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Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Will "Milk" Become A National Punch Line?

Bronze plate in front of Castro Camera coverin...via WikipediaDavid Mixner thinks that Milk, the new Gus Van Sant biopic of Harvey Milk might suffer the same fate as Brokeback Mountain...namely, become a sniggering frat-boy joke on late-night TV, Saturday Night Live, and among insecure You Tube parodists everywhere. I'm seeing it tomorrow as part of my annual Thanksgiving celebration, so I can't judge it yet on its own merits. But it certainly seems possible.

Granted, no one giggled (much) at the last major gay-themed biopic, Before Night Falls, which is generally hailed as a masterpiece. And it isn't just gay figures that suffer at the cineplex...perhaps you noticed last month's W., but probably you didn't.

What do you think? Is Milk destined to be just another fag joke, or will America grow up and treat films about gay icons with the respect they give to Ray and Walk The Line?

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Blogger Joe Reid said...

Brokeback may have been the target of fratty jokes, but I don't think they diminished its reputation in the long run or its place in film history. Before Night Falls may have been given the benefit of reverence, but who beyond gays and hardcore cinefiles even saw it? Going to the mainstream means you have to brave mainstream scrutiny. I'll take the jokes along with the increased exposure every time.

Honestly, I think Milk offers itself less to parody than Brokeback did (city politics aren't nearly as iconic as melodramatic cowboy romances), but if it becomes a Best Picture frontrunner ... yeah, probably, at least a little. Bring it.

11/26/08, 12:58 AM  
Blogger JimmyD said...

Hi. First time poster here.
I saw 'Milk' a coupe of weeks ago (at the Castro Theater!).
This is a very different film than 'Brokeback.' I think 'Brokeback' became somewhat of a punch line because it was a bit over dramatic and, let's face it, the focus before it opened was: How much sex will there be between the two Hollywood dreamboats?!
I think you'd have to be an absolute pig to be snide in any way with 'Milk.' Like it or not, it doesn't open itself to silly, school yard jabs (we tried... not to be pricks, just to see if we could. My friend liked it. I loved it.).
'Milk' doesn't try to manipulate the audience. In fact, at our screening there was no noticeable crying or weeping. I think our audience was with Harvey the entire time and felt strong when bad things happened. Strong and angry.
I can't wait to read your thoughts. really hope you enjoy it.
(I also watched a lot of it being shot earlier this year!)

11/26/08, 8:27 AM  
Blogger JA said...

I think the real-life tragedy of Harvey Milk's assassination will (or ought to) outweigh the media's allowance of the frat-boy mentality that took over the Brokeback conversation. Brokeback had the distance of fiction (although yeah, everyone ought to have known the story it told had been many people's truth). Plus, with the Prop 8 shit in the air these days, I just don't see it happening.

But then maybe I'm just being a cuckoo optimist here.

Hope you're feeling better, Gabriel.

11/26/08, 10:37 AM  
Blogger StinkyLulu said...

If a film is successful, it tends to be mocked. If a successful film features the reality of homosexuality (still a relative rarity), it's like a perfect storm for both tacky and smart comedy.

That said, I'm inclined to think that the sniggering frat-boy jokiness instigated by Brokeback (especially around the line "I wish I knew how to quit you") actually, in the long run, helped to diminish the *shock* of two hunky guys falling in love with each other. Remember that many early previews of the film featured that distinctive line and remember as well that many of the jokers mocked the film having never seen it. Of course, as a gay person, the jokiness arrived to my ears with a sting but I concur with everyone else that the jokiness did little to blunt the enduring power and importance of the film.

Plus, for now, any "quit you" joke will just read as additionally inappropriate (re. Ledger's death, etc).

It seems to me that there are two obvious contenders for MILK jokiness.

First: the name "Milk" (as in "Got Milk" etc).
Second: I'm here to recruit you.

Both are available through only the trailer and both readily speak to unexamined homophobia. And, with both, I suspect any jokeyness will likely, in the long run at least, to work out some of the knee-jerk homophobia that might come in initial reactions to the film's mere existence.

11/26/08, 12:29 PM  

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