I wanted to review an important movie today, on World AIDS Day, and An Early Frost is just that movie.
In the movie, Aidan Quinn plays a closeted gay attorney who is struck by AIDS. He is forced to come out to his co-workers and his family. The year is 1985 and the epidemic was barely being discovered.
The light for the gays could not have been better. Aidan's character is shown in a context much needed then, and much needed now. In the movie, Aidan is a successful guy in the prime of his life, he loves his family, and he is in a committed relationship, yet he is struck by the disease. You will need to see the movie to learn more about the plot, characters and the great, but painful, gay portrayal. Kudos to Aidan Quinn for his brave performance as a gay man facing tough times.
Seeing the movie made me think about an argument I once read, that said that the AIDS epidemic, as awful as it was and is, did have some positive effects for gay rights. I was shocked to read that such a terrible disease could bring us any benefit. According to the argument, the benefit is that AIDS forced many people out of the closet, and society had to finally see gay men, the gay men who got AIDS were forced out of the closet, and society has advanced in gay rights because it was able to see that we are people and we too suffer. We are famous rock and movie stars, we are the regular neighbor next door, the son, the co-worker. We have been there all along. And for the most part, not knowing we were gay, people liked us. With AIDS, visibility was forced on both homosexuals and society. Also, embracing the argument would also help give meaning to the lives that were already lost.
I still react to that argument with mixed feelings. I bet a lot of people would prefer a life in the closet and a life of no rights and of discrimination, than a life without many close friends. Also, against the "benefit" argument, it could easily be argued that AIDS also reinforced the fear society had of the gays. "Gays are sick people, stay away" would be the message read from the AIDS epidemic. But there's little gain now in discussing how we would like for the world to be, how we would like for there to be no AIDS. AIDS is a reality with which we cannot argue, but with which we can fight. Still with my conflicting feelings, I came to understand the argument, and see how important visibility is to us.
Gays have gained rights, and I believe discrimination has decreased (although I am not sure by how much), but we still have a long way to go. AIDS is now associated with poverty, and race, but it is still very much associated with male homosexuals. Gay men still cannot donate blood in most parts of the world. There's still a lot to be done, and because of that, gays need to be safe and stay safe, and be visible and inform people.
Today is a day that needs to be taken seriously. It is a day that must remain with us and be remembered throughout the years. Richard nailed it in the head: "To forget is to put yourself yet again in harm's way, a lesson that younger generations of gay men are wont to ignore."
Early Frost was released on DVD only in 2006, to mark the 25th "anniversary" of the discovery of AIDS.
Stay safe dear readers! Stay out the closet!