Sean Penn is amazing. After seeing Milk, I felt inspired, renewed, and empowered. Harvey Milk , played by Sean Penn in Milk, was amazing and is definitely my new hero. He reminded me of myself in many ways. Half way or more through the movie, Harvey’s lover, Scottie, talks to him about a soap box speech Harvey just made. Scott, played by James Franco, confronts him about wanting people to be out, where Harvey referred to Scott as “his roommate” or acted as if he wasn’t there. Most of Harvey’s lovers had committed suicide because he wasn’t out. This reminded me of myself, not because my lovers have committed suicide or because I had hidden them, but because I tell people to out and I didn’t come out or feel comfortable with it until college. The movie made me become more aware of the division between personal and political, theory and practice. The movie also made me feel more passionate about what I want to promote, what I want to do, and how I want to go about doing it.
Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to be put into public office in California. California is now known as one of the most open-minded states in the United States. It is known for voting democrat, for San Francisco, for Los Angeles (to much dismay from some), the Gold Rush, and one of the birth places of the Gay Liberation Front. Then, the castro district in SF was just about to be born, there were police riots, and there were a man and a singer who were trying to get homosexual teachers out of schools because they would convert the children to their way of life.
Sean Penn renewed the legacy of helping the minority, of bringing human rights into focus, and hate based on ignorance. The history of Harvey is not irrelevant, but is a lesson that is timeless. He is someone to look up to because he fought for what he believed in even though his way of having sex and openness about it was being openly targeted by authority. His courage and political will was not based on power, but more on love and the desire to help others like him.
After many attempts at gaining office in San Francisco, Harvey did not stop though he was discouraged. Prop 8 is something Harvey would be fighting against because it is blatant discrimination. There are many criticisms of the issue that the Prop is backing, such as it backs a white gay issue and is backed by the HRC, a human rights corporation. The Prop though, is not about gay marriage if you look at the wording. The Prop is about equality and rights. The Prop should not be about corporations backing it such as Google or car companies, which it was. The campaign needs to change to progress.
The thing that needs to be kept in mind is that the Proposition even got on to the ballot. That is the first step and it is a major step because it was in the spotlight. Harvey Milk was finally in the spotlight in 2008 and the film was a part of pop culture. Even straight people cried when Harvey died. That is a step. Gay rights is having steps, small ones, but steps nonetheless.