Homosexually kaleidoscope in the 80’s
Angels in America is a play written by Tony Kushner. The play looks at the onset of the AIDS pandemic in the gay community in the 1980’s during President Ronald Reagan’s regime. The play was well received by the masses that led to it being turned into an opera and an HBO movie featuring Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, and Emma Thompson. Kushner has dealt with various themes in the play but the most significant theme that is well articulated is Gender. Kushner has brought out this theme in the play and demonstrated through the characters the change in gender identity through homosexuality and the suffering of women in the society.
Most of the characters in Angels in America struggle with their sexual lives. This is reflected by the extent to which the homosexual characters go to hide their sexuality. Prior, Belize, Louis, Joe, and Roy all are the characters that face this challenge in the play. Prior happens to be the least ‘closeted’ gay while Roy is most closeted homosexual. Prior is picked to be a prophet and represents good due to his upright morals. Roy is an unlawful lawyer and broadly represents evil. Belize, Louis, and Joe are moderate individuals as their characters fall in between Prior and Roy. A negative stigma is cast on the characters that are homosexuals by linking them to the negative characters. In the play, Kushner emphasizes the negative opinion. There is some form of conflict as to whether the society ought to accept such manners.
Everyone in life at least has his or her own problems or faults as such, the book looks at the faults that the homosexuals have committed. This is a form of deviation from the normal, which most people in the society considered wrong. However, in order to deal with such issues, there is a need for the persons seen as evil to be studied before coming up with conclusions. This will help the society to understand them better and help solve the root cause of the problem. Such persons should not be looked down upon but the society should deal with the root cause of the problem.
The setting of the play ‘Angels in America’ is one that happens during the gay revolution in the United States of America in the 1980’s. During this period, there was great economic growth in America and the trend that was taking much shape was the increased level of homosexuality. This revolution was about the revelation of the gay community. This is the time that gay people came out strongly without any fear and made it known that they actually were gay. This was further supported by the liberal policies adopted by the then President Ronald Reagan. The play takes ‘coming out’ as an evolution, one that Kushner bases his arguments through the various characters. The characters depict a changing America, one that has the gays trying to assert their being right and the conservatists trying to maintain the status quo. The gays have in this society increased in number and have become more aggressive.
Many of the characters in the play are homosexual, and the truth about their sexual preferences is articulated through their characters and behaviors in the play. Roy Cohn is dying of HIV/AIDS because of his sexual behaviors. Being a successful lawyer in New York City, he tries to keep separate his professional life from the private life for the simple reason of keeping his reputation away from damage. In bid to conceal his sexuality, he lies to people that he has cancer. This helps him to hide the fact that he is sick of HIV/AIDS. Roy tries to protect his job, which he could not do if it was found that he is homosexual. He risks being barred from practicing law if this identity is known. He tells his doctor, “Roy Cohn is not a homosexual man. Roy Cohn is a heterosexual man, who fucks around with guys.” (Kushner, Pt. One, Act 1, scene IX). The fact that he occasionally has the desire of being satisfied by a man makes him not to believe that he is gay. How people view him is influenced by his political power and religious beliefs.
Joe Pitt is another example of a homosexual that comes into the society that does not welcome homosexuality and gay relationships. Joe’s wife, Harper is an addict of valium. Joe shares some common thing with Roy. This is the fact that her is gay and that he has a career to protect and would do all he can to conceal his se4xual identity. The difference between Joe and Roy comes in by the fact that Joe is married and has a family to take care for and provide love. For Joe, homosexuality is an adventurous path that he takes though not very sue of what he wants. He gets into homosexuality experimentally. His mother gets furious and does not want to believe that her son is gay. For fear of resentment, Joe is scared to reveal his private life and relations. This is that situation in the society where we criticize those that are gays or homosexuals.
Mathew Sheppard is a good example to cite of how intolerable the society is to gays and homosexuality. Sheppard is killed in cold blood because he was gay and the society is not for such a social behavior. The cause for his murder should not cast blame on the killers but the society that is intolerable. The society that is rooted to conservation of societal norms is using all it can to ensure that the sexual identity that has existed is sustained. Even as the gender identity is undergoing changes by the emerging trends, still there is conflict between those that want to embrace change and those that are for status quo.
Prior is another character brought out by Kushner as being homosexual. The difference between him, Roy and Joe is the fact that he is not in any profession. However, Prior is affected by HIV/AIDS and is in critical condition near to death. Angels often visit him and he is at the end sent to heaven. There is a lot of symbolism that comes with Prior as character. When he gets to heaven, he is set before the Continental Principalities (God). Here he pleads for blessings and requests that he is sent back to the earth so that he can live the rest of his life. His request and wish is granted and he comes back to the earth. This shows God can, based on someone’s social preference, forgive a person easier than the society can accept such kind of an arrangement.
Kushner graphically describes living and dying with HIV/AIDS. This description horrifies the audience of the kind of diseases that it is, and the hope for having a future. The play begins by some kind of mood that despises homosexuality. As the play continues or moves ahead, the mood changes to a more relaxed one. In today’s America, homosexuality is becoming more and more of an accepted sexual preference. Most of those that have toned down on their negative perception towards homosexuality argue that it is not right for a man to judge another’s sexual preference as being right or wrong and that this is the work of God. HIV/AIDS is in the play closely related to homosexuality as some characters are infected by the scourge.
Homosexuality is gaining more and more space in the United States of America. This has really brought a conflict on the gender identity as to what men and women are expected to do which in most cases has been the description base of gender. The increase in gay marriages is wrecking havoc in families as is demonstrated in the play by the various characters. The conservatists still look at homosexuality as a form of misplaced gender identity even as the liberalists such as Ronald Reagan give it an objective view and saw no wrong with homosexuality and gay marriages.