Could an earlier ‘Milk’ release have killed Prop 8?

Posted by · 11:22 am · November 5th, 2008

Sean Penn in MilkI find myself just now making sense of the passing of Proposition 8 here in California, an appalling measure that, however naive it may be to admit, I really thought had no chance of passing.

Well, it has.  Homosexual couples are banned from exchanging vows like the rest of the country, and beyond rage and outright disgust, I’m left saddened and somewhat unable to fully enjoy Obama’s convincing victory.

What the hell is wrong with this country when one of the most liberal states in the union, a battleground, in fact, for gay rights, passes such a despicable pieces of legislation?  But more to the point of our beat here at In Contention, I’m left wondering whether an October release for “Milk” could have made a difference.

A large portion of the film is dedicated to the fight against Proposition 6, a 1978 ballot measure that would have cost homosexuals working as educators their jobs.  Their careers were at stake 30 years ago.  Yesterday, it was their right to wed — and with wicked political conniving, the proponents of Prop 8 made this year’s fight about school in the end, just like Prop 6.  “They’ll teach gay marriage in schools,” ignorant imbeciles would scream.  “They’ll tell my son it’s okay for a man to marry a man.”  Well, “they” would be right, but that’s beside the point.

Writing in The New York Times over the weekend, Jesse McKinley covered some of this terrain:

In many ways, the battle sparked by this latest proposal echoes the one that inspired Mr. Milk’s most famous crusade.

“It’s surreal,” said Cleve Jones, a veteran civil rights activist who is portrayed by a curly headed Emilie Hirsch in the film. “It’s like there’s a 30-year cycle.”

Call it life imitating “Milk,” or vice versa, but the parallels between the campaign chronicled in the movie and the real-life battle over Proposition 8 are striking. Social conservatives pitted against gay activists? Check. A Republican governor (and former movie star) siding with gay Californians? Check. Close polls, a nationally watched campaign, the potential for heartbreak?

Check, check, check.

But, again, that was the weekend.  Now, it’s the day after.  And I can’t help but wonder what “Milk” might have meant for today’s cause, if anything, had it landed in the marketplace last month.

Some of the film’s most inspiring and, indeed, captivating moments come during the sequence that details the Prop 6 fight.  Consistently, Harvey Milk (Sean Penn’s career-best portrayal) makes the point, to paraphrase, “We have to make them understand that they know us.”  That message, I think, might have carried a lot of heft if voters had made it to the polls four weeks later.

But I’m not a studio head and I don’t make these decisions.  A studio’s priority is, of course, to shareholders, and “Milk” is likely to make more money in its current release plan than something earlier in the season.  But you can’t help but wonder what might have been.  And you can’t “give ’em hope” after the fact.

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60 responses so far

  • 1 11-09-2008 at 12:03 am

    Fei said...

    Joel, I’m also betting that even after I listed some Bible verses for you, you haven’t bothered to (re-)read them. This is because nothing that you wrote in reply had anything to do with the verses that I listed. For one thing, none of the verses that I listed referred to women as “whores.”

    “And when the LORD thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword: But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.” [Deuteronomy 20:16-18]

    In the above quote, God is saying that when he delivers victory to his favored army, he wants the soldiers to go into the city, kill all of the men, and take the women (and children and cattle) for themselves. In modern times, this means that after American forces sacked Baghdad, the troops could’ve gone ahead and murdered all of the Iraqi men and taken the Iraqi women as sex slaves, and God would’ve been fine with it. Do you have a problem that? If you disagree with my interpretation, then what do you think that God actually meant here?

    “When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, and seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; and she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.” [Deuteronomy 21:10-14]

    In the above quote, God is saying that if you spot a hot chick among your prisoners of war, you can force her to be your wife (and sex slave, of course), and you can abandon her if you ever get tired of her. The only thing that you can’t do is sell her for money, because you will have already “humbled” her enough (by capturing her in war and forcing her to be your wife). Do you have a problem that? If you disagree with my interpretation, then what do you think that God actually meant here?

    As you can see, God thinks that women are to be treated as property by men. Again, these are just two of many examples in the entire Bible.

    All the violence and genocide in the Bible are not examples of bad things that God “allowed” to happen. Many of those atrocities were specifically COMMANDED BY GOD HIMSELF, such as the following:

    “But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee: That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God.” [Deuteronomy 20:16-18]

    In the above quote, God was upset with several peoples that were followers of different religions, so he ordered their complete destruction (i.e. genocide). Let me remind you that the Nazis were Christians who passionately believed that they were doing God’s work by exterminating the Jews. Given God’s penchant for genocide in the Bible, how do you know that God didn’t really tell Hitler to go on his crusade? If some person today went to India and started killing Hindus en masse, and he claimed that God told him to do it, would you take him at his word, or would you consider him insane and demand that he be locked up for crimes against humanity? If you agree with the latter, then why do you think that all of the genocides in the Bible are OK? If you don’t accept the genocides in the Bible, then why believe in the Bible at all if you’re only going to pick and choose what to believe?

    And I noticed that you completely avoided mentioning the slavery issue after I debunked your lies. Does God condone slavery or not? If he DOES NOT condone slavery, then why does he dictate numerous guidelines for it; why does he specifically tell Moses in Exodus, “You may own slaves”; and why does he not condemn it anywhere (while condemning many other things)? If he DOES condone slavery, then do you agree that slavery is moral? If you think that slavery is immoral, then how can you believe that all morality comes from God? As a Christian, what gives you the right to disagree with God about the morality of slavery? Furthermore, if you can disagree with God on one moral issue—e.g. slavery—then why can’t you disagree with him on another one, e.g. homosexuality? And if you can have morality independent of God, then for what reasons would you continue to disagree with my argument on the morality of homosexuality?

