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Hollywood's Overrepresentation of White, Gay Men

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Television shows and movies like Looking, and Dallas Buyers Club are increasingly bringing LGBT stories to the big and small screens, but their representations of diversity within the queer community are sorely lacking. White, gay, male characters are grossly overrepresented, according to a Vox analysis of a number of recent shows and films focusing on gay narratives. The issue, write Alex Abad-Santos, is not with the specific stories that are depicted, but rather with the meta-narrative created by an unchanging stream of stories solely about white guys:

“We don't and shouldn't expect anyone to change Harvey Milk's race or change who Larry Kramer's friends were. Kramer's and Milk's experiences aren't in our control. However, choosing which stories to tell is. And having a willingness to tell other kinds of stories, perhaps some that are just as worthy as Milk's or Kramer's, from places we're not necessarily looking, is something filmmakers and writers can do better.”

Gary Gates, an LGBT demographer at UCLA, says that statistically speaking the kinds of LGBT groups being portrayed in modern media simply don’t reflect reality. In addition to nearly half of the characters being non-white “if you had a show with a cast of 20 characters who were LGBT, two-thirds of the women would be bisexual, and one-third of the women would be lesbians, while two-thirds of the men would be gay, and one-third would be bi.”

Gates goes on to point out the disproportionate amount of screen-time given to characters that read as being affluent. The persistent idea that all LGBT individuals are more economically successful than their heterosexual counterparts is due in large part to to a conflation of statistical findings. College graduated, same-sex couples, with two partners actively participating in the workforce do, on average, make more than heterosexuals, Gates explained in 2013 to US News. These couples make statistical headlines because they are exceptional, however, and portraying them as The New Normal is disingenuous at best and problematic at worst.

The-new-normal-utah-new-home__oPtIn terms of movies and documentaries like The Normal Heart and How To Survive A Plague, filmmakers are presented with the task of parsing through the historical record in order to suss out compelling stories. Problems arise when the cinematic truth depicted on screen only reflect the limited perspectives of certain characters. In an interview with Vulture Sarah Schulman, co-creator of The ACT UP Oral History Project, recently voiced her misgivings about what she perceived as a whitewashing of early HIV/AIDS activism as depicted in How To Survive A Plague.

We call it “The Five White People Who Saved the World” — that’s our nickname for it. And those white people are very busy because apparently they’re always saving everything all the time. Everywhere you go, you see them.

Referring to a discussion following screenings of Jim Hubbard’s United in Anger: A History of ACT UP and David France’s How To Survive a Plague, Schulman recalls that same point blank critique.

At one point they open up for questions and the first question to David is: Why do you have no women or people of color in the film? And he says, well I wanted to focus on wealthy white men because they had the time to devote to activism. Now as a person who has interviewed 168 surviving members of ACT UP New York, I can tell you that’s not historically correct.

People in ACT UP gave their entire lives to ACT UP. All different kinds of people from every class and background would report in our interviews that they were at ACT UP five nights a week, that their entire life was ACT UP. And that had nothing to do with how much money you had. And the second thing he said was that these men went to good universities and so they were able to understand the science. That is absurd. The audience almost started laughing. One of the best experts on the science of AIDS in ACT UP was Garance Franke-Ruta who was 19. We all sat there and realized that this man knows nothing about ACT UP.

Watch a video of the exchange AFTER THE JUMP...

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Here is a Comprehensive Supercut of News Clips from the First Decade of the AIDS Crisis: VIDEO

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HBO's broadcast of The Normal Heart has caused new reflection on the early days of the AIDS crisis, and the fear, ignorance, lack of understanding, and anger that were the hallmarks of that era.

If you care to revisit it, an intrepid newshound Dave Evans has assembled an hour's worth of clips from 1982-1992 covering everything from the first discovery of the disease to Rock Hudson's death, to the ACT UP demonstrations.

Let's hope nothing like it ever happens again.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Continue reading "Here is a Comprehensive Supercut of News Clips from the First Decade of the AIDS Crisis: VIDEO" »


'The Normal Heart' Teaser Trailer Unearths the Panic, Grief, and Humanity of the Early Days of AIDS: VIDEO

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The film adaptation of Larry Kramer's largely autobiographical Tony award-winning (for its revival in 2011) play The Normal Heart is coming to HBO on May 25 and a new trailer debuted yesterday.

The film stars Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Julia Roberts, Taylor Kitsch, and Jim Parsons, and chronicles the early days of the AIDS crisis in New York City as seen through the eyes of an activist.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Continue reading "'The Normal Heart' Teaser Trailer Unearths the Panic, Grief, and Humanity of the Early Days of AIDS: VIDEO" »


ACT UP Crashes Ceremony Dedicating Ed Koch's Last Residence as Historic Landmark: VIDEO

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Members of ACT UP NY crashed an event naming former NYC Mayor Ed Koch's Fifth Avenue residence an historic landmark this week, reminding attendees of Koch's slow, inadequate response to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

Watch (warning: autoplay) WPIX cover the ceremony and protest, AFTER THE JUMP...

