Double-Feature Review: Milk, Felines, and Injustice

Dear Reader,

I recently saw the 2008 Gus van Sant film Milk. I know that I am behind the boat, but this was a good film. I suppose that I should not be surprised, considering that Gus Van Sant and Sean Penn are both respected in their fields, and for good reasons. In case you are like me and haven’t seen it, the film chronicles real-life figure Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay man in California office. Not only was he elected despite his sexual orientation, but he used his experiences of discrimination to help other homosexuals earn their rights. Though he was unfortunately assassinated eleven months into office, the gay rights initiative that he was able to pass helped make him a cultural icon for his humanitarianism and accomplishment.

The film focuses on his last eight years of his life, which is when he began to take an interest in politics and public service initiatives. (This is another wonderment to his story; consider that this man, who so fought for and was open about issues of sexuality, did not even come out as a gay man himself and had no consideration for politics until he was 40 years of age, long past the point when tradition states that you need to have started the one career you will always follow and never stray from.)

Sean Penn plays a wonderful Harvey Milk, a man who appears soft and small, yet roars inside. Though knowing little about Mr. Milk going into the film, I found the plot easy to follow and the story compelling, no doubt a consequence of Dustin Lance Black’s Oscar-winning script and Gus van Sant’s direction.

Though making strides in earning human rights for all, I do wonder where the world is at this point, and specifically the United States. I just read a book that takes a look at this in an unexpected way.

Pair this film with: The book Dead Men and Cats by Aya tsi scuceblu Walksfar. Though it at first seemed like a murder mystery novel (and it is), I also found it to be an exploration of minorities in America (specifically gay men and cats) and the targeting that they experience. Though I may be looking too far into it, I saw how Walksfar crafted the book to make a statement that gays are, sometimes in America, treated by other civilians like cats; that is to say, less than human. Though there are laws in place, these laws can be easily ignored, as seen by the hate crimes that occur far too often. This might make the book seem like some type of punishing and dry exploration, which it is not. As stated above, the book is fun and a murder mystery that you can piece the clues together. That does not change the subtext of the book, though.

Reader, what do you think? In terms of equal rights for all, how far have we come and how far do we have to go?

Sincerely,

Jumbled Writer

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12 Responses to Double-Feature Review: Milk, Felines, and Injustice

  1. I haven’t seen Milk either, but reading this post makes me want to. In terms of equal rights, I think we’ve made enormous strides, but we have far to go. As long as there are large segments of society who are actively fighting against equal marriage rights, we have to keep spreading the word and working to make certain all our citizens are treated equally.

    • Great thoughts on the subject. I couldn’t say it better myself. And yes, do see the film! It is very thought-provoking.
      –JW

  2. I’m afraid I’ve neither seen the film or read the book, although I agree that your review makes me want to do both! I certainly couldn’t put it better than above, and I don’t live in the US, but for what it’s worth I think that as time passes, acceptance has ans will become a much larger part of the norm. It may just be the little corner that I live in, but even throughout school etc I was taught that while homophobic discrimination did happen, it was clear that those who did the discrimination were the ones in the wrong.

    – Emma 🙂

  3. We do have the laws in place and yes there are isolated cases, but I do not think we use those laws as much as we should and often rely on public outrage (the media) to reveal injustices and cause hysteria. Then the media – being who they are hype it up and sensationalize it. I find the majority of people live by the rule – live and let live and are really a silent majority. Very fortunate we don’t have Middle East country Sharia Law – where gays are put to death as are people of other faiths and religions. Compared to even the 1950’s ‘we have come a long way’, but maybe tolerance and respect isn’t really being taught to everyone. I feel it’s okay if you don’t believe being gay is right (and there are people who don’t – and they are not ‘homophobic either) so long as you respect/tolerate other people’s opinion. Try as we may we will never all agree – and North America was built on that concept (individual rights) combined with tolerance it can work.
    I would find everyone agreeing would be boring – a writer’s nightmare. On the other hand I believe no one should go around hurting or bashing others.

    • Yes, to have everyone the same could be boring. But I agree we shouldn’t put boredom in front of people’s safety. Thanks for stopping by!
      –JW

  4. I’ve not seen the film nor have I read the book. However, I knew about Harvey Milk and what he was all about prior to the post. Not being from the San Francisco, I found out through the Dead Kennedys “I Fought the Law.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTKCLTGHjm8

    As far as equal rights are concerned, I do enjoy parity among citizens, but I’m less of an authoritarian and more of social norm person. I don’t think we should feel the need to run to the government for laws enforcing every little thing. My ideal situations involve people connecting with other like-minded individuals and living life withing those circles. I understand that’s not perfect, but if we can keep the freedom to associate with whom we want and the privacy to live our lives as we see fit, then that’s much more socially healthy in my eyes.

    • I agree that personal freedom could not be compromised. I like your idea of an alternative society and do see some benefits to it, including less government interference and giving people what they really want.
      –JW

  5. Part of intolerance is that most people view rights as a pie; if you get more, we get less. If gays have the right to marry, everyone else’s right to marry –even the definition of marriage — is threatened. Preachers who are ardently opposed to gay marriage will be forced by law to marry gays or run the risk of being thrown in jail. Etc.

    Part of intolerance is a kind of reverse self-loathing. A person who’s basically happy with who they are and what they are doing doesn’t go around kicking dogs or bashing other races, etc. It’s people who are very dissatisfied, angry or frustrated with who and what they are that need to find someone else to target. “I’d have steady work if those blacks/whites/immigrants weren’t getting all the good jobs.”

    • I like these ideas very much. A “reverse self-loathing” definitely describes the outer, visible part of intolerance, though actual self-loathing on the part of the intolerant person is probably the cause of the intolerance at the start. I hope that makes sense.
      –JW

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