AND THE BAND PLAYED ON (1993)

Filmic Context:  Print -- Video -- Online

Print Resources

Dawson, Jeff.  Gay and Lesbian Online.  Los Angeles/New York: Alyson Books, 1998.

This publication is possibly one of the most thorough and organized of the Lesbian and Gay print material.  Dawson is precise in the information he provides, offering information beyond what he includes in the book.  Giving background information of events and symbols within the gay community, Dawson gives brief synopses of web sites covering the history of the movement and its symbols such as the Rainbow Flag and the Pink Triangle.  He offers site information about AIDS, the medical and more personal touch as well.  Often times the internet can be overwhelming in its voluminous information accessibility and can confuse and frustrate surfers; even if a veteran with the web, it can still easily annoy its users.  Dawson, familiar with this frustration and appreciative of the vast array of information available especially regarding AIDS and the gay and lesbian movements, helps narrow searches as well as guiding people to pertinent sites.  It would be more useful if more people started to do what Dawson has done here.  This book is a must for research and could be considered to be one’s Bible if doing a research paper of some sort on AIDS, the gay and lesbian community,or other related topics.  If Dawson doesn’t have the web site listed or give you information of where to find it, then the bottom line is that it doesn’t exist.  Just to give you an understanding of exactly how incredibly thorough this important book is!

Finch, Mark.  “Gays and Lesbians in the Cinema.” The Political Companion to American Film.  Ed. Gary Crowdus.  Chicago: Lakeview Press, 1994.

When trying to do a search of movies portraying gays and lesbians, often the search can get confusing and lost in the crowd of other mass information.  In need to narrow and focus in on a specific topic, this book helps with most searches dealing with American film.  The specific chapter dealing with lesbians and gays in cinema helps readers and researchers find out a bit of history of this small and rarely recognized section of the industry.  The essay discuses the narrow-mindedness of Hollywood when the topic is homosexuality, yet the industry continues to be fascinated with “gayness” and continues to produce movies portraying the lifestyle and state of mind of the gay community.  Misrepresenting and giving false portrayals of gays seem to be a consistent problem with films produced by big Hollywood names.  People tend to think that only since after the gay movement started to be on the rise did film representing the gay community begin to emerge.  This in fact is a myth and films dating back to 1916 have been discovered and classified as gay films.  This article gives background on gays in film and helps provide a more clear understanding of how the gay community is portrayed and under what conditions and motivation spurred the film’s production in the first place.

Gever, Martha, Pratibha Parmer, and John Greyson, eds. Queer Looks: Perspectives On Lesbian and Gay Film and Video.  New York: Routledge, 1993.

 This book, while really having no relation to the film And the Band Played On, or even AIDS, does focus on the gay community. Queer Looks offers an alternative and more artistic view of gays.  The films that are mentioned and focused on in this book include films that are outside of what would be considered to be the mainstream.  Most of the films mentioned are documentaries or small budget films that have been personally produced in small or at-home studios.  This book is a collection of individual essays covering topics of the writers’ choice.  One author did a small photographic story following a gay couple and using brief descriptive captions under the photograph.  This alternative and unique approach in describing the gay community helps shed light on a lifestyle that many shove off.  A diverse and open culture, the homosexual community is closely knit, and its creative and artistic approach to many things is depicted in this book of different essays.

Hanson, Ellis, ed.  OutTakes: Essays on Queer Theory and Film.  Durham: Duke UP, 1999.

This book is another off-base and unrelated book if your focus is on Randy Shilts or the film And the Band Played On.  It is, however, another view of the gay community on the whole and is a quality expression of film and gay opinions and theory relating to the role and participation of gays in films. While the study of film in general is on the rise and is becoming increasingly more important in the critical world, queer theory of film is also gradually gaining its own following.  Associating feminist theory and queer theory, eventually the former is molded and renamed to fit into the latter.  Just as women are objectified in films, so are gays as they are always thought to be the “other,” and are depicted in a poor and negative light.  Dealing with many Hollywood films that follow this objectification of homosexuals, the gay community has begun to separate itself entirely from such false representations.  Instead individual gay directors and producers have begun to create their own answers to gay film and have tried to offer a more positive light under which gays are portrayed.  This book is a rare compilation of queer theory regarding film and is an interesting and unique view of the subject that is gradually growing in popularity.

