Sunday, August 14, 2011

Crazy 80's Project: The Times of Harvey Milk

Back in the 1970's, we had people like Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the U.S., fighting the good fight for the rights of gay people in this country. Today, 35 years after his tragic assassination, we have Lady Gaga, a pop singer whose fans like to pretend that she's doing far more to advance gay rights than she actually is (or has the capability to do). A bit of a comedown, don't you think? The Times of Harvey Milk is a document of Milk's years as an influential San Francisco politician, culminating in his election to the city council in 1977. He was a politician who cared about his community, a claim many politicians have made but few have actually backed up. Where I think this film is most successful is in describing that not only was he was a fighter but he also had the brains to navigate the tricky world of politics. During his all too brief tenure on the city council, Milk took it upon himself to try and defeat Proposition 6, a proposed California law that would ban openly homosexual teachers from teaching in public schools. There is this great footage of Milk and a speech professor associate of his on some TV show debating the issue with the bill's right-wing writer. When the writer tries to argue that the law protects children from pedophiles, Milk intelligently tears his argument down, citing facts and statistics the other guy has no logical way of refuting. He's loud and aggressive but never resorts to name-calling or some other cheap tactic to win the argument. These are admirable traits that many other politicians could take a lesson from. My only complaint with the film is that it all but refuses to discuss Milk's personal life; if you thought Van Sant's Milk sanctified him to no end, Times damn well turns him into Jesus. But the reason for this, I feel, is far greater than any criticism I could hurl at it. Times isn't interested in talking about the "real" Milk. They're trying to make him a political, a savior to a disaffected and alienated segment of the population, the Martin Luther King, Jr. for the gay community. Then and now, the community needed Harvey Milk as a hero. And there's no way in hell I won't endorse that with every fiber of my being. The Film: A-, Harvey Milk himself: A+

1 comment:

Jerry Pritikin aka The Bleacher Preacher said...

Keep in mind, there were many in the gay rights movement who were also hero's. The best thing to happen was Anita Bryant, and she gave the movement... movement. Those hero's were your aunts and uncles,brothers and sisters and cousins. As well as good non-gay's who helped us to fight back,too. Mayor Moscone was a great friend.