March 3, 2009

"Milk"

An excerpt from my review in The American Conservative of the Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay winning film "Milk:"
“Milk” is a repetitious biopic about the 1970s political career of the self-proclaimed “Mayor of Castro Street,” following Harvey Milk as he grinds through five election campaigns on his way to becoming “America’s first openly gay elected official.” Director Gus Van Sant (best remembered for 1989’s “Drugstore Cowboy”) manages to make even San Francisco look unattractive in his haste to get back to the gerrymandering at Milk’s camera shop.

By the way, what kind of camera store is used as a political clubhouse? Camera shops are normally the worst meeting halls imaginable because they’re crammed with fragile and expensive merchandise. Yet, Milk’s “Castro Camera” is depicted as a shell with little inventory other than orange Kodak film boxes. (My guess: it was mostly a drop-off for amateur photographers who wanted their gay porn pictures developed discreetly -- an easy little business that left Milk with plenty of time on his hands for politics.)

A great tragic story could be made about how Milk’s gay liberation movement unleashed its own nemesis. Within two decades of Milk’s arrival, gay rights had transformed Castro Street into the plague spot of the Western world, with AIDS killing its 10,000th San Franciscan in 1993.

Mentioning a little thing like how industrial scale promiscuity set off the worst American health catastrophe of the last generation wouldn’t be On Message, however, and “Milk” sticks to its political talking points with the same tenacity as its namesake did. ...

Most strikingly, if “Milk’s” screenplay weren’t so relentlessly hagiographic, Sean Penn would be on the hot seat over his stereotypical caricaturizing of a homosexual. Penn’s performance is so flamingly effeminate that you have to wonder whether he got Harvey Milk of Castro Street confused with Harvey Fierstein of Broadway.

During television appearances, Milk came across as a calm, moderately masculine presence, with only slight gay mannerisms. In contrast, Penn’s flamboyant act sets your gaydar clanging like the meltdown siren at a nuclear power plant. That’s important, because Penn’s decision to play Milk as utterly unable to pass for straight robs Milk’s story of much of its interest. The real man, who had served without incident as a Naval officer, chose to come out of the closet.

Here's a clip of the real Harvey Milk from the 1984 documentary "The Times of Harvey Milk." This scene is reproduced word for word by Sean Penn in his Oscar-winning role. If you've seen "Milk," you'll note how much Penn gayed it up compared to the original. The documentary shows that Milk had a bit of the "hissy S" sound that is found more often in male homosexuals than in the general public, but Al Gore, who has a passel of kids, has it worse, so you might not guess. Sean Penn, in contrast, plays Milk somewhere between Paul Lynde and Liberace.
Perhaps Milk was as histrionic in private as Penn portrays him as being in public. I don’t know. If so, shouldn’t there be some mention in the script that his public persona was a facade? Watching Milk wrestle with his conscience over whether to drop his on-camera butch act might at least have provided the film with some hint of self-conflict.

47 comments:

Bill said...

You can hear a bit of the lisp in Milk's voice. Not much, but it's there.

My friend John died of AIDS back in early '95, just before the new drugs came out. He was also a navy guy, and you couldn't tell he was a queen at all if he didn't show it. He could hide his Alabama accent as well as he hid his homosexuality. What a shock that was for me as a boy to see such a burly, healthy guy die so quickly from a flu.

It's curious to me that the Castro is shown only as a gay neighborhood, because that's where my Irish grandpa lived during the Depression. Lots of Irish neighborhoods - including Capitol Hill in Seattle, where I grew up - became gay in the 70s/80s. I wonder why.

Whatever the case, I've done my part to try and explain where homosexuality comes from. I'm pretty much convinced that it's a result of plural pregnancy and is a condition unique to the environment of the human womb.

BTW, sheep have a lot in common with humans when it comes to embryology.

Steve Sailer said...

Bill,

Can you post your chimera theory here in the comments so I can put it up on the blog so people can think about it?

Steve

American Goy said...

Hey Steve-o.

My blogspam - just google americangoy.

OK, now, Milk.

I have to see this movie.
What, with me being a commie homo loving bastard :-)

Bill, sorry about friend - most gay guys are not the faaaaaaaabulous stereotype, but normal guys living normal lives, and until they tell you there is no way to tell.

Mark said...

Mentioning a little thing like how industrial scale promiscuity set off the worst American health catastrophe of the last generation wouldn’t be On Message, however...