Limbaugh III, Rush H.  The Way Things Ought to Be.  New York: Pocket Books.

Stigmatized as the inconsiderate, conservative political talk show host, Rush Limbaugh has been stunning audiences nationwide with his audacious comments and uninhibited opinions.  The chapter in this book about the AIDS epidemic takes a typical insensitive approach here.  Using Michael and Elizabeth Glaser as examples of the lack of feeling for justice that the disease has, he still manages to condemn them, especially Elizabeth, for their poor choices in publicity involvement.  Elizabeth Glaser unknowingly received AIDS when getting a blood transfusion and through breast feeding later passed it to her two children.  As one of the first AIDS activist for pediatric victims, Glaser fought for funding and research towards AIDS.  In this article, Limbaugh rejects vehemently the unfair charges against the Reagan/Bush administration for their lack of caring and admitted responsibility towards this issue.  Critiquing the political ambivalence when this disease first emerged, this article offers the “other” voice to the film And the Band Played On in its message of awareness, portraying the conservative and more straight-edged political tone.  Limbaugh does not fail to madden and enrage readers in this article, a trait of his that he is in no rush to alter.

Nadel, Alan.  Flatlining on the Field of Dreams: Cultural Narratives in the Films of President Reagan’s America.  New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1997.

Another vocal representative for AIDS awareness and the lack of political action taken throughout the 80’s and into the 90’s, this article focuses mostly on the Reagan administration.  When talking of the Reagan administration the issue of AIDS cannot be ignored, not the way that Reagan did when the nation was neck high in an outbreak of such high caliber that it was being compared by medical experts to the Ebola Virus.  In a brief two-page mention of the epidemic and how the political arena handled it, this essay adds another needed voice to the truth behind the Reagan administration’s failure to show any sort of interest or effort towards AIDS.  In this brief explanation of Reagan’s policy (or lack there of) dealing with AIDS, the film And the Band Played On is given specific mention.  The movie is used to support the view that there was little to no support politically and the bureaucracy did everything within its power to make AIDS funding an even bigger problem.  The country was in the middle of a medical crisis and it got spooked.  Too afraid to be honest with its citizens the political, bureaucratic, and even medical fields did whatever was necessary to hide the power lurking within the virus.

Shilts, Randy.  And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic.  New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987.

At the center of this project, this is the novel that started it all. Randy Shilts, a gay man living and reporting in San Francisco, began to pay close attention to what was later to be identified as the AIDS virus when many of his friends began falling ill.  Carefully keeping close track of names and dates and following the emergence and life of the epidemic closely, he eventually in 1987 published his written documentary.  Gaining his information through the Freedom of Information Act, Shilts presents a side of the story that was not only untold but was intentionally hidden from the citizens, the patients and their families and friends.  Even involved doctors were held at bay by the government and its other agents.  He focuses on the little people, recognizing the more obscure doctors, activists, few politicians and private organizations that worked hard, day and night, for years on end to make sense out of a senseless disease.  This is the story of the heroes, villains, back-stabbers, and red-tape gophers. From this dynamic and unique personal account of the AIDS epidemic, stemmed one of film industries still most remarkable and touching story of the emergence of a deadly disease that took a nation, a world by storm.

---. The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life & Times of Harvey Milk.  New York:  St. Martin’s Press, 1982.

