Thursday, 8 October 2015
Roland Emmerich Is Not The Enemy!
There is much outrage over Roland Emmerich’s film STONEWALL.
Outrage in the queer community that is.
I doubt whether any straight people will even see it.
STONEWALL got 9% on Rotten Tomatoes; straight critics have dismissed it. That along with ‘queer outrage’ over the film will probably kill any chance the film ever had of being seen.
That’s a shame. For as it is, it is a damn fine film — and an important one.
First let’s clear the air about what’s wrong with STONEWALL. Yes, it’s definitely a problem that Emmerich chose a pretty white boy to play the pretty white middle-class leading character. It’s also a shame that the movie is a traditionally constructed, sentimental, romantic tearjerker in the old-fashioned Hollywood tradition. In that sense, STONEWALL is certainly no cinematic milestone.
But let’s look at the criticism levelled against it.
CBC news says: ‘Although eyewitness accounts cite black, trans activist Marsha P. Johnson as the instigator of the riot, the trailer for STONEWALL seems to give a fictional, white, cisgender character named Danny with a key role in starting the riots.’
There are several things wrong with this statement. First of all, Marsha P. Johnson was not a ‘trans activist’. She was a drag queen and the founder of an organization for transvestites; there was no such thing as ‘trans’ (in the modern sense of the word) in 1969. Second, no one knows who threw the first brick at the Stonewall riots, and no one ever will, because there is no filmed footage of the event.
So why are queer critics of the film turning Roland Emmerich into our enemy? At worst, he is a well intentioned gay man who has created an important movie that makes the mistake (as so many gay and lesbian films do) of trying to present its radical ideas in traditional, mainstream style.
The theme of STONEWALL is fundamental and significant. The film’s protagonist struggles with an important dilemma — do you change the world through anger and violence, or through gentle, reasoned argument? To Emmerich’s credit (and to the credit of the excellent, unsung, gay screenwriter Jon Robin Baitz) the film unequivocally sides with anger and violence, clearly sympathizing with the drag queens and sex trade workers — the black and hispanic outcasts who radicalize the leading (white character) and turn him into an angry revolutionary.
At last! A film that dares to criticize the middle-of the-road politics that have dominated gay activism since AIDS. A film that dares to imply that although gay marriage is fine and good — it will not clear homophobia from people’s hearts. The message of STONEWALL is that it takes anger and radical action to effect change. STONEWALL says that acting polite, wearing suits, and sucking up to the straights is simply not enough!
Gee whiz, everybody loves ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK even though everyone also knows that the outrageously talented Lea DeLaria should be the lead. But no network would ever dare star a out butch lesbian actress in a TV show no matter how talented she is. Emmerich made the same mistake as the creators of ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK —he chose a lead that is palatable to a middle-class movie-going public. So why is he being pilloried for it?
Crazy ‘victim politics’ like this is what killed the Queer Nation movement. It’s what will eventually kill what’s left of gay liberation. We have to learn to pick our enemies. Our enemies are Ted Kruze, The Pope, and Robert Mugabe — to name a few.
Not Roland Emmerich.