Yeah, wouldn't want to bring up Milk's friend Jim Jones, either, and the fact that he was actually a radical leftist rather than a right-wing religious nut.

Blode0322 said...

Oh dear. Jonathan Kim repeats the usual credulity regarding the hideous Twinkie Defense urban legend. Fact: Dan White's lawyers never claimed he Twinkies in specific or sugar in general caused his diminished capacity. They merely said that the same depression that caused him to abandon his health conscious lifestyle (yes, people knew Twinkies are bad for you even before the "food pyramid") also caused him to mix up right and wrong when killed his fellow politicians.

So ... don't let people get away with repeating the Twinkie UL. It's very silly. "Diminished capacity" has been used by tons of people to slither into less severe crime categories ... accept it or alter the way we look at mental illness.

Per Mark's last comment, I'd think it would be cool if they had dropped in something about Jim Jones. I seem to recall something about Milk telling his supporters "those People's Temple people are weird - be careful!" or something like that, which would have been a good throwaway line for the movie.

Steve Sailer said...

Well, I brought up Jim Jones in my review:

"Left out is almost everything that could add context and flavor, such as Milk’s alliance with Jim Jones’s Maoist Peoples Temple cult. Just ten days before Milk and Mayor George Moscone were murdered by working class politician Dan White, 907 ex-San Franciscans drank the Kool-Aid in Jonestown."

Mark said...

So that's where I heard about the Jim Jones connection...

Do you think if W had been friends with Jones that Oliver Stone might've mentioned it?

Nah.

Nate Underland said...

"It's curious to me that the Castro is shown only as a gay neighborhood, because that's where my Irish grandpa lived during the Depression. Lots of Irish neighborhoods - including Capitol Hill in Seattle, where I grew up - became gay in the 70s/80s. I wonder why."

2 reasons why:

1. Irishmen will do anything for a pint of Guinness or a shot of whiskey.

2. Drunk Irishmen will do anything after pints of Guinness and shots of whiskey.

Bill said...

Steve Sailer said...

Bill,

Can you post your chimera theory here in the comments so I can put it up on the blog so people can think about it?

Steve


Sure, thanks for asking. I haven't done enough to straighten out the details due to personal issues, but I've been in touch with behavioral geneticist Charles Boklage of East Carolina University, and he assures me that I'm "not crazy."

I've been wanting to tie Richard Burton's "Sotadic Zone" idea into it, and have written some about that, but it's a big job and I'm not ready to put it out there yet. Nevertheless, there are some fascinating connections between certain populations and rates of homosexuality that, if you happen to be interested in these things, are very compelling.

Anyway, here's the link:

http://www.welmer.org/2008/07/14/the-chimera-hypothesis-homosexuality-and-plural-pregnancy/

I have no problem with open sourcing this, so full text use is fine as long as I get some recognition for my effort.

Anonymous said...

Steve:
"The real man, who had served without incident as a Naval officer..."

No comment.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Steve:
"The real man, who had served without incident as a Naval officer..."

No comment.


Heh. I did a 5-year stint in the navy and recall quite a few guys, officer and enlisted, whom we all knew were gay. None of them were discharged for it. You'd really have to piss someone off big time for it to be an "incident". (The only incident I remember of an officer having charges of homosexuality brought against him was a lieutenant who masturbated in front of an obviously hetersexual enlisted man in the gym shower and then persistently hounded him for a "date". The homosexual officer was from another ship, so I never heard the outcome of the investigation.)

Jill said...

Yeah, only in California. They've also produced America's first openly Jewish politician, Ed Jew, and he's Chinese!

Acilius said...

I don't agree with you about Sean Penn's voice. I agree that in the scenes where the Harvey Milk character is in a private setting his voice is stereotypically nancy-boyish, but in the public scenes, especially the first debate about Proposition 6, the same voice is commanding and assured; indeed, masculine.

Anonymous said...

I liked this movie better the first time I saw in in 1951 when it was called "Charlotte Whitton".

Fucking Hollywood thinks San Fran invented teh ghey in 1967. My people in Ottawa were electing dykes - socially conservative dykes - to office fifty years before California was rejecting gay marriage.

Fast forward 50 years:

A very popular gay councilor ran for office this past election. He lost to a bald white evil looking multimillionaire dude, despite the media giving the gay candidate near-Obama levels of nuthuggery.

Basically what happened is that the gays have been co-opted, and that identity politics have so fragmented the electorate that "gay" is now synonymous with "tax hikes, sensitivity training classes, and mandatory recycling", making gays unelectable so long as they are "professionally" gay.

