Van Sant’s Milkshake … Enjoy!

December 16, 2008

Sean Penn & James Franco

Sean Penn & James Franco's intimate scene in 'Milk'

The film industry seems to run on the stereotype that art nor cinema could be generated without the helpful hands of homosexuals. Yet, the gay films that have come out of the past 20 years seem to tell the LGBT-community that “coming out of the closet” can never lead to a happy ending.

The most poignant of these films end with gay bashing and/or death, a parental freak-out with a baby picture burned or a disastrous relationship that ends with a blade to the wrist. Even when the relationship between the two men or women can endure this fucked-up pain, their friends and family disown them.

With Prop 8 passing in California basically stating that gay people have no more rights than second-class citizens, it is a possibility that movies don’t stray far from the truth.

The intention here is not to bash these types of films. Brokeback Mountain, Philadelphia and Transamerica happen to tell heart-wrenching stories while sending powerful, thought-provoking messages to the public. Just wondering…why do the situations that gay people get thrown into have to be so damn depressing?

Allison Pill & Emile Hirsch in 'Milk'

Allison Pill & Emile Hirsch in 'Milk'

This year, Milk has sent tidal waves of excitement through the entertainment industry. Albeit, mostly for Sean Penn who portrays gay rights activist Harvey Milk with much enjoyment, but also for bringing up many issues that are still relevant today in the United States.

When Harvey was a politician, due to his constant arguments with the San Francisco hierachy in the ’70s, he helped defeat many roadblocks that halted gay rights. Most importantly, he spear-headed the debate that would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools.

Gus Van Sant, one of the few openly gay directors, has garnered much attention for his contributions to Milk. While taking a note from Oliver Stone (who was originally supposed to direct), Van Sant intertwines news footage of the real Harvey lending a vintage feel to the troubled times of that decade and protests that both supported and rallied against gay rights. Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, Joseph Cross, Alison Pill, Lucas Grabeel and James Franco (who depicts Harvey’s partner Scott Smith) portray his friends and advocates providing a forceful supportive cast.

Van Sant has been at the helm of some of the most creative films in Hollywood from indie-fused flicks My Own Private Idaho, Elephant and Paranoid Park to box-office smash Good Will Hunting. With Milk, Van Sant shows he can illustrate a film that doesn’t force the audience in hundreds of directions, but rather focus on telling a story without fancy artwork.

Nonetheless, without the industry’s recent interest in showing off the homosexual lifestyle, would anyone remember who Milk was? How about Truman Capote and his unusual behavior? Would people even know who Virginia Woolf was if they weren’t compelled to read Mrs. Dalloway in English class?

James Franco in 'Milk'

James Franco in 'Milk'

Movies, in general, are a guiding force in pop culture and daily lives. Straying as far back as 1927, when Oscar-winning film Wings featured one of the first male-on-male kisses. Even though the kiss was fraternal, nonetheless, it was a big deal. Since then, many films centered around the gay lifestyle have garnered a lot of attention.

Still, this is about Milk and the film’s rightful place in cinematic history. While Milk has gained a lot of political attention, people miss the fact that it’s a love story. There is no talk of politics until Harvey’s partner is hurt in a riot and seeks change from the world that has scarred him and the people he loves. He was a change in the world because he was emotional, fun and ‘himself,’ not a mechanical robot, like most politicians.

Even after his death many issues that restrict the gay community have yet to be resolved. The most talked about issue this year was Prop 8 and the decision to allow anyone in the LGBT-community to marry. Neither of the political parties seems to give a shit about letting homosexuals marry, but rather, they settle for domestic partnerships. It’s seems that the legacy of Harvey was lost. After all, what results have we really seen from the $20 million spent on pro-gay campaigning? Has it led to any real change? … I guess when the rest of the world was rejoicing, the gay community took a hit.

Only those closest to Harvey would know if he would be on the streets of San Francisco with a cane and sign blasting those who agree with not giving certain people a fairy tale ending. Even if they rarely happen, who has the right to take that away?

Not every knight wants to save the princess, maybe they want to go to the ends of the Earth to be with their prince … And, maybe, the princess locked away in the tower doesn’t always need to be saved, isn’t it a possibility she can take care of herself?

Is it probable that no one in the gay community can get a happy ending? I hope not, maybe it’s time to start another revolution…

Emile Hirsch at gay rally in 'Milk'

Emile Hirsch at gay rally in 'Milk'


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