This is Shilts’ first novel, introducing to the world someone who was soon to become a famed AIDS activist and journalist.  In 1978, San Francisco’s first openly gay politician, Supervisor Harvey Milk, was assassinated.  This book traces his life before and after his installation as the first gay member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.  Dubbed the “Mayor of Castro Street,” Castro St. being the common gay hangout in downtown San Francisco, Harvey Milk never allowed his sexuality to influence his decisions when in office.  He was active in getting the gay community to vote but never worked on a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” basis.  In December 1978, Dan White, enraged that he had not been reinstated to a position that he had already resigned from, shot and killed Harvey Milk and San Francisco’s Mayor, George Moscone.  White, after his 1985 release, committed suicide.  In this in-depth and emotional story of a simple man, who fought for what he believed in, never using his sexual orientation as a handicap, Shilts is able to capture the life of a man, eventually known as the first “official gay martyr.”  Shilts’ debut book was an indicator of the quality, intensity, and incredible attention to detail that he later portrayed in his following two books.

---.  Conduct Unbecoming: Lesbians and Gays in the U.S. Military: Vietnam to the Persian Gulf.  New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993.

This was to be Shilt’s last book before his death in 1994. With his second book And the Band Played On having just been released as a controversial HBO production with a star-studded cast, 1993 was a busy year for Shilts.  This did not stop him from publishing a book he had been dedicating years of research to.  As the issue of AIDS has progressively reached dinner table conversations across America, something that many thought would never occur, the taboo topic of homosexuality remains to be a sticky one.  Shilts, never one to shy away from controversy and forever an investigative journalist, attacked the ripe issue of gays in the military head on.  This book points out the most obvious issue at hand, being that the military represents the most vigorous regiment our country offers, it is the opinion of the majority that gay men are incapable of defending their country when they are attracted to men instead of women.  The common stereotype resides in the belief that gay men own feminine emotional characteristics as well as being obsessed with having sex.  Shilts attempts to set the record straight by pointing out the idiocy in such a narrow-minded belief.  His third and final book, Shilts’ contribution to the gay community, the AIDS epidemic and the gay activist awareness project will continue to live on in his books.

Some other resources:

Murphy, Timothy F.  Writing Aids.  New York: Columbia UP, 1993.

Nelson, Emmanuel.  AIDS: The Literary Response.  New York: Twayne, 1992.  (has a chapter on movies)

Pastore, Judith Laurence.  Confronting AIDS through Literature.  Urbana: U of Illinois P.  (has a section on films)

Video Resources

Absolutely Positive.  Dir. Peter Adair. KQED Productions, San Francisco, 1991.

This is collection of personal accounts of individual people living with the AIDS virus.  Peter Adair, tends to make movies dealing directly with his life, whether it is the issue of war, his homosexuality, or in this case discovering that he is infected with the HIV virus.  Being HIV-positive immediately changed his life, and struggling with the reality of the disease he decided to search for others who were feeling the same feelings and would be willing to share their stories with him.  Being willing to share their stories in front of the camera was the biggest feat, and 11 men and women, straight and gay, chose to do and did so with strength, poise, and honesty.  As one man put it, “It’s my right to be less than perfect.  It’s my right to be HIV- positive.”  Adair, after having interviewed over 120 individuals, chose to narrow his focus to 11 individuals coping with the reality of being infected -- investigating their feelings, thoughts, and how learning they have the virus has changed their lives.  The focus of this documentary is that people can live with AIDS and not necessarily look debilitated and decrepit.  A striking movie with a true open approach, the viewers are allowed into these 11 people’s personal lives, thoughts and feelings -- a rare and valuable experience.

Living Proof: HIV and the Pursuit of Happiness.  Dir. Kermit Cole.  Cinemax, 1993.