For contrast, a gay Conservative MP won re-election in Ottawa in a riding with many seniors and military. Why? He's not closeted per se, he disclosed on community TV that he was gay, once, and got on with the business of serving the people. The seniors and military folks who support him care less that he is gay than that he is effective, pro-military, and pro-senior.

So, gays, this is what the gay lobby has wrought: gays - professional gays who make their gheyness a large part of their politics - are unelectable because the populace rightly identifies professionally gay politicians with tax hikes and PC. I fear you haven't come a long way, boys.

MQ said...

A great tragic story could be made about how Milk’s gay liberation movement unleashed its own nemesis.

It has been -- it's called "And The Band Played On". Great movie.

Anonymous said...

Okay I'll bite: Women and seamen don't mix!

greenrivervalleyman said...

Steve,

I know this seems like apropos of nothing, but I've been meaning to share a neat little factoid and thought the top of a movie review thread would be the best place.

In your review of "Rachel Getting Married" you write:

The highlight of the ceremony is the groom singing his bride a Neil Young ballad. White liberals critics have gone nuts over "Rachel" because the interracial marriage reminds them of a certain black Hawaiian's promise that promoting "mutual understanding" is "in my DNA." I fear, though, that even electing Obama President won't get many black guys to understand the appeal of whiny Canadian folk rockers from the Sixties.


Actually, Rick James, who during 1978-1981 was the semi-official arbiter of all things authentically black and funky in America, began his musical career in a group called the Mynah Bird which included in its original lineup, yes, Neil Young!

Mark Wethman said...

So I'm gay because I cannibalized my fetal, female twin? Dear God...

Don't blacks have higher rates of twinning than whites? If so, this might help explain the higher rates of homosexual attraction among blacks than whites, which Inductivist was posting about recently.

Blode0322 said...

nuthuggery

Brilliant portmanteau. Nut huggery? Or nu thuggery?

Concerned said...

"most gay guys are not the faaaaaaaabulous stereotype, but normal guys living normal lives, and until they tell you there is no way to tell."

American goy: How did you come up with this conclusion?

Fast forward 50 more years: ICELAND!!

Grizzlie Antagonist said...

I once heard that the definition of an Irish homosexual is a man who prefers women to liquor.

Svigor said...

So I'm gay because I cannibalized my fetal, female twin? Dear God...

Is that his hypothesis? (his page is stuck in not-loading limbo for me)

Yeah, can't imagine that going over too well with professional homosexuals.

albertosaurus said...

Crime and Property

I lived a couple blocks away from the Castro just as it transformed into a gay haven. In San Francisco neighborhoods have sharp boundaries caused by steep hills. The Castro theater was only three blocks away from my house near Roosevelt Park but we never walked there because it was at least 500 feet lower. So our neighborhood remained heterosexual.

I had moved back to SF from Washington DC where we lived at Dupont Circle - an interesting neighborhood but adjacent to a black ghetto. I worried a lot about street crime there.

San Francisco seemed much safer with its gay minority compared to Washington's balck minority (majority?). I didn't worry about my wife being raped in SF. Furthermore the gay couples were very effective at home repair and decorating. They were good for property values.

The Castro is only a mile or so from the Haight/Ashbury. I had lived in the Haight during the Summer of Love. The Haight had been a just another tired middle class neighborhood in decline - just as the Castro was. But the hippy immigrants made the Haight properties decline faster - much faster. The gays in contrast spruced up the Castro.

An anecdote - I talked to a landlord who really hated hippies. He had rented a unit to some flower children who had never taken out the trash. They just put it all in one of the bedrooms. It eventually was filled floor to ceiling. They had also built a camp fire on the living room floor - no flagstones, right on the wooden floor. It burned through to the unit below of course.

The Castro neighborhood in contrast went from being right on the cusp of becoming a slum to being a charming gentrified area where every building seeemed to have been freshly painted.

Years later we considered buying a house in the Castro, but by then it was ground zero for the plague. We weren't worried about ourselves but didn't care to live amidst all that death.

Anonymous said...

"Brilliant portmanteau. Nut huggery? Or nu thuggery?"

Heh, I thought is was brilliant too the first time I heard it, it's big in the MMA community. We use "thughugger" for overly exuberant fans of black thugs such as Rampage Jackson.

Anonymous said...

