk":
"In 1977, Harvey Milk became the first openly gay man elected to public office in the United States. Yes, but I have become so weary of the phrase 'openly gay.' I am openly heterosexual, but this is the first time I have ever said so. Why can't we all be what we prefer? Why can't gays simply be gays, and 'unopenly gays' be whatever they want to seem? In 1977, it was not so. Milk made a powerful appeal to closeted gays to come out to their families, friends and co-workers, so the straight world might stop demonizing an abstract idea. But so powerful was the movement he helped inspire that I believe his appeal has now pretty much been heeded, save in certain backward regions of the land that a wise gay or lesbian should soon deprive of their blessings."
posted by ericb at 9:44 PM on November 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Rob Epstein (director and co-producer of 'The Times of Harvey Milk)' on Harvey Milk and Proposition 8:
"In light of the passage of Proposition 8, Harvey's message of thirty years ago remains as vital today as it was then. It is our responsibility to let our loved ones, co-workers, friends, and neighbors know who we are, so that those who vote in favor of discrimination have our names and faces in their minds eye when doing so. Although Proposition 8 wasn't exactly a re-make of Proposition 6, it's the same disaster movie storyline pitch: any recognition of constitutional rights for gay and lesbian citizens will somehow destroy the natural order and as a result America's institutions -- be they schools or marriage--will crumble."
posted by ericb at 9:55 PM on November 28, 2008


The sponsor of Prop. 6, John Briggs, is the father of Mary Kay LaTourneau.

No, her father was John G. Schmitz.
posted by dw at 9:56 PM on November 28, 2008


Saw the movie last night at the Castro and thought it was pretty good. Also, a great place to see it, of course. Penn *really* had Harvey's mannerisms down pat - it was uncanny at times. I thought the score got a little too soaring and mythic at times, but the rest of the film felt very natural, with a documentary type feel (though we could have done without the Tosca dosage).

Having been in San Francisco at the time and participated in the original candlelight march (I was *sure* I recognized which point of light I was), the movie was pretty emotional at times.

I ended up missing Harvey a lot - he was way out in front of the gay movement, but the movie correctly identified him as a progressive, coalition-building fighter/politico, who cared about seniors, the disabled, workers - normal folks. I feel really good about leadership on the national scene now, but we couldn't come up with names of local leaders who are concerned about regular people and aren't afraid to put themselves forward with principled progressive stands instead of just playing political theater.
posted by jasper411 at 10:02 PM on November 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


I'm looking to see this with my husband and mother at the Castro Theater in about 10 days. And look at what I found in Google's new Life magazine archive. That may be the earliest artifact of the marriage equality movement that I can remember seeing.
posted by digaman at 10:19 PM on November 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


*looking forward to seeing this, sorry.
posted by digaman at 10:19 PM on November 28, 2008


Charlie Rose interviewed Gus van Sant, Sean Penn and Josh Brolin about this film tonight. I can't find a direct link yet, but I'm sure it will be archived on his site.

Can't wait to see this. I was here at the time.
posted by trip and a half at 11:09 PM on November 28, 2008


Thirty years ago yesterday (November 27, 1978) San Francisco Board of Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White

Thanks for spoiling my Milk!
posted by mazola at 11:27 PM on November 28, 2008


digaman, nice find on that photo!
posted by scody at 12:23 AM on November 29, 2008


Among Jello Biafra's proposals during his run for Mayor of SF was that funds be raised by erecting statues of Dan White and selling eggs and rotten fruit to throw at them.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:53 AM on November 29, 2008


Thanks for this - I saw the original documentary, but this is the first I'm hearing of a re-make.
posted by lunit at 5:56 AM on November 29, 2008


I saw Milk last night. It was my first real exposure to the story (I'm 24 and Canadian so I guess this is my excuse). It was a great film. It gets to a really important point of what gay rights (and rights for everyone, regardless of orientation/gender identity) are: a matter of survival. I think it also acknowledges the things the gay movement has struggled with, for example dealing with sexism (the movie touches on how Milk's lesbian campaign manager wasn't exactly welcomed at first) within the movement. Right now, as Americans get angry at Prop 8, it's important the people in this rights movement work to be inclusive of difference and that white queers understand the challenges queers of color face. The "blame the blacks" narrative for Prop 8's passing is so depressing, not to mention racist.
posted by radiocontrolled at 10:16 AM on November 29, 2008