A flyer was put up around New York City asking anyone infected with the HIV virus and willing to change the face of AIDS to come and do a photo shoot in a certain gallery.  What started as a photo shoot turned into a documentary on Cinemax and was a successful and emotional one at that. Dealing directly with the misconception that the media has portrayed AIDS patients as pale, white males, lying helpless and covered with lesions in a hospital bed, this video fights against such stereotypes.  The women, men, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who were all depicted in this video all had a face and had a story.  A story that was close to their personal being, an experience that in a single moment changed their lives forever.  Determined not to die of the disease, adamant about not letting the disease take control over them, these people have been active in staking a personal and well-deserved claim in their own lives.  While the media is constantly promising that AIDS has not yet touched the “general population,” such a concern should be disregarded.  It is not only absurd and ludicrous, it discriminates against those who do have the disease, who by no means asked to be stricken with it.  The point of this documentary is to portray those who are concentrated on living positively, facing the reality of the seriousness of their disease but also how they can help others who will eventually be diagnosed with HIV and AIDS.  This is a phenomenal and poignant documentary, about real people living with a real disease.

Parting Glances.  Dir. Bill Sherwood.  Cinecom International Pictures and Rondo Productions, 1986.

An artistic and out-of-main-stream movie, this 90-minute movie depicts the relationship between two gay men in midst of the 80’s.  This film investigates how the couple iving in New York City and part of a monogamous relationship for six years deals with the AIDS virus.  While one lover is being transferred to South Africa, the other is left at home to deal with the progressive death of his former lover, infected with AIDS.  The two men must face the physical separation as well as understand the effects such a debilitating virus has on the body, mind, and spirit.  This is a movie with a lot of drug use shown, since it is shot in a time when sex, drugs, and rock & roll were the way of life.  The relationship between the two lovers is concentrated on as well as the gay scene in New York City. The relationship between the one man and his infected former lover is also a concentration as he struggles with the reality of losing a friend and lover to a disease that few understand.  This movie is a unique depiction of the gay community and the intensity of feelings between two lovers, especially when a deadly disease is involved.

Philadelphia. Dir. Jonathan Demme. Tristar Pictures, 1994.

A mainstream and popular movie, Philadelphia is a story of a high-profile lawyer getting fired for undisclosed reasons yet he believes his company to be discriminating against him for suffering from AIDS.  Though he has kept his sexual orientation and his illness a secret, when the firm finds out it constitutes a plan to make him look incompetent and unproductive.  This movie deals with the high emotions that AIDS victims faced in the mid 90’s as well as dealing with the stereotypes and prejudices that many patients had to face.  Containing a star-studded cast and produced by a high-priced Hollywood company, this movie, while shocking viewers, helped bring AIDS into the spotlight.  Starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, this movie deals with discrimination of gays, of AIDS patients, and helps straighten out misunderstood facts about how the disease can be transmitted.  This movie is a mus- see for anyone and everyone wanting or needing to understand the dramatic and emotional aspects of AIDS.  Like And the Band Played On this movie helps put faces and stories to a disease that so many had wanted to ignore.

Video Against AIDS.  Vol 1-3.  Curated by John Greyson and Bill Horrigan.  The Video Data Bank with V Tape/Canada, 1988.

A collection of documentaries on the AIDS epidemic, taking social, political, and individual interpretive approaches, these three videos offer an alternative view of the counter-culture involving AIDS victims at this time.  The first video split into PWA Power, Discrimination, and AIDS and Women divisions, is an in-depth investigation of the impact the AIDS virus has had on minorities. This division also concentrates on the fact that by simply having the disease, one is automatically considered to be a minority and treated as such.  The second video is subdivided into Resistance, Mourning, and Community Education, taking an approach geared towards coping with the disease and then reclaiming control and becoming an activist.  The AIDS epidemic has not only claimed the lives of those who have died from the disease but the lives of friends and relatives of those who have died have also been forever altered.  Unable to view the disease and every aspect involving the epidemic in the same light, this video is dedicated to personal affiliation and eventual understanding with the disease.  The third and final video is broken down into Loss, Analysis, and Activism, another approach to helping those involved with the disease in any shape or form deal with it correctly, if there is even such a thing. This collection of informative and educational videos is an ideal teaching tool for students just being introduced to AIDS awareness.

