This is like my first serious piece ever, and the first piece I’m writing for Kito Diaries, and let me be the first to state, I am not a writer by any sense of the word. I usually say, I can tell you better verbally than I can put it down on paper. But that’s by the way.
The other day, I visited a friend and it so happened that there was this gay movie on his laptop titled “The Normal Heart” from 2014. Given that I am what you may refer to as a movie buff, I questioned why I was just hearing of it. Soon however, we began watching the movie together. After 2 hours, 12 minutes and thirty eight seconds – the length of the movie – I was teary-eyed, shaking my head while repeatedly exclaiming OMG!!!
What an eye-opener.
Let me offer a brief breakdown of what The Normal Heart is about, for those who haven’t seen it.
The movie starts off quite NSFW. Tons of gay men with attractive bodies, jockstraps, full frontal nudity, an orgy by the bush, bubble butts by the pool, beautiful beach house in Fire Island circa 1981. I was already sold on it at this point, presuming there would be even more eye candies to come. But no. The story changed almost immediately and the next phase of the movie took me on an emotional albeit learning experience I certainly never imagined.
Lead character, Ned Weeks, played by Mark Ruffalo, visits Fire Island for his friend’s birthday party, when the celebrant abruptly gets this incessant coughing fit that brings him to his knees. His friends all scatter around to his aid, but he assures them he is fine. Later that night, the same friend can’t control his coughs after blowing out his birthday candle.
On a ferry back to from Fire Island, Ned spots a disturbing headline in a newspaper that reads: Rare Cancer Is Diagnosed In 41 Homosexuals. From here on, the movies takes you on a journey of Ned and his other fellow activists’ thwarted struggles to bring to light the emergence of this unknown disease that was slowly but surely killing off gay men in America. Their fight centered majorly on the media and the government, who were vehemently resisting the responsibility to grant them audience/coverage on ways to fund a research to bring about a possible cure, primarily because it was a gay man’s virus and not affected by heterosexuals…yet. Wards, housing those already infected by the virus and who were being treated without hope of making it, were tagged “GRID” (Gay Related Immunodeficiency Disease).
Can you imagine?
Another big proponent figure in the fight alongside Ned is a wheelchair-bound female MD called Dr. Emma Brookner, played by the lovely Julia Roberts, who had first discovered that the cancer was developing only in gay men. She fights with everything she has in her to start up a research by the relevant body. One of the high points for me during the film was when she sent all her research works flying to the ground in fit of frustrated anger while attempting to convince some government officials on the need to make haste for a cure while there was still time, citing that women had been discovered to have it in Africa, meaning it is not exclusive to homosexual men. But the men do not bulge. “…you all are idiots!” she yells as she ends her rant, before wheeling herself out of the auditorium.
Ned’s older brother, a hotshot New York lawyer, would not give his full support to Ned’s cause. We get to learn their relationship has been riddled with tension because of Ned’s sexuality. He finds it sick to comprehend how his brother can love a fellow man, thus always projecting that they were never equal.
Well into the movie, as the disease spreads, with lovers dying together and singly, and infected ones still managing to make it to the nightclub with visible skin rashes and ailing appearances, the government still does not give a hoot.
Ned’s lover, Felix Turner, a writer for the New York Times who was played by the very cute Matt Boner, reveals he is also infected. Luckily he does not infect Ned, who stands by him, literally to the point of cleaning up after him when he poops on the mattress. Felix, in despair, begs God for just one more year. The lovers eventually get married on Felix’s deathbed, a union that is officiated by Dr. Emma and witnessed by Ned’s brother, who at this point wishes he understood long ago what he now knows regarding his brother’s life. It was like watching one of the greatest love stories in a heartbreaking sequence.
It eventually takes the government five years to finally look into this menace and make HIV/AIDS a priority!
In closing, this movie reopened deep wounds I thought I had healed myself from after all this time. One of my best friends passed way from AIDS a few years back and that tragedy changed my outlook on a lot of things gay related, especially with my generation and the seriousness with which we conduct ourselves sexually.
Films like The Normal Heart speak volumes and poignantly educate and remind us of how much fight was put in, just so we can be considered an accepted and respected minority. Heck, over three decades later, that fight is still going on, especially in this part of the word. We may not directly be frontrunners in this battle, but indirectly we all play a role one way or the other by the path with which we continue to navigate our lifestyles. The menace of HIV/AIDS in the LGBT Community cannot be overemphasized. Proactive steps to protect ourselves abound. Condoms continue to be very effective in prevention; they cost little to nothing, and if you say you can’t afford them, you should not be having sex in the first place. And for those who criticize condoms as not being as pleasurable as the real thing, I’d say continue to welcome it with an open anus and a raw dick. The disease has no discrimination when house hunting.
USE A DAMN CONDOM, GODDAMNIT!
For those already infected, a You-Should-Have-Known-Better lecture at this point won’t do any good really. Shit happens. Protect yourselves still. Be judicious with your ARVs. Thank God for that.
For me personally, The Normal Heart left me with a burning desire to want to go out and talk more about these challenges.
Thanks to Larry Kramer (Writer), Ryan Murphy (Director) and HBO (Distributor) for this historically educative and stimulating piece. It’s a must watch, and after you do, spread the Word!
Written by Sucrescalada