I was 11 years old at the time and living in the Sunset District of San Francisco. It might as well have been been Orange County. To this day, The Sunset is a stronghold of social conservatism - it had the largest number of votes in favor of Proposition 8. After the assassination of Milk & Moscone, people in my neighborhood took up a collection for Dan White's defense. A sad and scary time.
posted by echolalia67 at 10:42 AM on November 29, 2008


As gingerbeer said above, we saw The Times of Harvey Milk a few nights ago (and will be seeing Milk tonight). I've seen it eight or ten times, and I always cry. This time, though, what struck me most was that the pro-Briggs initiative rhetoric ("Keep teh gay out of our schools!" was identical to that of the yes on 8 campaign's. The gay rights movement has come so far in some respects, but has not, it seems, budged an inch on this.
posted by rtha at 11:18 AM on November 29, 2008


I was a student at Oberlin College in Ohio when all this went down. I remember the headline in the local paper after the Dan White verdict:

S.F. GAYS BURN CITY HALL

I was impressed.
posted by digaman at 11:23 AM on November 29, 2008


The gay rights movement has come so far in some respects, but has not, it seems, budged an inch on this.

Both the gay rights movement and a huge portion of the mainstream public have come a very long way in the last 30 years. It's the Christian right, the ambitious GOP, and Mormons who haven't -- in other words, the anti-gay rights movement.

But then again, I doubt I'll ever say "The KKK has really evolved in this race question."

Fuck them, defeat them at the polls, send them packing.
posted by digaman at 11:27 AM on November 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


as ever, thank you ericb for another wonderful, thoughtful post.

from the roger ebert quote, above:
But so powerful was the movement he helped inspire that I believe his appeal [for 'closeted' GLBT folks to 'come out'] has now pretty much been heeded, save in certain backward regions of the land that a wise gay or lesbian should soon deprive of their blessings.

damn it, damn it, DAMN IT. i find this kind of attitude so disheartening.

i live in flyover country, and we MATTER TOO. in fact, i would argue that it is these "backward regions" which are *most* in need of the 'blessings' of GLBT presence.

last year, i was a citizen (read: volunteer) journalist on the story of aaron hall, a man who was beaten savagely and left (naked) to die of exposure in the early-spring chill of extreme rural indiana. he was killed because he allegedly made a "gay advance" at a small gathering of what most of the coastal elite would characterize "backwards hicks." aaron hall was not gay. in fact, he bore prison tattoos which would lead one to believe that, under different circumstances, he might have taken part in the beating of someone who was different.

it was heartbreaking to me to encounter people in the tiny town in which this crime occurred. i could not help but think, over and over, that if these folks had known people who were gay -- certainly some of their 'own,' but i even think if they'd encountered a friendly 'other' who was gay -- things may have gone differently.

we cannot just abandon the 'backwards regions' of this country. nor can we just "invade" these little towns and try to get everyone to believe a certain ideology. the path away from bigotry is long, laborious, riddled with failure and discouragement, lonely and unforgiving. but it is a path that cannot be ignored. we must learn to walk it together.

...and this is one of the things that makes me the least hopeful about humanity: fewer and fewer people seem willing to walk the path for themselves, or for/with others who need guidance and company along the way. in this instant-gratification, microwave-generation era, it ain't good enough to hop on a segway and hurry on down the road. and there certainly is no room on that road for SUVs, single drivers or the OTR mentality which seeks to get from point A to point B in the quickest, least-examined way.

we need to walk the path. in our own moccasins, in our brothers' and sisters' moccasins; taking pause along the way to consider the path ahead and the path immediately behind, to reflect on the steps taken thusfar and those which still lie ahead. sadly, i have little faith that people in the US are willing/able to take that path...or even recognize it as an option before them.
posted by CitizenD at 11:35 AM on November 29, 2008 [8 favorites]


saw this yesterday in seattle... so wonderful. it was queer movie night for me and my friends and damn, but the film hit hard. i was on the verge of crying for hours afterwards.