(image facebook bill bytsura)

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Activists Disrupt 'Stoli Guy' Pageant in NYC in Protest Against Russian Vodka: VIDEO

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ACT UP New York and Queer Nation activists disrupted another Stoli event last night protesting the promotion of Russian vodka. Stoli, which is produced by SPI group has denied that it is a Russian-owned company since it is based in Luxembourg and bottled in Latvia but has said that its ingredients and production are sourced in Russia.

Gay City News reports:

Five demonstrators affiliated with ACT UP New York and Queer Nation stormed the stage at Marquee New York in Chelsea at the start of the Most Original Stoli Guy national finale, which brought together the winners from competitions in 12 cities. Blowing horns and holding up signs with messages including “Dump Stoli,” the group –– Mark Milano, Brandon Cuicchi, Terry Roethlein, Piro Rexhepi, and Chris Kohler –– brought the show to a halt for about a minute, before they were dragged from the stage by the club’s bouncers.

As the men were hauled away, one of the evening’s hosts said, “We are very lucky to live in a country where we can speak freely.” The host added, “And one of the things we are celebrating tonight is the passion that is the Stoli brand, and that is passion.”

Watch the video, AFTER THE JUMP...

In July, another Stoli event at Splash bar was disrupted byt the same group of activists.

Continue reading "Activists Disrupt 'Stoli Guy' Pageant in NYC in Protest Against Russian Vodka: VIDEO" »


ACT UP Protests Lack Of PrEP And PEP Outside New York Department Of Health

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Taking a break from their recent protests of human rights atrocities taking place in Russia, members of ACT UP in New York City took to the streets in front of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) this past THursday, August 15, to protest the lack of funding and education surrounding PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) and PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) as effective means to prevent the transmission of HIV. Approximately 25 group members were gathered that afternoon, carrying signs with slogans such as “D’OH! I refused to fund PEP. Now 1000’s of NYers will get HIV,” “The ‘Healthcare’ Mayor Missed HIV,” and “Pozitively FRAUDulent & Absolutely NEGligent.”

ACT UP, best known for their pivotal roles during the initial outbreak of HIV and AIDS and the documentary How To Survive A Plague, organized the demonstration as a response to rapidly-increasing infection rates among young gay men and trans women. They allege that DOHMH committed "negligence and fraud" by failing to collect data on these new infections, and by presenting condoms as the only effective method for preventing the spread of HIV. Several ACT UP members could even be heard yelling  “Give us data! Give us numbers!” ACT UP activist Jim Eigo expanded on DOHMH's alleged negligence in the group's incendiary press release: 

“ACT UP has told DOHMH to start an information campaign to tell New Yorkers about PrEP. Their answer? DOHMH is afraid that such a campaign would create demand for the drugs in advance of a network of doctors equipped to oversee their safe and effective use. What a vicious cycle of ignorance and inaction!”

The group previously protested outside of Mt. Sinai Medical Center, after a man entered its emergency room asking staff for PEP after a possible exposure to HIV. ER staffers allegedly had no idea how to treat the patient. In their report, Out magazine went on to explain precisely how the two treatments work:

"Typically prescribed as thirty daily doses of the antiretroviral drugs Truvada and Isentress, PEP medication is used to prevent HIV infection from taking root in the body after an exposure to HIV, typically in the form of condomless sexual contact with a partner who is HIV-positive or of unknown status. The exact mechanism of PEP is unknown, but Truvada and Isentress are also used to prevent the virus from multiplying in already-infected patients. PrEP is similar to PEP except that it is given prior to possible exposures, typically only to patients who have taken PEP before or who have a history of high-risk sexual behavior, to prevent any exposures to HIV from turning into an actual full-blown infection."

Actup-signDOHMH responded to ACT UP's allegations in an email response to Out, in which a spokesperson promised that:

"The Health Department plans to expand information about biomedical HIV prevention interventions for at-risk populations, as well as information for clinical providers both on its website and in a format that can be disseminated easily by funded sites...In 2013, DOHMH spent $22.4 million on programs specifically for HIV prevention. Funding supported HIV testing, free female and male condom distribution, treatment adherence for HIV infected persons, biomedical prevention, including PEP for uninsured New Yorkers with clinically appropriate exposures, behavioral risk reduction, syringe exchange, harm reduction, and mental health screening...

"We stand by the favorable results we have achieved in reducing citywide morbidity and mortality associated with HIV and in the quality of our data. Since 2005, we have seen an increase in the proportion of people diagnosed with HIV who are in treatment, a decrease in the number of HIV-related deaths, and an increase in life expectancy for people with HIV. From 2001 to 2011, the number of new HIV diagnoses in New York City declined by 40%."

You can read more exceprts from the department's statement on Out.com.

Dr. Alan Stein, an infectious-diseases specialist who treats many HIV/AIDS patients, disagrees with ACT UP, arguing that, while PrEP and PEP do play a role in reducing transmission, he still believes that condoms should be used as the first and primary line of defense:

“The way to curb the epidemic is to get more people tested. Then, once they are tested, getting them into treatment and staying on treatment. If you can do that, that will reduce the community viral load and the risk of transmission. Putting people on PrEP isn’t going to do that much to prevent further transmission of the disease. It’s more like individual protection. It’s not really a public health concept... While PrEP is important, and I do believe in it, I think it’s useful in select cases: someone who’s going to be compliant and adherent. It shouldn’t just be given willy-nilly to people who want to get it.”


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