Thursday, 29 August 2013

Ten Reasons Not to Go See ANGELS IN AMERICA

1.     It’s old.
2.     It’s a play about the United States of America. It’s ‘A Gay Fantasia on Nation Themes’  -- but that’s not our nation. Hey, this is Canada, remember?
3.     It’s a TV show. It’s already been on TV. You can download it from itunes.
4.     It has a token black character, who gets to be black and effeminate, that way none of the other characters have to be like that.
5.     There is one horrible scene where a character goes to the park and has disgusting guilty ‘park sex.’ This scenes makes people --  especially gay men -- feel bad about sex and sexuality.  For us queers, being openly and proudly sexual is, historically, part of our culture.
6.     The play uses Christian imagery (angels). But devout Christians have traditionally demonized gay men in the name of their religion and continue to do so today.
7.     If Tony Kushner was such a great playwright then he would have written another equally successful play. Face it, part two of Angels in America  (Perestroika) is unwatchable.
8.      It’s preachy.
9.      It’s long.
10.  The play presents an antiquated vision of AIDS, and completely misrepresents our community and our culture.  Straight people see it and it gives them a false idea of who we are and what we are going through. I don’t understand why gay people would want to see it. Oh, I know. Because they are in denial. Here are some ways in which the play is completely irrelevant to what is going on right now in Canada around AIDS and HIV. In Angels in America everyone is afraid of AIDS because it automatically kills people. But now AIDS is a manageable chronic illness and many who have it live to a ripe old age. When this play was first written gay men still thought of themselves as ‘outlaws’ and ‘outsiders.’ Now we have gay marriage in Canada, and most gay men in the western world are trying to forget that homophobia still exists (even though homophobia does exist and is especially harsh in places like Russia). So gay men in Canada get married and go to church and try and act like straight people. But the pressure to be straight acting and adopt a straight lifestyle is too much for a lot of gay men (we know many many Canadian marriages end in divorce, so it doesn’t work too well for straight people either!). This pressure has a lot to do with why a lot of gay men are taking drugs and practicing unsafe sex. So, gay times have changed significantly; unfortunately many members of the audience are also significantly unaware of that, or wish to live in denial. But the scariest thing of all -- and something that the play doesn’t deal with in any way -- is the recent criminalization of HIV in Canada. The criminalization of HIV is a much greater issue than fear of death from HIV for many of those living with HIV in Canada.  Since the 1998 R. v. Cuerrier decision (R. v. Cuerrier said that a person living with HIV could be charged with aggravated assault for having sex with someone without disclosure) persecutions of HIV positive people have significantly increased. The law is so imprecise on this topic that it is possible that an HIV positive person could face imprisonment for having sex with a condom – if they don’t disclose, or for having sex without a condom – even if they are honest about their status. Putting people in jail for not disclosing does not encourage people to be more honest with their partners, in fact it does the opposite. It drives people into secrecy, loneliness, and away from the advice, help and medications they need. The truth is, we live in a culture that still seems to think that AIDS is the most horrible disease a person could ever have, even though the face of the disease has changed significantly. A play like Angels in America completely ignores the realities facing HIV positive people today (and gay men today) and presents a false image of AIDS that is only related to the distant past. This play actually makes life worse for those living with HIV. Please do not go and see it.