Go see Milk, if you haven’t already. On top of the captivating story and Sean Penn’s brilliant performance, it features two Chicago references.
One is so obvious I won’t bother mentioning it–just see the movie and you’ll know.
The other is a little more subtle.
An underlying theme in the movie is the conflict between radicals and moderates in San Francisco’s gay community in the 70s. The radicals, like Harvey Milk, have no patience for the bigotry and police brutality they face. They demand change–in fact, they expect nothing less.
The moderates–represented by David Goodstein, the well-to-do gay publisher of the Advocate–are much more cautious. Yes, things are bad, they acknowledge; but they warn against moving too quickly for change for fear of upsetting the powers that be. Watch what you say, Goodstein cautions Milk, or you’ll get us all in trouble. And in time, if we’re good, they’ll give us some of what you want.
The movie champions Milk and scoffs at Goodstein. He’s the butt of the jokes–when I saw it, people in the theater were laughing at him.
In reality, of course, it’s much different. Here in Chicago, for example, most people are like Goodstein (if they’re engaged at all): sucking up to an all-powerful mayor, afraid to say what they think, going along with his wasteful boondoggles–like the bid for the Olympics–for fear of getting in trouble.
It’s hard to find any Harvey Milks.
When we–a city of sellouts–scoff at David Goodstein, we’re scoffing at ourselves.