The Stonewall film features THIS as its first-brick-throwing protagonist:
Oh look, a white, cisgender, “straight-acting”(director’s words) pretty young thing.
Here’s what actually happened (from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots)
A scuffle broke out when a woman in handcuffs was escorted from the door of the bar to the waiting police wagon several times. She escaped repeatedly and fought with four of the police, swearing and shouting, for about ten minutes. Described as “a typical New York butch” and “a dyke–stone butch”, she had been hit on the head by an officer with a baton for, as one witness claimed, complaining that her handcuffs were too tight. Bystanders recalled that the woman, whose identity remains unknown (Stormé DeLarverie has been identified by some, including herself, as the woman, but accounts vary [note 3]), sparked the crowd to fight when she looked at bystanders and shouted, “Why don’t you guys do something?” After an officer picked her up and heaved her into the back of the wagon, the crowd became a mob and went “berserk”: “It was at that moment that the scene became explosive.”
As for the “white boy throws a brick and starts a revolution” folderol:
Garbage cans, garbage, bottles, rocks, and bricks were hurled at the building, breaking the windows. Witnesses attest that “flame queens”, hustlers, and gay “street kids”—the most outcast people in the gay community—were responsible for the first volley of projectiles, as well as the uprooting of a parking meter used as a battering ram on the doors of the Stonewall Inn. Sylvia Rivera, a self-identified street queen who had been in the Stonewall during the raid, remembered:
You’ve been treating us like shit all these years? Uh-uh. Now it’s our turn!… It was one of the greatest moments in my life.
And that right there is where Roland Emmerich got things so very, very wrong.
His comments are pretty fucking telling:
“Some people warned me, but I said, ‘Well, you know, so be it.’ […] You have to understand one thing: I didn’t make this movie only for gay people, I made it also for straight people,” he said. “I kind of found out, in the testing process, that actually, for straight people, [Danny] is a very easy in. Danny’s very straight-acting. He gets mistreated because of that. [Straight audiences] can feel for him.”
Stonewall, the actual historical event, came about because the police raided one of the few safe spaces for gay people in NYC. It was dingy and scary and run down but it was theirs. They rioted because they were sick of being humiliated, abused, and jailed for who they were. When you stomp on a group of people for long enough, for no damn reason, they are going to snap someday. And Stonewall was the snapping point. Up till then there’d been this massive secrecy and with secrecy you get its little friend shame. You think, “If this was really normal and healthy I wouldn’t be hiding it, would I? I’m skulking around, therefore this must be bad. This is what breeds internalised homophobia, which is where Emmerich’s precious “straight-acting” comes from in the first place. Straight-acting is camouflage. Straight-acting is bullshit.
It says, “I can’t act in ways that identify me as gay, because then I will lose passing privilege.”
It says “There is something intrinsically wrong with being gay and I have to hide that part of myself by acting straight.”
It says “I have to earn acceptance from straight people by pretending to be like them. I have to be non-threatening.”
Being non-threatening got gays arrested, beaten, strip-searched, fired, publicly humiliated, disowned, locked away in mental hospitals, and killed.
Being non-threatening never got gays anywhere but ground under the heel of the boots they were told to lick if they wanted to be accepted someday. If you’re a good do-bee, maybe someday we’ll let you eat the scraps.
Stonewall said “fuck that.” Stonewall said, “We’re done trying to earn your permission to exist. We’re done acting like you’re the Chosen Ones who get to decide whether we’re humans or not. Fuck you, we’re DONE. We’re taking our humanity back.”
The fact that in the bricks thrown by trans women, drag queens and street kids of all colors in real life were co-opted and put into the hands of a fictional white cis straight-acting self-loathing male is just proof that we have SO much more work to do.
Because let’s face it, a lot of the “gay history narrative” is still driven by cis gay males, usually white, and semi-affluent to boot. The stories of persecution during the AIDS crisis are focused on the men.
While we know now that lesbians were active in AIDS awareness and caring for dying patients when nobody else would, the scars are still deeply embedded in the community and some of the most narrow-minded, vicious, transphobic and woman-phobic rhetoric I’ve ever heard has come from these gay males. It’s as if they’re saying “My people suffered more than anyone else, so you can’t criticise what I say now.”
This is absolutely untrue, and worse, it’s poison to the movement. There’s no such thing as the Oppression Olympics, and even if there were, you wouldn’t want to win them:
RIP Bill Blackmar
When we play this game we forget that we’re all one, and that we’ve all been dealt some shit in our lives. AIDS was a great equaliser. It started with the gay community and then it went everywhere.
Retrovirus doesn’t give a fuck
But at some point we got the upper hand, at least in the First World. And we forgot. We got complacent again. AIDS became the thing you lived with instead of dying from. And we forgot. And we started to succeed, in getting our basic human rights. And we forgot.
We forgot that the experience of the cis gay white male is worlds apart from the experience of the trans lesbian of color. We forgot that the lesbian is still getting comparatively crappy healthcare compared to the gay man. We forgot that being non-binary means getting screwed on all sides, being bisexual means you’re an invisible slut* apparently, and being any sort of queer in the wrong 30 states means unemployment, homelessness, and any other forms of discrimination that those states haven’t explicitly outlawed.
Emmerich forgot so hard that he decided his version of reality – his Stonewall headcanon – was the truth. And he had the unmitigated chutzpah to push it out into the world like an ugly little baby made of lies, so that we could all coo over it and say “Good job!”
While I’m very relieved that the community has decided to tell him that his baby is, in fact, hideous as hell, I’m mad that someone like him still gets to drive the Gay Community Narrative Bus at all. I’m mad that I’ve never made a movie in my life and I can tell you right now how he could have had his precious twinkie cake AND eaten a respectful movie too:
- Make White Boy A Fucking OBSERVER. Let him walk into that mess and OBSERVE the bricks and bottles flying. Let him see the dykes and queens being arrested and let his ass be en-fucking-lightened. He can still BE there and serve a narrative purpose even if he’s not the center of attention, for fuck’s sake.
We didn’t get this far by playing NICE.
We won’t get our stories told correctly by playing nice, either.
Shame on you, Roland Emmerich. Our community deserves better than you.
*not as useful a superpower as you would think