It has taken far longer than many in the Triangle's gay community had hoped, but they say they're glad they can now see a realistic version of themselves in their neighborhood movie theater.
For that, they thank "Philadelphia," the movie starring Tom Hanks as a gay lawyer fired for having AIDS, and Denzel Washington as the attorney who takes the case against Hanks' bosses. The film, says Lucy Harris of the Durham-based Lesbian and Gay Health Project, is wonderful.
"Everyone needs to see this movie," says Harris. "It shows real life -- real, live gay folks living with AIDS and with everything that means, not with a lot of glamour or trying to be gross, but in a way that celebrates our reality."
Chapel Hill's Mark Donahue rates the film high for its realistic portrayal of how AIDS can ravage not only a person's body, but his mind as well. "A lot of these scenes show people as they really are, and how they change over time," he says.
Former Chapel Hill Town Council member and gay political activist Joe Herzenberg is happy with the movie for the way it portrays gay characters. Instead of relying on stereotypes that reinforce negative images of gays, "Philadelphia" allows Tom Hanks' gay lawyer to be an ordinary homosexual facing extraordinary circumstances.
"It was clearly a Hollywood movie in the grand tradition of the underdog triumphing over evil," Herzenberg says. "It's excellent company to be in."
While Herzenberg says he can't find much fault with the movie, he says he can understand why others might. "It's often said about gay public officials that they're not 'gay enough' to suit their gay constituents, and too gay to suit their straight constituents," he says. "I could see how people would say that of this movie."
Donahue agrees, saying the studio definitely played it safe with the advertising: the posters and the early trailers downplay the movie's gay angle. "From what you saw before going to the movie, all you knew is that it was a courtroom drama," he says. "The ads don't mention AIDS, they don't mention homosexuality. They were banking on the star power of Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, which I guess is shrewd on their part."