"Actually, Rick James, who during 1978-1981 was the semi-official arbiter of all things authentically black and funky in America, began his musical career in a group called the Mynah Bird which included in its original lineup, yes, Neil Young!"

And Bruce Cockburn, as gay and left wing as they get. Neil Young asked for, and received, a golf club membership when he signed with Motown - way to keep it real, Neiler.

albertosaurus said...

The Twinkie Defense

This should be an episode on Mythbusters - the great Bay Area reality TV show. Of course it isn't really true but I understand its origins.

There had been a famous case a few years prior to the Dan White murders where a woman had an accident on a cable car. Women had never been allowed to ride on the outside of the cable cars because it was felt that they didn't have the upper body strength to hold onto the the handles as the cars rounded curves and climded hills.

As a young man I delighted in chasing the cable cars up and down the hills and jumping onto the ouside step while it was travelling at full speed (not really very fast). Women were required to ride inside and mount the car when it was fully stopped.

This sexual discrimination of course could not stand. Women were declared free to ride outside and cling to handles too.

Shortly after this breakthrough for feminism a woman did indeed not have enough arm strenth to hold on. She flew off and sued the City for her injuries.

It was a famous case in the papers because she sued because she claimed that before she fell off the cable car she had been a modest and chaste woman. But afterwards she became a nymphomaniac! Her lawyer claimed that she slammed into a telephone pole (a phallic symbol) and that trauma made her forever lustfull for the male member. I'm not making this up.

Ths SF Chronicle thereafter routinely ran stories on outrageous and preposterous legal claims. It came to pass that SF citizens would believe that almost any nonsense could be presented in court of law as a defense - even that Twinkies could drive you into a murderous rage.

Bill said...


3/04/2009
Blogger Mark Wethman said...

So I'm gay because I cannibalized my fetal, female twin? Dear God...


Could be. One thing that contributed to the idea was something my aforementioned friend John told me. He said he felt that he had "two souls," one female and one male. Maybe a vanished sister lived on in him. Strange concept, but the more you learn about our makeup the stranger things tend to get.

However, Boklage suggests that altered lateralization in twin embryogenesis could be a contributing factor as well. Time and research will eventually tell.

Don't blacks have higher rates of twinning than whites? If so, this might help explain the higher rates of homosexual attraction among blacks than whites, which Inductivist was posting about recently.

If I remember correctly, blacks and whites have some important differences in twin embryogenesis, and blacks have far less of an androphilic birth ratio.

Mark Wethman said...

Svigor,

Pretty much yeah. Interesting stuff, especially the part about children who shared the womb with "vanished twins" being at a higher risk of gender identity disorder, which a lot of gay boys suffer from (though the majority of us tend to grow out of it). Kind of disconcerting, though.

Ronduck said...

A great tragic story could be made about how Milk’s gay liberation movement unleashed its own nemesis. Within two decades of Milk’s arrival, gay rights had transformed Castro Street into the plague spot of the Western world, with AIDS killing its 10,000th San Franciscan in 1993.

According to this website the US is "country Zero" for the AIDS epidemic in the First World. Essentially the AIDS plague here is self sustaining and drives the epidemic in Europe. Here is a nice quote from the site:

The cumulative AIDS cases statistic in the U.S. considerably exceeds that in all First-World countries combined and this has nothing to do with Europe lagging behind. The correlation coefficient of new AIDS cases in the United States with that in each of France, Denmark, Canada, Netherlands, Australia, and the U.K. is 0.96, i.e., variation in the number of AIDS cases in the U.S. explains 92% of the variance in the number of AIDS cases in the other First-World countries considered. An analysis of the situation reveals that the epidemic in the U.S. stands alone, but drives the epidemic in other First-World countries.

Chuck said...

I had heard that Sean Penn's rendition of Harvey Milk was so lifelike that those who knew Milk had to leave the set at times.

I had also heard that van Sant took Oliver Stone-esqe artistic license by hinting that Dan White had homosexual thoughts or tendencies. As a person watching the movie w/ no prior knowledge about Milk or his life, I thought that White's latent homosexuality was part of the reason for his assassination of Milk.

Also, the portrayal of Milk as only caring about the gay agenda and all the glory of that wore a little thin with me. His battle cry was that gays are people too and should enjoy the same rights as everyone else, but when it came time to focus on the rights of others in his district besides homosexuals, Penn wasn't willing to compromise.

The movie was overrated as was Sean Penn's performance.

Jazzscribe said...