Voices From the Front.  Dir. Robyn Hutt, David Meieran and Sandra Elgear. Cinemax/Vanguard Cinema, 1991.

This video opens with gay activist Max Nevar saying: “I am not an AIDS victim.  I am not an AIDS sufferer.  I am not an AIDS case.  I am not an AIDS patient.  I am a person living with AIDS.”   This moving beginning is indicative of the moving video that is to continue.  Focusing on certain vocal spirits, this video guides its viewers through the switch that occurred when people finally began taking an active roll in their illness rather than a passive one.  Instead of accepting being HIV-positive as an immediate death sentence people began to see it as a challenge, and many took that challenge straight on without shying away.  National polls in December ’85 stated public opinion to be that 50% of Americans wanted AIDS patients to be quarantined, 48% thought they should carry special identification, while 15% thought those who were ill should be tattooed.  With statistics reading such negative beliefs and opinions, the odds that gay and straight men and women were faced with were not in their favor at all.  Refusing to give up, activists fought the stigma that as long as AIDS patients were dying in a hospital bed, they were accepted, but the minute that they chose to live and fight the disease, they were immediately subjected to ridicule and discrimination.  This remarkable video is a personal touch to a personal disease and an excellent educational tool for all audiences.

Online Resources

See Dawson above.

“Access Excellence: Let’s Collaborate: Dr. Donald P. Francis Talks to Teachers About The Ebola Outbreak.”
http://www.accessexcellence.org/TSN/SS/francis_bio.html

When researching the movie And the Band Played On, I was particularly interested in finding out where some of the real doctors were today.  Dr. Don Francis, I have found out, is currently at a company called Genetech, Inc., a biotechnology company “using human genetic information to research, develop, manufacture, market pharmaceuticals that address medical challenges and needs” (http://www.press.biotechconference.com/secure/biotechconference/gene.html).  This particular essay is an interview done between him and a web site called Access Excellence, wanting to discuss his work on the Ebola Virus especially.  It is interesting to read the questions and hear how he answers them, wanting to draw any similarities between the character we as viewers became familiar with in the movie And the Band Played On.  He mentions briefly his involvement with the AIDS virus and research but does not put in any mention of his specific role during those days; from his tone in his words, it seems like it is a memory that was not pleasant.  Not that anything involving AIDS during the 80’s was pleasant by any means.

Brink, Anthony.  “The Pope of AIDS.”  Jan 1999
http://www.virusmyth.com/aids/data/abpope.htm

Unlike any other article, Brink takes a somewhat violent and heated approach to the issue of AIDS and the stuffy doctors involved in fighting this disease.  Although published in 1999, this article has the opinionated passion that can be compared to articles published in the early 80’s during the brink of this epidemic.  He focuses on the influence and pompous involvement of Dr. Robert Gallo during the outbreak of the AIDS virus.  Brink condemns Gallo for too quickly announcing that he and he alone had discovered the AIDS virus that was mysteriously wiping out the gay community in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles.  Quite clearly not a fan of Gallo, this article gives the run- down of the court case involving Gallo and Dr. Luc Montagnier of the Pasteur Institute in France. Montagnier insists that Gallo blatantly stole the credit and the recognition that rightly belonged to Montagnier and his staff of doctors for discovering the AIDS virus.  While there are some articles that are less one-sided, this is an article that gives justice to the point of view taken in the movie And the Band Played On.  The movie does not hide behind the facts and is obvious in its evil depiction of Dr. Gallo; this article supports the movie’s approach and opinion.

The soc.motss Gay-Centered Domestic Film List
http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/andrew.cmu.edu/usr/out/public/Filmlist
 
 

Copyright (c) 1999 by Victoria Douglass Hatch, Undergraduate at Lehigh University.

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