I am not usually a fan of Sean Penn, not for this dude’s reasons, but because I never seem to connect with his characters. I think he’s always morose and his off screen temper tantrums are highly unattractive. Actors who are prima donalds are a pain in the ass back stage! Ugh! That being said, this weekend Halo and I watched Milk and I’m still reeling.
Milk is a bio-pic of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician voted into public office. He was assassinated in 1978 by fellow politician Dan White. Milk was a highly charismatic and highly controversial public figure who came onto the scene with the establishment of the Castro District, in San Francisco, as a safe haven for homosexuals. The story follows Milk’s rise from 1970 to his death and even showed the amazing response his memorial garnered, 30,000+ marchers holding candles. Milk follows the unsuccessful relationships, campaigns, the speeches and the call for all to come out, and even the doggie poop legislation.
I talked to my mother about watching the film and she told me about the climate at the time in San Francisco. My mother lived there with her family and the nightly news was often plastered with Milk’s press genius ways. My mother remembers the Twinkie Defense and the White Night Riots. It was very interesting to listen to her view point as a youth growing up in such a havoc filled environment. Change is never easy and the people of San Francisco were fighting for and against change constantly.
As a heterosexual, the movie was a little uncomfortable to watch, there are many sex scenes and I wasn’t expecting or anticipating it. In talking with Halo I had to recognize how someone that is homosexual must feel going to a movie where there are many heterosexual sex scenes, I mean that has to be uncomfortable. It was nice to be taken out of my comfort zone and shown where I could be more sensitive.
The movie parallels the fight that went on most recently with the Proposition 8 vote. In the movie, Milk fights a Proposition 6 (which would fire all homosexual teachers and supporters of those teachers) based on civil liberties. There was such fear, bumper stickers of “Save Our Children, Vote Yes on Prop. 6” were spread all up and down California. The fear was the recruitment of children to a lifestyle that was deemed evil. The vote was a statewide vote, not just a county, and one time Gov. Ronald Reagan and Pres. Jimmy Carter both spoke out against Prop. 6. The response was amazing and the political fight was brutal. While watching the movie I noticed the distinct similarities with Prop. 8 that came to ballot in this most recent election. The fight of the Christian right versus those that think civil rights should be extended to everyone regardless of sexual preference. Milk’s battle with Prop. 6 was a success. California’s battle for Prop. 8 was not. And I think it’s because we can’t really name a figure head who fought the proposition. There were many arguments that came out against Prop. 8 but there was not one leader of the fight. In any organization there needs to be someone that heads up the group, represents the needs of their people, who is the leader of the GLBT community?
There is one group that I know about that’s actually working on making a difference and fighting the Prop 8 passing, Meet in the Middle is a Fresno organization that is willing to fight this horrid injustice. Now is not the time to be apathetic. Now is the time to be active and fight for those rights that you deserve. I was particularly impressed that in their next meeting, Meet in the Middle will have a phone conference with Cleve Jones, one of the main characters in Milk. Jones is the creator of the AIDS Memorial Quilt and continues to advocate for change.
I would recommend watching Milk, what was uncomfortable at first really made an impact in the end. The performances by the actors were superb, yes, even Sean Penn’s… there’s no doubt about his deserving the Academy Award for this performance. The story is one that resonates today and maybe Harvey Milk will inspire this new havoc of a political environment in California to change.