So, I thought everyone would be excited for the new Stonewall flick.
Well, apparently not. There has been a huge controversy brewing around the release of Stonewall due to accusations of a ‘Whitewashing’ attempt by the director Roland Emmerich. To give some context to these claims for anyone who is unfamiliar with the actual events of the Stonewall Riots I will take this opportunity to fill you in the background:
The setting for the Stonewall Riots was an era of institutionalised homophobia and transphobia within the US which pushed any kind of “homosexual socialising” underground. Small communities sprung up across the states where gay and trans people could feel somewhat safe; Greewhich village was just one of these communities and host to the Stonewall Inn. Greenwhich village was a haven to the majority of New York City’s downtrodden LGBT community, it was a home to those who had been shunned by their families and slung into the streets (largely from the local african-american communities), somewhere for like minds to connect, a breathing space away from the heavy air of prejudice that existed at the time. The Stonewall Inn was the most happening joint in Greenwhich Village and the only gay bar that allowed dancing so it was packed to the rafters with street-queens, hustlers, gays and lesbians the night of the raid.
The rioting continued for 4 nights, each night a crowd would form around the Stonewall effectively sieging the premises. The events of these nights are attested to in many books on the subject which are definitely worth a read (David Carter’s History of Stonewall gives an exhaustive account), one event in particular that was just too perfect for me to leave out was when Marsha P Johnson, an african-american self proclaimed “Street-queen” climbed up a lamp-post and dropped a heavy bag onto the hood of a police cruiser which landed with enough force to shatter the windshield; I will be looking out for this sassy scene and if it is not included I myself will take up arms.
The Gay Rights movement went from strength to strength from here on out and the events of Stonewall are remembered each year on June 28th with an annual Christopher Street march which eventually trickled down and evolved into what we call Pride celebrations. Traditionally Pride celebrations were staggered throughout June to make sure that people could attend multiple rallies but today we have seen a switch up to the program in which Pride parades are held pretty much all year round and why not! Be proud of yourself and of those who have come before you every day for we now have an accepting society that is no longer seeks to be involved in the harmless preferences of others (for the most part).
So, what was all the ruckus about surrounding the release of the Stonewall movie? Well as mentioned there was a strong representation within the participating rioters of the local african-american and latino population in fact it has been said that the first few souls brave enough to take up arms were the “street queens” and downtrodden gay youths who had been ousted by their families and found a haven in Stonewall who just so happened to be largely of african-american and latino descent. The first trailer for Stonewall was quite different in that you would have to strain your eyes to notice any black faces in the crowd.
This obviously created quite a stir on the internet where many bloggers lashed out at the makers of the movie with calls of “racism”, “rewriting the history books” & “Whitewashing the past”. Even a parody trailer was made:
All this is quite a strange turn for a movie centred around a story of upheaval of past prejudices but the bloggers do have a point. Take a look at the trailer for the original Stonewall movie released in 1995 and you will see that the cast is actually representative:
The frontman of the 2015 Stonewall movie is set to be: “Danny – A straight-acting gay guy who moved to New York from the country”, something seems slightly off here.
To front a cast with a straight-acting white male lead is somewhat of an absurdity since it is wholly unrepresentative of those who would have likely been at the events. But lets hear what the director had to say:
“Danny’s [The main character] very straight-acting. He gets mistreated because of that. [Straight audiences] can feel for him.”
He also added that the film is ‘personal’ to him, adding: “As a director you have to put yourself in your movies, and I’m white and gay.”
However, he adds of the protagonist: “Danny is like the catalyst. [The street hustlers] teach him about survival. Through him, we experience them.” – Roland Emmerich. Source Pink News.
Essentially creating a character that is relatable to a target audience is not just dishonest but it is just plain cynical to assume that an audience ,who for the most part will be of a liberal persuasion, will not be attracted to the story unless it is told through the narrative of someone they can feel empathy towards. Because obviously straight white men can only understand straight men, am I right?
But honestly would any movie studio go out of their way to offend the audience to a movie who for the most part will already know the circumstances of the events portrayed? Or was this just a massive pot of Hollywood stew where ratings rule and shooting towards an LGBT market is still unviable due to the majority straight white male cinema-going population? I highly doubt that this movie was meant to cause such a stir; in fact it was probably intended to be a celebration of the modern age that itself unfortunately also fell victim to a different aspect of that same modern age.
Since starting and stopping writing this blog the actual movie has already been and gone, seen by hundreds of people worldwide (all but your humble narrator). Stonewall (2015) bombed at the box office and is projected to incur a hefty $15 Million loss after costing $17 Million to make and taking just over $100,000 in it’s opening weekend. It is sad to see that a film that in all rights should be a celebration of how far the gay lifestyle has come in the last 45 years should crash and burn so spectacularly yet I take from this that in the modern age, specifically in the last 5 or so years the LGBT community has come together and built for itself such a powerful voice that even the mighty dragons of Hollywood can be slain. Public opinion rules and so #Lovewins.