AFTER WATCHING PHILADELPHIA

I love this movie.

‘Phildelphia (1993)’, for those unacquainted with this masterpiece, is loosely based on a true story of a lawyer (in the movie, Andrew Beckett), fired, in spite of his ability to serve his clients with excellence by his employer, Wyatt & Wheeler (I believe this is the name of the fictional law firm, but my memory’s foggy) on the grounds of him being a homosexual and more prominently, having contracted the deadly HIV virus. What’s important to note here is not that Beckett was fired for the sake of the safety of the firm’s employers and employees, but rather because of the hatred and false stereotypes planted on people with HIV, mainly based on what they consider to be reprehensible acts perpetrated by these individuals, such as homosexuality, drug use, ‘obscenity’…. (etc.)

A scene from the actual movie ‘Philadelphia’: “It was found to be limestone: messy… but innocuous.”

This irrational fear of AIDS (maybe not entirely irrational, but still in my honest opinion way too overblown in the mainstream media (MSM) of the day) lead to AIDS being dubbed by the press as a ‘gay disease’, further justifying discrimination towards the LGBT community in the 90s. ‘Phildelphia’ has valiantly sought to dispel any form of malignant stereotypes towards the LGBT community and managed to raise public consciousness about the AIDS disease. This will in my mind forever remain the greatest social justice / law movie of all time, (feel free to recommend some even better ones if you know any), and I always fail to keep myself together when Beckett finally succumbs to the disease and speaks to his boyfriend, Miguel, softly but surely: “I’m ready.” Even if the movie isn’t to your liking, I believe it should still be respected for what it aimed to achieve: being the first mainstream Hollywood movie to publicly acknowledge and bring consciousness to the public about homosexuality, HIV/AIDS and homophobia. It is a true classic. A masterpiece.

But still, it makes me sad.

Turn the clock forward.

Today is the 17th of June, the year of 2017, 1:07 am. Through works available in the market today: books like ‘Infidel (Ayaan Hirsi Ali, 2006)’, ‘Human Acts (Han Kang, 2017)’, and drama films such as Philadelphia (I don’t watch too many movies to list more than two, unfortunately), I always try imagining how like used to be like before the turn of the new millenium. Every time, after the long reading / viewing session, I always come to the conclusion, that

“the 20th century is was a messy era – filled with political conflicts, social unrest, and too much bloodshed.”

But we’re past that era of chaos. We’re in 2017. People today have more opportunities for success. More opportunities for a great education. Life should be much better.

1980 Gwangju Uprising, Gwangju, South Korea (광주 5-18 민주화운동)

I sure wish I could say it really was. It generally is. Of course. But in good societies, people don’t murder politicians during a friendly baseball game. People don’t blow up innocent civilians just on the basis of religion. Universities don’t make useless ‘safe spaces’, which only deviated from its original purpose and good intent to become a cruel means of stifling free discussion.

It’s just too unfortunate, because I would have truly hoped that after everything that our predecessors have fought for in the past 100 years (women’s rights/suffrage, equal rights for the LGBT community, restoration of democracy & evisceration of tyranny, resisting wars, advocating peace, fighting imperalism, etc.), the citizens of the 21st century would overcome one another’s differences and candidly unite, to join forces, to become one for all and all for one, to maintain peace and order, and cooperate for an overall better world for everyone, especially after two World Wars.

But we are even more mired up in our divided trenches, these what I would call ‘identity politics’.1 Reducing a person into the over-simplistic labels of race, gender & social class is to disregard the individuals personal traits, qualities, personality and skill. And the way our social media have set up their algorithms (Facebook), by creating superficial political echo chambers, they have only contributed to the increased polarisation of our society. Instead of giving their readers & viewers a much wider perspective of the current state of affairs, the MSM has only been instrumental to deepening the chasm that divides us.

“But we are even more mired up in our divided trenches, these what I would call ‘identity politics’.”

And this is what makes me sad: despite taking strides in social progress in the past decades, we still have failed to transcend the ‘arbitrary trademarks’ that had been exploited by all sorts of evil tyrants to marginalise people for whom they deemed as ‘inferior.’ But why? Why do that? Why do we still insist on dividing ourselves? I wish we could stop playing identity politics and once and for all truly unite.

Because in the end, we are all just trying to survive in the same world.

Jun 17th, 2017 - Jinseob Sohn, The Blue Point

  1. Also, read Fareed Zakaria’s piece on the Washing Post about the American society’s increasing polarization. ↩︎
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One thought on “AFTER WATCHING PHILADELPHIA

  1. Another great piece! We must not forget the demise of Freddie Mercury who had to hide his ailment from the society fearing backlash for his family. We have surely come far from that era and those issues. In fact, I would consider the 20th century as the ‘inflection point’. But then again, I sit back and wonder sometimes, where are we really heading? Isolation? Anxiety? Something has happened, the knot has been over tightened and it is about to break. Science and technology will take us far, but we seem to be more concerned with how we talk and even think! We must get over our hypocrisy. I hope we realize this soon before it is too late.

    P.S: Sorry for the rambling. Haven’t written in a long time, so have almost forgot how to properly do so

    Like

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