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January 1994


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 24 Jan 1994 20:38:44 EST
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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I recently saw Philadelphia and was troubled by it in several ways.  I found it
 preachy in places, falling into the Sunday night t.v. movie disease of the week
 genre in that respect.
What interests me the most about the film is the way it plays with visibility
 and invisibility in terms of homosexuality, AIDS, and race.  I'm bothered that
 what finally marks Tom Hanks as a wronged--sorry: what finally marks Hanks'
er as a gay man with AIDS is the visual lesions on his body which he bears for
 all to see in the courtroom.  Hanks is engaged in passing throughout the film,
 so these absolutely visible wounds seem even stranger in that respect.  Then
's the matter of the near invisibility of Hanks' and his partner's relationship
 as LOVERS.  (I need to see the film agagain to verify my friend's comment that
 the only time they kiss on the mouth is a quick peck in the hospital which is
t so as to obscure the sight of their lips actually touching--we see the back of
 Hanks' head?)  The invisibility of their gayness I'm sure is designed to make
 the characters more palatable to a largely heterosexual mass audience, and I
 heard stories of biased people "coming round" a bit because they could
 "finally" sympathize with a gay character enough to understand the pain he
 experienced.  But at what price?
Also, I'm interested in the way the film suggests a comparison of race bias and
 bias against homosexuals: again, the question of Hanks' passing comes up:
 somthing Washington's character can't do.
Hope these somewhat unformed comments make some sense.
Susan Crutchfield
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
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