Last night my roommate Megan and I sat down for my first viewing of the epic cinematic adventure that is Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights.” I fell in love with this movie, in case you were still wondering.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, it is a story about people who work in the adult film industry in the 1970’s. Even for those who don’t wish to watch a movie of that particular subject matter, no one can deny that this is, at least, a fantastic period piece worth watching.
Mr. Anderson, who wrote and directed the film, does a dazzling job of representing the sexual revolution as such an important time in history. He shows the wide sexual attitudes that our society once possessed and also touches upon the gay community in the Seventies and the sudden emergence of men and women living open lives as members of the LGBT community.
During the movie I had a train of thought that made me press pause. I realized that these characters were the people who would eventually grow into their Thirties and Forties in the Eighties and Nineties.
It reminded me of every time anyone in the gay community, who lived through that era, talks about experiencing friends and lovers "dropping like flies" around them during the AIDS epidemic.
These people, who are living in an era of such unquestioned sexual promiscuity and drug use will, without warning, fear death and change their lifestyle immediately in order to survive. These are also people who would eventually grow angrier and angrier, questioningRonald Reagan, who ignored the virus for seven years.
The whole very idea of living through a shock resulting in an abrupt cultural u-turn has to be devastating. All the while, attending funerals three or four times a month for friends who had died of a “gay disease” that had taken over cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City.
When I pictured San Francisco in the 80’s, I immediately thought of Cleve Jones. I think this cultural attitude change may be one of the reasons why Cleve Jones began his activism for HIV/AIDS research. He lived the dramatic cultural change in San Francisco, just two years after Harvey died.
Many believe that Harvey Milk could have gone on to be a large political influence on HIV/AIDS Research and Awareness. The truth is that after assisting on Harvey’s campaigns for four years, Cleve went on to do just that himself. He continued Harvey’s legacy of leading the LGBT civil rights fight in San Francisco, but instead of working alongside Harvey, working towards fighting AIDS.