    Are you too cowardly to answer my questions for real, this time? Again, these are not mind-blowingly difficult questions. In fact, they can be very easy questions. They are only difficult because your religious beliefs make them difficult. If you could consider, even if only as a hypothetical possibility, that Christianity is nothing more than a bunch of delusions and superstitions, then everything starts making sense.

    Again: Either God sent the martyred Jews to hell or he sent them to heaven. Either Jesus is necessary for salvation, or he is not. Either God is omnipotent, omniscient, and/or omnibenevolent, or he is feeble. Either God advocates genocide, or he is against it. Either God thinks that women are little more than objects, or he considers them to be full human beings. Either God condones slavery, or he condemns it. Either God’s character, as depicted in the Bible and described by the beliefs of Christians, is completely moral, or it is stained by immorality (i.e. an imperfect morality). Either God is the source of morality, or humans are. Either Christianity is true, or it is a pack of delusions and superstitions. Either the Bible is true, or it is false. And either the Christian god exists, or he is just a myth. Simple questions. Why make them so difficult on yourself?

    As to your question about what I think of Christians: I consider them to be regular people. There are good ones and bad ones, crazy ones and relatively sane ones. I don’t hate Christians, any more than any member of any other religion. You speculate that I might think that they are “liars” or “scapegoats,” etc., which tells me that you already have this nasty conception of me. So, you’ve been very guilty of jumping to conclusions, far more than I have been. I attack Christianity, not Christians personally. As a Christian, I’m sure that you’ve heard of (and possibly used) the expression, “Hate the sin, not the sinner.” Because I see religion as a delusion—an ultimately harmful one—the only negative view that I have of Christians in general is that they refuse to honestly examine their faith and are thereby enslaved by their delusions. But nobody’s perfect, not even Jesus. I constantly wrestle with my own demons of irrationality, such as my obsessive-compusive disorder. To hate the religious for their naivete is to hate humanity, and I try to be a humanist.

    I feel sorry that you’re even so naive as to think that preaching hellfire and brimstone could possibly move me. Word of advice: Trying to get someone to fear hell doesn’t work if he doesn’t even believe in it in the first place. Maybe you think hard about why you believe in Christianity. Is it because you don’t want to go to hell? I can understand believing in God, but why believe in hell? There’s even less evidence and compelling arguments for the existence of hell; not even all Christians believe in it. Why not believe in reincarnation? Why don’t you believe in some other religion?

    Finally, I just wanted to say that although I’ve already expended way more than enough effort here, I’d be happy to debate you anytime, if you want. But be forewarned that I’m already familiar with most of the arguments that you could possibly present, and you don’t seem to be well-versed in apologetics. So you’d better do your homework next time.

  • 2 11-09-2008 at 3:07 am

    Glenn said...

    Fei, you are a wonder.

  • 3 11-09-2008 at 7:13 am

    Joel said...

    I’ll do that, Fei.

    I’m pressed on time right now, though. I’ll get back with you in a few hours.

    And, if you want to know, I have answers (logical this time, don’t worry) that don’t involved personal attacks.

    And also, yes, I would be a coward. But you are unclear on a few things that I’ll point out later.

  • 4 11-12-2008 at 10:01 pm

    Glenn said...

    How a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat is more mysterious than Joel’s disappearance.

  • 5 11-12-2008 at 11:42 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    No, just a terribly ignorant teenager that probably wasn’t worth the response considering the lessons he’ll (hopefully) learn in life.


  • 6 11-12-2010 at 1:09 am

    IP Rotation Service said...

    Can I post some of this on my page if I post a link to this webpage?

  • 7 12-18-2010 at 4:50 am

    Marylou Critchfield said...

    You made a number of good points there. I did a search on the topic and found the majority of folks will have the same opinion with your blog.

  • 8 4-15-2011 at 8:53 pm

    Andrew said...

    The link you posted at the top of your piece to the LA Times covers the vote in the typical bias of the anti-prop 8 journalism; ie, the social conservatives brilliantly somehow “manipulated” the CA voters to their view that the measure was to be about “the children”, implying this was dishonest in some way.

    Well, was it? We’re now more than two years beyond that vote and State Senator Mark Leno introduces legislation to Command (there is no more accurate word) school boards across the state to teach only the accepted version of homosexual rights/history, a presumably long line towards righteous civil rights redemption, with no tolerance for the religious freedom of those parents who disagree, and don’t want their kids propagandized to with whitewashed versions of “history”, regardless of whether they are for or against gay marriage. Why is Leno doing it? Perhaps because those dastardly social conservatives WERE right two years ago, that the fear of inculcating children with their version of bogus opinionated history was a valid one and relevant all along?

    Leno’s bill is a classic piece of anti-religious bigotry, which, far from opening debate in the classroom, would mandate the state-sponsored and enforced acceptance of homosexual normalization and celebration in the classroom, parent’s (and student’s) religious freedom be damned.

    “What the hell is wrong when a”… (supposedly tolerant and liberal) state senator “proposes such a despicable piece of legislation”? The feeling is mutual Kristopher Tapley. The difference, though, is the people on the other side from you admit to their biases; they’re biased in favor of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs, including those of sexual morality, and openly admit it. They don’t hate gays, far from it actually, but they won’t be intimidated and denied their religious and cultural beliefs. Your side insists on the invention of “homophobia” to hide from yourselves your own biases in favor of sexual relativism. Which side is more honest? And which side is more aligned with the ignorance is bliss school of brute force politics? I think we both know the answer.