History Seen and Unseen

Seeing Larry Kramer‘s imperfect, iconic play done great justice by Ryan Murphy, I’m reminded of the power of revisiting history and work from the past, all made relevant today.  And, instead of nostalgia or bitterness, they enhance today creating something new.

The fleetingly explicit and exhilaratingly frank touches that Murphy brought to the work were reminders all by themselves just how far LGBT people in media have come.  I was fortunate enough to watch it with a real M.D., who himself had cared for a partner who died of HIV/AIDS, and assured me Jonathan Groff’s sudden seizure death, as vivid and American Horror Story as it might have seemed, was spot on.

That moment, and at the end, when Mark Ruffalo and Matt Boemer marry, (seemingly) futile defiances both of death, suffering, loss, and oppression, were transformational acts of heroism.  A word, when associated directly with Larry Kramer the man, that has literally made rooms of grown men explode in violent dissent (as shown).  But instead, offering through Murphy’s work a new model, opportunity for the LGBT community generally.

Heroes are in some way losers–suffering great lack or deprivation along the way–and the term has seemed almost derisive in the past.  Heroes are on a different plane than the rest of us, after all.  So isn’t it striking how today all manner of LGBT organizations wear the word out as if pulling an unworn vintage frock from the closet, literally.

However, the heroism depicted by Murphy through the stellar cast is more about agency.  And the power rooted in that agency to transform lives and culture.  The Ned Weeks (note the rhyming irony in the man’s name even) we’re left with consoles himself while watching a new generation literally and figuratively make the love he (for now) could not have.  Guarding the, and his, liberating fire to form a new movement grounded in rage-fueled grief and informed by a fierce, restless intelligence.


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