To the editors:
The passionate rage with which Larry Kramer blasted the film Philadelphia [January 14] reveals him as a man whom AIDS must have touched in a wrenching, personal way. With that in mind, my point of view (black, female, married with children) is offered only as the opinion of one moviegoer.
Mr. Kramer states that the idea of someone being fired because they have AIDS is so illegal that the movie’s basic premise is “ludicrous.” On the front page of January 17th’s Tribune is the story of a Schaumburg mortgage company’s ex-assistant V.P. who is suing in U.S. District Court, alleging that he was fired for having AIDS. Frankly, I think the movie’s protagonist would have been given the boot for being gay, disease or no. You know, Mr. Kramer, that all sorts of discriminatory practices are tacitly accepted in workplace politics.
And why are the movie’s good guys and bad guys so often categorized racially in the review, i.e. “noble gay white male hero,” “black shyster lawyer,” “despicable white woman” as if it would be impossible for these Hollywood types to coexist (or even to exist) in or outside of a courtroom. Most ridiculous is Mr. Kramer’s assertion that the movie strikes a false note when two men, one white and one Hispanic, dance together, and the white man LEADS. Talk about perpetuating butch/sissy stereotypes . . .
Yes, the film does pander to Middle America by not having a gay sex scene. On the other hand, remember a mid-80s film called Making Love? The two men looked embarrassed and silly groping each other. Then there was Kiss of the Spider Woman where you got hilarious, in the dark, let-me-lift-my-leg-for-you-darling dialogue. TV’s The Jim Jones Story got away with plenty because of its reckless gusto, but even then the sweaty stuff had to pretend it was perverse soul-saving and not sex.
The fact is, most love scenes of every type are bad. It would take a director of enormous confidence to bring the proper fire and respect to a gay coupling. If you’ve ever squirmed through a minute of director Jonathan Demme’s painful stammering, you’ll know he ain’t it.
Lastly, Mr. Kramer complains that everything is too clean and pure and fake in this film about a disease that does great violence. Would he prefer audiences be force fed nothing but truth? How about that Discovery Channel documentary where the late Michael Callen used his beautiful voice to tick off a long and hideous list of venereal infections he contracted in pre-AIDS San Francisco? What kind of box office do you think that would rake in?
So I guess Philadelphia was made for cowards like me, who will smile a little at Callen crooning onscreen, then tremble at remembering he no longer exists. And the film’s very existence might make us reconsider a Hollywood that bullies its Brad Davises and Anthony Perkinses into silence like death. The system stinks and deserves our scorn. But I can’t find much to hate about one filmmaker who steps into the mainstream, opens his stammering mouth, and tries to say “AIDS.”
T. Diane Slatton
E. 44th St.