The movie was one of the few that touched me as few others have. I have heard that much of it was extremely biased. Do any of the people in here have something to say about the movie? I just introduced it to someone and I'm wondering now how accurate this movie is I'm holding up.
Besides the fact that he made up the notion that Gaetan Dugas was Patient Zero (it was proven that he was not), I have a couple of friends who knew him and they all said he was a sweet and kind man. See John Greyson's AIDS musical movie "Zero Patience" for a community reclamation of Dugas for what he was, a hero not a monster.Shilts came from the Larry Kramer school of "blame gay men for still having a drive for sex. As long as you know that like Larry Kramer, Shilts enjoyed pointing fingers at victims so commentaries could blame "both sides," you can see what it really is.
South Florida, did you read the book? It's honestly required reading if you want to know information from all sides (government, medical, and gay men) regarding this horrible time in our history. I was not alive when this all started, and I just recently finished the book. It holds everyone accountable and responsible, and the author used the information he had at the time before it was proven, years later, that Gaeten was not patient zero, but in my opinion, definitely contributed to the problem based on his interviews. I recently watched the documentary "5B", which is streaming for free on Amazon Prime. It's about the first AIDS ward in America, and it's done with compassion, insight and grace. I could never imagine the hopelessness and the horror of those days from everyone affected and who loved them. Please accept my condolences for everyone who ever had to deal with this plague. The way you all were treated, I can't even put into words. I don't know what else to say except that I'm deeply, deeply sorry.
FindingNamo said: "Besides the fact that he made up the notion that Gaetan Dugas was Patient Zero (it was proven that he was not), I have a couple of friends who knew him and they all said he was a sweet and kind man. See John Greyson's AIDS musical movie "Zero Patience" for a community reclamation of Dugas for what he was, a hero not a monster.Shilts came from the Larry Kramer school of "blame gay men for still having a drive for sex. As long as you know that like Larry Kramer, Shilts enjoyed pointing fingers at victims so commentaries could blame "both sides," you can see what it really is."I just wanted to have these words posted on here a second time because they are deeply, deeply important.
[3 minute read]I was alive at the time and years later, when called upon to answer for the pre-publiction media blitz that was placed in Publisher's Weekly and others -- full page ads with Gaetan Dugas's passport picture and the huge header THE MAN WHO GAVE US AIDS -- Shilts knew that the Patient Zero designation was apocryphal and said that his publishers "seized" on that aspect of the narrative he constructed and went full tabloid in its use of it. Shilts claimed he had no say. At the time, I remember thinking "Well, Rand, you could have chosen not to 'construct your narrative' that way." But they pushed it, it got the desired attention, and all these decades later it remains "mandatory reading" to many people.But the thing is, Shilts went out of his way to portray Dugas as a totally villainous caricature, "deliberately" infecting people and being sociopathic. What I have heard from a few of his close friends in Toronto was that he was a lovely man, sweet, charming and likable. After he was diagnosed, he was understandably terrified.Randy Shilts pulled a fast one in an attempt to do what people have always done, he created a monster out of what most frightened him, and shared the monster with the world. Sure, the monster FIT THE EXACT PROFILE that Jesse Helms and Anita Bryant and others had created, but the construct gave terrified people some relief. Gay people could openly look down on sexually active gay men. Promiscuous gay men could look down on flight attendants. All based on "gut feelings" or "common sense" but having no connection to science.What was going on inside Shilts's head? "from all sides (government, medical, and gay men)"This insight has been repeated so many times since the publication of the book. I'm not sure what its appeal is, other than that readers can feel somehow above the fray. They can reassure themselves that they would have been one of the good guys in every category? "EVERYBDOY was at fault" doesn't quite get at the nuance of a confluence of extremely complicated factors that let that epidemic rage on. And when people got a little more deep into the discussion, they'd occasionally find common ground in the blame game. "You know who's REALLY to blame? The bathhouse owners."AIDS historian Sarah Schulman correctly points out that those very [real world] social/sexual networks that gay men created in spaces that would have them were exactly how news got out that an epidemic was simmering, before there were any reports about it. It was in bathhouses that people learned that folks were getting sick. It was in bathhouses that people first heard about emerging ideas for safer sexual practices, either because the clubs were promoting them or because the customers were sharing the news via word of mouth and pamphlets (goddess bless Michael Callen and Richard Berkowitz and Joe Sonnabend, MD for their ground-breaking and ever-evolving work on that front).AIDS historian Dave Nimmons worked up an entire presentation on the strength and resilience of gay men in which he pointed out that there had never been an earlier example of an entire community changing its behavior so rapidly, as gay men did in the face of GRID. He goes to great lengths to point out that the idea that "there is blame on all sides" doesn't fly when you consider the heroic response of gay men and their allies, the institutions and community actions large and small that grew quickly and in combination became the only safety nets offered to people with AIDS of all stripes. He later published a book about it, but I was lucky enough to see him do his presentation twice before that, in venues overflowing with gay men who had never had the chance to look at this history without "everything we did wrong" be woven throughout. It was deep and emotional.So yeah, Shilts's book. It has a narrative. But it's only one. A number of much better ones came in the years after its publication. Nimmons's came out 15 years later. To me, it was one of the first chances to catch my breath and look at the epidemic from the perspective of the strength of the queer community and its allies and realize what a remarkable job we did.The Soul Beneath the Skin: The Unseen Hearts and Habits of Gay Men by David Nimmons Edited to add: Thank you robbiej! What a delight to see that peace sign!
Thank you so much for your insight and your information, I appreciate the recommendation on the book, I just purchased it. Are there any other books, articles or documentaries you would recommend? If you have the time, I would sincerely appreciate it.
Here's another source for the story I told, MM3, including a whopper of a quote from the editor of "And The Band Played On", Michael Denneny, who is as responsible for the gay publishing boom of the '80s and '90s as anybody. That's why I feel frustrated when the adaptation is held up as some sort of pinnacle, even though one of its main theses was invented and taken to the bank. Not a villain but a hero
Thanks, it was an indictment on two very specific people that seemed overboard. Thanks guys and yes Jordan, if you don't cry during that song you need a heart.
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