i love biopics, but i also think they're amongst the most difficult jobs to pull off. the montage is always the preferred method to encapsulate an entire life, characters appear and disappear without explanation, etcetera. somehow, though, van sant managed to make it all work and left me feeling heart broken and full of grace at the same time. i just woke up wondering how i ever moved away from that city.
posted by artof.mulata at 12:19 PM on November 29, 2008


Nice conversation in the L.A. Times with Cleve Jones, who's portrayed by Emile Hirsch in the film and was a consultant on the project: "Harvey taught me a very important lesson. As much as I disliked and was frightened by heterosexuals, I went with Harvey to the union halls and the senior homes for bingo and the bus stops as he campaigned. What we talked about was crossing boundaries, finding vocabulary that would help us communicate to people who were at least superficially very different from us."
posted by scody at 12:40 PM on November 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I saw Milk last nigt in SF. I actually found it sort of . . . flat, like Penn was doing a great imitation of Harvey but wasn't fully inhabiting him. I love Harvey Milk's story, so it made me sort of sad.
posted by liketitanic at 1:39 PM on November 29, 2008


Article "The Making of Milk" from the Chronicle. I remember thinking how cool it was when I saw the stores and theatre get their retro paint jobs for the film. I know it's sort of a "duh, why wouldn't these store owners participate?", but I still can't help but be proud of them for doing so.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:46 PM on November 29, 2008


i live in flyover country, and we MATTER TOO. in fact, i would argue that it is these "backward regions" which are *most* in need of the 'blessings' of GLBT presence.

Negative. Backwards shithole towns and states should be abandoned by progressives, minorities and homosexuals. Why pay taxes in a state that doesn't want you around? I hope that eventually gay/liberal/minority flight utterly destroys and bankrupts what idiots and conservatives see as "real America."

With enough gay/liberal/minority flight, the people of California can regain marriage equality. Places like Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, Arizona, and the like are gross and depressing and everyone there who's not a fan of Wal-Mart, teen pregnancy, widespread illiteracy, and hate crimes should get the fuck out ASAP.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:02 PM on November 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Negative. Backwards shithole towns and states should be abandoned by progressives, minorities and homosexuals. Why pay taxes in a state that doesn't want you around? I hope that eventually gay/liberal/minority flight utterly destroys and bankrupts what idiots and conservatives see as "real America."


Unfortunately, those idiots and conservatives are just as likely to have gay children. And if we've abandoned "real America", those kids are going to have a hell of a time growing up gay, even worse than they have it now. Sure, they can get out themselves when they're 18, or they can leave home. But that's a rough path to take.

Damn, I think I just made a won't anybody think of the children argument. Well, in this case I think it's valid.
posted by formless at 9:27 PM on November 29, 2008 [6 favorites]


Fuck them, defeat them at the polls, send them packing.

Careful, you'll get labeled a bigot by a certain unsavory element on this site, expressing those views.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:53 PM on November 29, 2008


It was Randy Shilts that first taught me about Harvey Milk, as I read "And the Band Played on." I'm really grateful to him for that exposure (and a wonderful book). I will be looking forward to "Milk," especially as it comes so highly praised.
posted by librarylis at 3:28 AM on November 30, 2008


Places like Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, Arizona, and the like are gross and depressing and everyone there who's not a fan of Wal-Mart, teen pregnancy, widespread illiteracy, and hate crimes should get the fuck out ASAP.

One problem: I like the Grand Canyon. I like the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and the Texas hill country. I like the gulf coast. I like Oklahoma City.

I also love the hiking in my home state, Pennsylvania, which is red except for Philly and Pittsburgh. I like Yellowstone in Montana. I like driving through the landscape of Wyoming. I want the option of living in any part of my own country without worrying about being scorned for my politics, or beaten to death because I'm not straight enough. Nor do I appreciate the notion that someone who is gay just doesn't agree with me, because gays are just to cosmopolitan for that nature-boy nonsense.

There's plenty to love in the red states that's got nothing to do with the politics of the people living there. I don't see why we should leave it all to a bunch of willfully ignorant bigots who don't deserve it. It's all America, and we should fight for it.
posted by hifiparasol at 10:50 AM on November 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


Places like Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, Arizona, and the like are gross and depressing

Really? The whole states?

