Thursday, February 12, 2009


Beloved and I saw Milk this week. I was blown away. The framing device is an audio tape Harvey Milk made, a kind of last will and testament. He tells his story into a tape recorder, and then the story comes alive on screen.

The remarkable thing, the thing I did not know about Harvey Milk, was the way in which he backed into activism. He was tired of being closeted in New York, and so found his way to San Francisco and opened a small business. But even there, in the Castro, the gay mecca of the world at the time, LGBTQ people were simply not safe, and could be and were routinely beaten to death for simply walking down the street hand in hand with their partners. All Milk wanted was to make the police responsive to the community's needs, to make them allies instead of threats. And so he found himself running for citywide office. The rest is history.

As he gains more prominence, and as he tangles more and more with Dan White, Harvey seems to know he is likely to be assassinated. Like Martin Luther King, he understands the likely cost of his activism. Near the end of the film, Harvey says into his tape recorder, "If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door." That took my breath away. He consistently said, throughout the film, that openness about our sexuality is the only way that change will come about. "When they know one of us, they vote 2 to 1 for us," he says.

That phrase is resonating in my head and my heart. It's a powerful film. See it.


August said...

Loved that movie! Loved it.

IT said...

It WAS powerful. I was in high school in the Bay Area during those events--the actual news footage they showed in the film, I remember vividly, so vividly.

My further thoughts about what Harvey says to us, hhere

"My name is Harvey Milk, and I'm here to recruit you!"

Jan said...

That was a powerful movie. Sean Penn was amazing.

Processing Counselor said...

My Beloved and I saw it last night. It was lovely and so heartbreaking. I was active in early gay right activities in NYC and it really took me back. I was sorry to see so few women involved in the Castro Street group. I guess things were different in SF, although in NY at the Gay Activist Alliance, there were few women, we had our own group and that grew the numbers. I think it was a good Valentines day movie, maybe... We have come a ways.

sharecropper said...

Off topic: just stopping in to say hello and catch up. Sending you love and hope.