Tuesday, December 30, 2008

In Praise of a Gendered POV and MILK

I saw Milk at BAM Rose Cinema on Sunday with my agent. Sean Pean's performance, everyone's performance is incandescent. I didn't recognize Josh Brolin. I refused to see him as the villain--- even when it was becoming obvious that he was the unhinged politico who murdered Harvey Milk. I had always heard that he was murdered on the steps of City Hall, but I suppose that was urban legend. I love the David who fights the Goliath. Who doesn't? Harvey Millk was a man who got it done, who challenged the status quo, fought the good fight against a monolithic stereotype. And won! You got to love it. I teach this. David and Goliath. I use the Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman and Fires in the Mirror by Anna Deveare Smith.

I love the way that Moises Kaufman, and his company, gradually reveal the homophobia of Laramie. The townspeople keep insisting that they live in a normal American city, that Laramie is wonderful, that it is "live and let live." I love the way my students begin to see for themselves that this is not the case; that beneath the rough beauty of the sky and the prairie there existed a rampant intolerance of gays and lesbians, and anybody else for that matter who was different.

And in Brooklyn, in Crown Heights, when the death of Gavin Cato rocked this city with race riots in the early 1990's, Anna Deveare Smith provided a public place for the story from the Afro-Caribbean, African American point of view and from the the Hasidic. Ingenious, obvious, but the type of story-telling that is--- for the most part--- sadly missing in our communal narrative. Because what happens in this text is a symphony of women's voices, men's voices, young, old, black, white, Jewish until it become one voice with many truths.

This year I had my students read the foreword by Cornel West who attempted to parse the issues that existed between the communities in Crown Heights. He points out (among other things) that Blacks are less likely to use a public space than Jewish people, and that a gendered point of view is rarely taken into consideration. Meaning that the voice of the men of both communities is considered synonymous with the female voice. This is always wrong. This is always a mistake, this is telling half the story as if it were the whole story.

At the movie, I found myself hoping my students would see this. Further proof that all narratives have to be taken into account, we need all of them to form an accurate, cohesive history. Every time somebody decides to tell a story from an alternative point of view, we get one step closer. So I love Harvey Milk and his legacy. And I love this movie.

Here is my only rant: when will there be potty parity? When? Why do institutions always delegate the same amount of rest rooms for men as women? We take longer to pee. Get over it and fix it. After the movie, I had to wait in line for fifteen minutes. Men were sailing in and out. What's fair about this? Does it take a genius to figure out that its a problem and do something? I've spent my whole life waiting on interminable lines for a basic bodily function. Men do not.

Fix it. And the go to the movies.

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