To take the example of Texas, where I lived for a while, it's about as diverse as California, just in a different mix. (More conservatives and less liberals, sure, but there's plenty of both, and it's certainly more racially diverse than most of the Northeast).

I'd live in Austin over Fresno, Bakersfield, Sacramento, or San Diego any day. It's not even a contest. Look here and you'll see that all 4 major cities in Texas (Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin) voted for Obama over McCain.

Some of the rural parts of Texas are pretty bad, but they're actually not much worse than the equivalent parts of California are (small Central Valley towns, far northern California, etc). I saw easily as much racism in upstate New York (where my parents were from) as I did in metro Atlanta when growing up in Georgia. States are pretty big, and where you live in that state matters quite a bit.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:51 PM on November 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Fuck them, defeat them at the polls, send them packing.

Careful, you'll get labeled a bigot by a certain unsavory element on this site, expressing those views.


No, you won't.
posted by Snyder at 3:03 PM on November 30, 2008


No, you won't.

Yes, we sure will.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:01 PM on November 30, 2008


Backwards shithole towns and states should be abandoned by progressives, minorities and homosexuals.

Ah, yes. Who can forget those immortal words spoken by Dr. King from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial: "I Have a Dream of an All-White Alabama".

Hmm. Doesn't sound right. Perhaps it was more along the lines of:

"I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair."
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:46 AM on December 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Can somebody explain to me why there is any basis to complain about not enough dykes or the wrong kind of Latinos when, almost surely, the people doing the complaining weren’t there at the time and cannot do a reality check on the movie?

In other words, can somebody explain to me how this isn’t ex-post-facto political correctness? Lesbians weren’t necessarily everywhere in gay San Francisco and one individual Latino absolutely could have acted that way. How does anyone not present at the time know differently?
posted by joeclark at 11:17 AM on December 1, 2008


Can somebody explain to me why there is any basis to complain about not enough dykes or the wrong kind of Latinos when, almost surely, the people doing the complaining weren’t there at the time and cannot do a reality check on the movie?

Well, the person who complained to me about it (via a mass email) was Cathy Cade, a longtime lesbian activist who cut her movement teeth doing Civil Rights work in the South in the 60s, and spent the 70s and 80s building the gay rights movement here in the San Francisco Bay Area. So I think she ought to know pretty well. Lesbian activists have always been right there at the front of the gay rights movement though, as this firsthand account of the time attests, not all lesbian activists were necessarily big fans of the somewhat middle-of-the-road-for-an-out-fag Harvey Milk.

And I doubt even Gus Van Sant or Diego Luna would claim that they were presenting some exact replica of Jack Lira. This is their (problematic) interpretation.

Personally, I wasn't trying to bash the movie (and for the record neither was Cathy - she talked about how important and evocative it was). Just raising a concern.
posted by serazin at 11:16 PM on December 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


The stereotypical portrayal of Harvey's latino lover quite irked my latino partner, and I see where he's coming from. Harvey's lover was the only latino character in the film, and he was portrayed as the ultimate narcissistic drama queen. On the other hand, maybe that's really how it actually was.

That's the impression I got from reading The Mayor of Castro Street. Then again, I found the line in that book introducing him as a "drunken Mexican" more offensive than the portrayal in the movie. So take it with a grain of salt, I guess.

Photo of Jack Lira, from a collection of Castro Street photos.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:38 AM on December 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


When somebody makes a movie entitled Cade we will all surely police it post-facto for absolute historical accuracy and I’m sure we’ll all be pleased. But the movie we’re talking about is Milk.

Was Cade in the room in the meetings depicted in Milk? Are there phantom lesbians who were whitewashed out of the picture? Is this the actual charge being laid? Or is this another case of insistently and retroactively imposing “diversity” on historical facts that nobody, not even women or Latinos, can change?
posted by joeclark at 12:57 PM on December 2, 2008


Whoa, there joe - take a [calming substance of your choice].

