Sunday, February 15, 2009

Milk and Anita

I was again told that 'I had to see' another film. This time it was Milk, the story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Unlike my last movie, Gran Torino, I knew this story as well as the ending.

Two films filled with bigotry and a tragic ending. That's about all these two movies had in common. While in the theater for the first film, my wife and I saw two Hmong friends of ours. They were recruited as 'extras' by Clint Eastwood at a soccer field in Highland Park two summers ago.

In Milk, I thought I recognized someone else who played the role of the bigoted Anita Bryant, but then I realized that it was actually she in film clips. Maybe all homophobes look alike. She was oh-so righteous in her bigotry that I thought is was an actress over-playing the role.

I wondered what ever happened to Ms. Bryant after the murder of Milk and Mayor Moscone. Dan White, the murderer who intended to kill two others during his 'mission,' served only 5 years in prison but, upon release, committed suicide after his marriage and family-life fell apart.

Wikipedia details the post-murder history of Anita Bryant. I already knew that she lost her Florida orange Juice contract after there was a boycott of that industry. Yet, I was stunned that she was shunned by 'the church' [fundamentalist] after her divorce in her abusive relationship. Her husband, Bob Green, claimed that God does not abide divorce and that "she is still his wife in God's eyes." Some Christian audiences and venues shunned her after her divorce and she was no longer invited to appear at their events. The love of Jesus!

Later, Bryant said, ""The church needs to wake up and find some way to cope with divorce and women's problems." Wikipedia says, "In the same article, she said that she felt sorry for all of the anti-gay things she had said and done during her campaigns. She said that she had adopted a more "live and let live" attitude."

Live and let live. What a monumental epiphany!

I'm glad I looked up Anita Bryant for this post. Redemption, although not portrayed in Milk, is a major subplot in the real story of Harvey Milk, just as it was in Gran Torino. Bigotry cannot abide.

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