Monday, 10 November 2008

Harvey Milk, Sean Penn, politics and good practice

This blog has an unalloyed positive view of the life and works of Sean Justin Penn, based on wisdom dearly bought. So there’s not much point in my discussing the quality of performance, say, in Gus Van Sant’s new bio-pic of the slain San Francisco gay activist/politician Harvey Milk, which I saw last week, and in which SJP plays the lead. I would say, though, that you learn a lot about Harvey Milk and about San Francisco, and Milk is also very interesting about politics in general, and the issue of what political power could do for homosexuals in particular.
Milk was a true grassroots pol: he helped make the Castro ‘the Castro’, and made the pink pound work for the gay community there and not for anti-gay business. He was militant about the issue of being unabashedly ‘out’. Once Milk had consolidated San Francisco’s gay vote and got himself elected supervisor, the city mayor Moscone really needed him, and he could then make things happen. But he also positioned the gay movement as part of a broader progressive cause.
He was nice to lesbians. He was a passionate but unfussy and inclusive speaker. He had a good eye for a public interest photo-op, evinced by an unlikely campaign against dogs fouling pavements (which would get him elected in London too). And he got the Teamsters behind him – this stunned me, actually – by aiding a boycott of the non-union Coors beer company, and persuaded Coors to hire gay truckers in return. This is what you might call audaciously hopeful stuff. So you can see the usefulness of this movie getting itself released this month…

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