When I first saw Dallas Buyers Club, I was 12 and utterly unaware. I was plunged headfirst into a foreign crisis, one that had previously been removed from my life, but one I was instantly fascinated, terrified, and empathic towards. When I first read Angels in America, I was 18 and to my own enjoyment and curiosity, equally as clueless. Kushner’s diverse and intimate portrait of the lives affected by AIDS, primarily his cross examination of what it means to identify as a gay man, expanded my awareness of the cruel nature of the epidemic past what Dallas Buyers Club had been able to teach me. Although Angels in America carries significantly more emotional texture, queer POC representation, and sociopolitical depth than the 2013 film, I found myself drawing similarities between the characters Roy Cohn and Ron Woodroof. Both individuals have a seemingly unshakable bond to a traditionally heteronormative presentation of masculinity and have their careers (one as a lawyer and one as a rodeo rider and oil driller) deeply tied to their sense of self. Despite Cohn contracting the disease through unprotected frequent sex with men and Woodroof becoming infected through drug use and interactions with female sex workers, both men express similar disdain for the homosexual community upon their diagnosis with AIDS. Considering this sentiment is painfully ironic for Roy Cohn, let us examine his diagnosis:
Roy is attempting to distance himself from the homosexual community, a community that he sees as weak, sickly and marginalized: something that a high powered lawyer can not assimilate into nor take pride in being a part of. Perhaps his most cutting statement is “Homosexuals are men who know nobody, and who nobody knows”, as Cohn’s self worth is both defined and maintained by his domination over others, and his public presence relies on fear mongering to keep those in chains silent. Considering this, his bond to the heterosexual label means he has separated the sex from the sexuality, choosing to subscribe to the outward societal characteristics of a straight man, and the fact that he ‘fucks around with guys’ is irrelevant. Ron both rejects the sex and sexuality of the gay community upon diagnosis. When the term ‘homo’ is brought up by his doctor, Ron gestures to himself, saying “Look at me. Look at me. The godamn rodeo is what you see”, citing his hyper masculine profession to defend his heterosexuality. The grouping of masculinity and heterosexuality is a generalization that Cohn and Woodroof are both guilty of making, a generalization that is fueled primarily by the epidemic’s negative coloring of the gay community via destruction. The news, although disheartening, has seemingly no effect on Woodroof’s mood, as he crudely laughs at his 30 day death sentence. Although it is not explicitly said by Cohn in the play, the two definitely share the same roguish sentiments about having a ‘faggot disease’ be the cause of their deaths. Their lives are simply too bold, too unhinged and powerful to be cut short by AIDS, and although Cohn is a lawyer and Woodroof a rodeo cowboy, he would probably give Woodroof more respect that the millions of gay men that died from the same disease.