There are almost certainly lesbians whitewashed out of the picture (I mean, were you in the room? Do you know for sure they weren't there?). There were white men whitewashed out, and straight people, etc. And you know, since the movie's come out, I've heard and read complaints/criticisms from all kinds of people about what got left out. This is the thing that happens when a film, especially a biopic, gets made - it's necessarily a thin slice of history (I use the term loosely) that leaves out a whole lot of stuff. You should have heard my expert-on-all-things-Zodiac-killings friend complain when the movie came out - and she's not even a serial killer! Or a victim of one!

So no, it's not "just" girls or brown people bitching about what got left out. Everybody's doing it.
posted by rtha at 2:55 PM on December 2, 2008


If and when someone makes a well-funded Hollywood movie staring Meryl Streep (or some other Sean Penn analogue) called "Cade" I will happily retire from the business of complaining about sexism in film. Since that film exists only in some distant future, I'll continue to call out the erasure of diverse people from stories that profess to be based on our communities' diverse histories.

As a compromise measure, if you demonstrate some specific expertise or direct experience with Bay Area queer activist or political history, I'll also back off. But for now I'll defer to the activists and history books that can testify to the actual history of that time and this place.
posted by serazin at 3:28 PM on December 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also Joe, if you'd read my links you'd see one was to the blog of a dyke who organized the demonstration that became the White Night Riots. So yes, that's a specific organization run by dykes that was excluded from the film. If you don't know what the White Night Riots were, please go away and come back when you're ready to stop justifying the exclusion of women and people of color thank you!
posted by serazin at 3:37 PM on December 2, 2008




Harvey Milk Speech
"Somewhere in Des Moines or San Antonio there is a young gay person who all the sudden realizes that he or she is gay; knows that if their parents find out they will be tossed out of the house, their classmates will taunt the child, and the Anita Bryant's and John Briggs' are doing their part on TV. And that child has several options: staying in the closet, and suicide. And then one day that child might open the paper that says 'Homosexual elected in San Francisco' and there are two new options: the option is to go to California, or stay in San Antonio and fight. Two days after I was elected I got a phone call and the voice was quite young. It was from Altoona, Pennsylvania. And the person said 'Thanks.' And you've got to elect gay people, so that thousand upon thousands like that child know that there is hope for a better world; there is hope for a better tomorrow. Without hope, not only gays, but those who are blacks, the Asians, the disabled, the seniors, the us's: without hope the us's give up. I know that you can't live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you, and you, and you, and you have got to give them hope."
posted by ericb at 4:07 PM on December 3, 2008


It’s up to the critics to prove the movie got something wrong. It isn’t up to us to prove it got things right. That’s if it actually matters in the first place. I could tell you all about the film’s historically incorrect typography. Would that matter?

The movie is not about lesbians and “diverse people.” I assume by the use of that phrase that Harvey Milk was not “diverse.”
posted by joeclark at 3:16 PM on December 4, 2008


joeclark,

When you're creating a non-fiction account of a politically important person's life, then yes, I think historical accuracy matters quite a bit. I know it mattered to the screenwriter who conducted extensive research and interviews and to the director who used people from Harvey's life as consultants on the film.

As far as i can tell you have no particular knowledge of the work or life of Harvey Milk, the political or social history of San Francisco, or of the history or current state of the gay rights movement. Have you even seen the film that you're defending?

I just found this article about Alison Pill, who played Harvey's dyke campaign manager in the film (note that the film never showed her with another woman, and in fact, showed almost no other women period - besides stock footage of Anita Bryant and a moment of Dianne Fienstein). The article quotes Van Sant acknowledging the omission of lesbians in the film:

"It's part of the story that his alliance with the lesbian community gained him votes," [Van Sant] said. "It was partly through Anne and partly through other advances into the community and connections…. There are a lot of things in the film that are absent, and that story is one of them."

This was a great film. An important, stirring, moving film that will make a difference in people's lives. I spent most of my time watching it in tears, and I am so glad it was made. And I also don't have a problem noting its shortcomings.

In conclusion: blow me.
posted by serazin at 11:08 PM on December 4, 2008


Milk wins New York Film Critics Award for Best Picture with Penn and Brolin winning acting awards.
posted by ericb at 2:47 PM on December 10, 2008


« Older A New Way to Stimulate the Economy.   |   You be the [election] judge Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post