Chuck, what movie did you see? "Milk" clearly portrays Harvey Mik's success as a coalition building politician, for instance, winning over the union vote by backing the boycott of Coors.

And Sailer's take on Penn's portrayal is similarly off key. Everyone shifts voice inflection, body language, etc depending on the social situation (like if you're talking in a group with all men or all women or all children, or in a church or a bar). If you don't, you're probably suffering from some sort of autism. For some reason, Sailer seems to find this notion threatening, as if Milk couldn't be manly if he camped it up with friends.

albertosaurus said...

The Chimera Theory

There was an episode on the TV show House where the answer to the medical mystery was chimera. However the poor lad wasn't gay, he saw space aliens.

This was one of the few episodes where I reached a correct diagnosis before House or his team could. The kid had different DNA in different cell clusters. If any of this is true (not just TV medicine) then we could test the chimera theory by simply taking multiple DNA samples from any gay guy on the street. No?

In that regard I wrote Greg Cochran about his sheep disease theory yesterday. Sheep were domesticated long after the Australians and the Siberians moved into Austraia and the Americas respectively. So if homosexuality crossed over the species barrier from sheep to humans you might expect that the Aborigines and the American Indians to be gay free when the white man came in the fidteenth century. I don't think this was so.

ironrailsironweights said...

Her lawyer claimed that she slammed into a telephone pole (a phallic symbol) and that trauma made her forever lustfull for the male member.

If she'd fallen into a big hole in the ground, would that have made her a lesbian?

Peter

michael farris said...

"So I'm gay because I cannibalized my fetal, female twin? Dear God... "

For what it's worth:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-Spirit

Two-Spirits (I've also seen the term twin-spirit) probably wouldn't be described as gay in the modern sense, maybe closer to transgendered though basically it seems like its own social institution.

anony-mouse said...

So much interest in homosexuality on a blog concerned about the current and future demographics of America.

Mexicans coming to America and having lots of kids would make America more crowded but it wouldn't necessarily change total ethnic percentages.

But other things might.

Anonymous said...

The origins of homosexuality are always good for upsetting liberals (hello anony-mous!).

If, as pretty much everyone agrees, being gay is just the way you are born for whatever reason, well that's acknowledging a brand of hbd. But those on the left like to talk about being gay as a lifestyle choice. Cue the logic mangling...

Anonymous said...

An analysis of the situation reveals that the epidemic in the U.S. stands alone, but drives the epidemic in other First-World countries.

The US also marks, more than any other country, the place where whites and blacks meet. Wonder if there's a connection?

Mr. Anon said...

"Sean Penn, in contrast, plays Milk somewhere between Paul Lynde and Liberace."

You mean Paul Lynde was gay? Jesus, I never realized.

ben tillman said...

Mexicans coming to America and having lots of kids would make America more crowded but it wouldn't necessarily change total ethnic percentages.

Huh?

PRCalDude said...

Sounds like Penn went full homo for this roll.

Anonymous said...

anony-mouse said...Mexicans coming to America and having lots of kids would make America more crowded but it wouldn't necessarily change total ethnic percentages.

ben tillman said...
Huh?


He's saying that if all you white guys would stop being so gay and start cranking out lots of white kids, you'll still outnumber the Mexican-Americans generations from now.

I think.

anony-mouse said...

You think right.

Anonymous said...

Steve - the ubiquitous Kodak boxes in Milk's camera shop may have more to do with product placement advertising than with historical accuracy.

Svigor said...

Svigor,

Pretty much yeah. Interesting stuff


Yeah I read it shortly after asking. Chimerism is fascinating, even if it doesn't explain homosexuality.

Svigor said...

He's saying that if all you white guys would stop being so gay and start cranking out lots of white kids, you'll still outnumber the Mexican-Americans generations from now.

If we sent mestizos packing, we'd outnumber them in our own home (gasp!) and have elbow room, too.

Liberals supposedly love elbow room.

The Sierra Club did too, til someone bought them off.

Anonymous said...

If we sent mestizos packing, we'd outnumber them in our own home (gasp!) and have elbow room, too.

Well, apparently Anony-mouse believes that the Mexicanization of the US Southwest is fitting punishment for white guys being gay. A sort of cutting-off-nose-to-spite-face thing.

I think.

ben tillman said...

Well, apparently Anony-mouse believes that the Mexicanization of the US Southwest is fitting punishment for white guys being gay.

Not that there's anything wrong with that -- right, Anony-Mouse?