Jason Howard Green

Jason Howard Green

Monday, September 28, 2015

STONEWALL: A MOVIE REVIEW

On Friday evening I made it out to the theater with a group of friends to see the new Stonewall film.  I had already seen the trailer and I already knew about the boycotting, but I decided I wanted to see this for myself to form my own opinion.  Let me just say this, there is something to be said about going in to see a film with very low expectations.  When you’re not expecting the film to be good, then can you appreciate the few shining moments that unfold before you. 

Before I criticize this project, I have to admit, there were a few things that Roland Emerich got right. First, while the film was white-washed, just by taking a look at the movie poster, you can tell that it was not totally void of effeminate men and people of color.  While the star was a young, cis-gendered, white male, the movie did a great job celebrating the diverse cast of characters that made up Christopher Street and that frequented Stonewall.  I took joy in seeing black and brown, young and old, cross-dressers and transgender folk on the big screen.  While they were not the focus of the film, their characters were developed enough for us to see how complex they were, and how much of a community these individuals were to each other.  It’s just unfortunate that these characters took a back seat to “Danny” (Jeremy Irvine).

Also, in this film, we’re introduced to Marsha P. Johnson.  YAASSS!!!  Ms. Johnson was an integral figure in the story of Stonewall and an important character in the history of Christopher Street.  I thought Otoja Abit did a fantastic job bringing to life this legendary character known for her mothering spirit to the kids of this community and for her humility.  Having Marsha in the film was definitely something the film got right.

And finally, I have to appreciate the film for giving us a sense of how horrible it was to be a “sexual deviant” during this time.  Whether you were gay or lesbian or trans, it was horrible living during this time.  The constant fear of being arrested just for who you are had to exhausting and burdensome.  The tale did not end with an arrest; an arrest meant being outed as being gay.  Being outed meant losing your job and losing your social standing.  We were considered mentally ill and a threat to the general population.

Those are the things I loved about the film. But here is where the film majorly FAILED!!!  (Can I say SPOILER ALERT when this is all evident in the trailer?)  The film gives all the credit for Stonewall to the white kid.  It’s like Marsha P. Johnson, the kids of Christopher Street, the members of the Mattachine Society served no purpose.  All of these folks supposedly garnered all their inspiration, their rage, and their ability to fight back thanks to “Danny.” The film did give credit to Marsha as being the first to shove a cop but that moment did not start the riot. It was Danny that was the catalyst that started all the Stonewall patrons to get angry, it was Danny that excited everyone to start fighting back, and it was Danny who gets the credit for throwing the first brick.

This was not okay.  Stonewall was the most important moment in the history of LGBT civil rights in the United States.  The historical significance of this event can not be underestimated and should not be minimized and we should NOT re-invent the evening and give credit to someone that does not deserve it.  It is disrespectful and insulting to the actual heroes of that night. 


I walked away actually able to say that I enjoyed the film.  It is a period piece that does a great job capturing what it was like for queer and trans folks during this time.  I loved the fact that we got to see Marsha P. Johnson.  And I appreciated the fantastic cast of characters that added to the menagerie of this movie.  My only issue is that Danny gets so much credit for the Stonewall riot.  And let’s be real, if this film is about the riot, then who gets credit for the riot is a hugely important part of getting the film right.  And this just didn’t happen.  I’m  glad I went and saw it. But for those that are boycotting, I must tell you, you’re absolutely right, the film is a misrepresentation of history.  But honestly, what film ever is?!?

2 comments:

Unknown said...

Thanks for your review and honestly I appreciate you for posting this and telling the truth .. I remember being asked the question, What does Gay Pride mean to you? My answer, "celebrating Stonewall and its leaders for liberating our community. However, for some reason in America the history never gives the credit to where the credit is due. I hope that someone will be able to some day remake this movie and capture the truth in its entirety.

Byron Brooks said...

I don't mind it being know that I posted this
BYRON