Unlikely Friends

The movie Pride, by Matthew Warchus, is based on a true story about the unlikely support and cooperation of a queer activist group in London and a rural mining community. A member of the queer activist group sees what is happening to these mining communities and unions that are striking and suffering from lack of money, support, and resources and, after much convincing, starts the formation of LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) with the other members in the group. Their support was not taken too enthusiastically by the mining community at first, with much of them seeming to be homophobic. However, they later grow tight bonds with them, even leading one of the lead miner house organizers later coming out as gay as a result of the love and support received during this experience no doubt. In the end, some of the people from the mining community surprise the LGSM group by showing up to the pride parade to walk with them and show their support, coming full circle. 

I absolutely loved this movie and it was extremely heart warming because it was so real about the reluctance to support a community that you (thought you) knew would not support you in the first place. However, it showed that those who are struggling together, even about things that seem completely unrelated to each other, can show their support in numerous ways. I also thought it was so important how it showed the development of the miner community going from seeing the queer activist group as “those” people to later people they respect and can call close friends they can fight for. These unlikely identities coming together reminded me of Eli Clare’s battle with the seemingly contradictory identities as “redneck” but also queer. Through this movie, we saw that these identities do not have to be mutually exclusive or contradictory, which is not only important when coming to terms with our own identities, but also when looking in at social issues and our own prejudices we have, consciously or not, about our in-groups and out-groups. It relates to the constant framing and battle of the us vs them mentality but shows how that can be overcome, though obviously not always smoothly or immediately.

I’m Not Like the Others

The complexity of personality, morals, and relationships has been frequently highlighted throughout the play thus far. It has brought unlikely pairs together through friendship, romantic relationships, or simple tolerance, displayed contradictions between religious beliefs and the realities of life, and has skewed the perceptions of common labels. I believe that one of Angels in America‘s main goals is to portray the idea of similarities among differences and differences among similarities in order to combat the feeling of “otherness” that was so strong during this time period and even in today’s current social and political climate. 

One way Kushner achieves this is through the romantic pairing of Joe and Louis. In the last scene of act 3 of Perestroika during a conversation between the two where Louis brings up that Joe is conservative, again, Joe says “You’re obsessed, you know that? If people like you didn’t have president Reagan to demonize, where would you be?

Louis: If he didn’t have people like me to demonize where would he be?[…]

Joe: I’m not your enemy . Louis.

Louis: I never said you were my-

Joe: Fundamentally, we want the same thing. (203-204)”

In this,  the emphasis on difference, between political stances, and similarity, in their attraction to one another and recently leaving a long term relationship (yet still for different reasons), is clearly stated. I think this scene, and relationship, is important in showing us how crucial it is to look further than surface level differences in order to truly know people and form connections. On the outside, Joe: a “straight”, Mormon, conservative and Louis: an openly gay, Jewish, democrat would not seem to be likely friends, let alone each other’s romantic interests. However, though these issues still do come up at times, they were able to find and bond over their similarities in a more meaningful way.

This theme was so important during the AIDS/HIV epidemic because too many years were wasted and lives were lost because of this idea of “otherness”. With the common perception that the disease was only affecting queer people, or “those people”, there was unfortunately far too little action done to help stop the spread and combat the symptoms. There was so much emphasis put on the differences that the world seemed to forget that these were their friends, family, neighbors, doctors, teachers, servers, and so on. This relates to how Covid, upcoming elections, and other social issues have divided people in the present. However, through this play, we see the potential of relationships among what would seem to be polar opposites, which I believe is a key takeaway that has been repeated many times so far.

Thinking Outside of the Box

Throughout Clare’s book so far, we have seen the intense struggle of coming to terms with an identity that fits so many yet no boxes at the same time. Not only does Clare wrestle with the emotional ties of his hometown and those who reside within versus his current politics and beliefs on the logging industry, but he also talks in depth about how his “redneck” identity made it even more difficult to feel a sense of belonging in the queer community because of deviating from the urban queer identity that is seen as the norm. On page 33, Clare describes the word “redneck”’s denotation, connotation, and “usage by progressives, including many who are queer”(33). Here, Clare wrote the last interpretation of the word as “Any person who is racist, violent, uneducated and stupid (as if they are the same thing), woman-hating, gay-bashing, Christian fundamentalist, ect. 2. Use as a synonym for every type of oppressive belief except classism.”(33) Though “redneck” is something that Clare associates with his identity, he doesn’t fit this specific usage of the word that many others believe. Along those same lines, although Clare’s queer identity is also a main part of him, he doesn’t necessarily fit the urban image of queerness that was expected by others. This brings it back to how he is a part of, however cannot be completely defined by, many different and especially contradictory identities. This has led to the journey of his own acceptance and understanding of his identity that we have been following throughout the book. 

B as in Boy

In the poem Prelude to Bruise, there are many instances of repetition. There is especially a lot with the words broke/broken, boy, and with the letter B in general. Even the setting of this poem takes place in Birmingham. The word boy is also repeated numerous times and led me to think of how for many years, and even for some still today, black men would commonly be referred to as “boy” as yet another implicit way of white people expressing their feelings of superiority to them. The words mine and your(s) are also repeated many times and, I believe, are a focal point of the poem. This wording emphasizes the “us vs them” mentality even more and expresses the division between groups. An overall feeling of “your pain, your suffering, and your submission is what I profit off of and how I stay in power” is prevalent throughout Jones’ poem and a crucial idea I interpreted after my first reading. At the end of the poem, the “begin, again, bend”(22) made it seem like this is a cycle that will continue over and over again and will not break, whether that be from lack of control by the speaker or the overly inflated amount of control by an external force. Overall, I think these lines are about the division and constructed assignment of superiority and inferiority instilled in society’s views of race. This poem vividly portrays the extent of which physical, verbal, and emotional violence were used against Black Americans in an attempt to keep this order.