Philadelphia Movie Assignment
1. Given that the movie “Philadelphia” was made over 20 years ago, how do you believe that things have changed since that time? Are the topics still as relevant as today? How and why?
The movie was released in 1993 and was the first Hollywood film with a theme on gay rights. The topics discussed in it include AIDS, homophobia, and stigma arising from being gay. What would be different if the movie was released today is the widespread awareness about AIDS and importance to respect people irrespective of their sexual orientations. There is still discrimination witnessed by homosexuals and lesbians in the society, but the severity might not be comparable to twenty years ago. Matters concerning AIDS have been well taught, and the society has interacted with lesbians and gays to a point where discriminating against them is not a likely occurrence. However, there hasn’t been a general acceptance of this behavior, that is why gay and lesbian marriages are not widespread.
HIV/AIDS was a deadly disease back in the time when the movie was released. There was little knowledge about it, and more discoveries would be told about it from time to time. The film highlights the misconceptions about the spread of the disease and the fears surrounding ways through which it can be acquired. The lawyer Joe Miller couldn’t believe the doctor when he was told that he could not contact it through shaking hands with Andrew who was infected. Today, such a scene cannot appear in a movie because people are aware that casual contact cannot transmit the disease. The two topics are still relevant in this era. AIDS is killing people, and other people still face discrimination based on their sexual orientations.
2. Which do you believe was the biggest reason that Andrew was fired, being gay or having AIDS? If the partners would have simply found out that he was gay, do you believe they would have still set him up and fired him? Give examples from the movie to support your opinion.
I believe Andrew was fired because he was gay. Some scenes depict homophobia among the partners of the firm, who were behind the loss of his job. Also, one witness Ms. Melissa Benedict had been working in the same firm with Andrew, yet she never got fired. She had contracted the disease through a blood transfusion, and her employers knew about it. She, however, explains that she doesn’t consider herself any different from a victim who could have contracted in any other way.
Andrew is gay with HIV, and that makes the partners in the firm he works for to believe that because of his orientations, he deserves to die of AIDS. This is evident when they don’t fire Melissa Benedict but choose to dismiss Andrew. It is evident that Andrew was performing well in his task and could not have lost the Highline complain which was later found in the central files. He was sabotaged so that he could be fired to teach him a lesson like the man who head was stuck in the latrine.
3. Following Joe’s passionate statement about the effects of homophobia, the judge made a statement, “…The courtroom is blind to matters race, gender….and sexual orientation.” Explain the significance of this. Can the courtroom really be totally immune from the many “isms” we have discussed? Why or why not?
The significance of the statement is that a court is a place where all can get justice irrespective of their race, gender or sexual orientations. That should be the case, because where else would anybody be heard indiscriminately? However, Andy is a lawyer who gets fired because of being gay. Joe was homophobic, yet he is a lawyer. If these factors are considered, you realize that the lawyers in the courtrooms have different attitudes towards different sexual orientation.
When Andrew was looking for a lawyer to represent him, it proved difficult to find one who could do so because he way gay and has AIDS. Later, Joe decides to take the case when Andrew had decided to be his own attorney. It paints the picture that a lawyer is not necessarily indiscriminative. They make their judgments and can choose not to represent based on various prejudices. This means that the court needs to be totally immune from the many “isms,” but it might not be totally immune if the lawyers themselves do not set their minds right.
4. Do you believe that seeing this movie would have a positive impact on somebody who is very homophobic or heterosexist? Why or why not? How? What do you believe were the most powerful parts in the movie that would likely make somebody rethink their homophobic or heterosexist views?
Watching this movie can have a positive impact on someone who is very homophobic because there are characters in the movie who are also very heterosexist but the realities about gays make them change. Some scenes that are very powerful are where Joe Miller interacts with Andrew and realizes that he had been holding a misconception about gays. He even says that his upbringing gave him the delusions that gays were not good people. There is a scene where the wife of Joe, also tells him that one of their aunties is a lesbian and she knows many other people who are gay. She is seen restraining Joe from telling their daughter that gayism is unacceptable. These can open up the mind of a homophobic to the truth that the gays are our families and friends irrespective of their sexual orientations.
Another powerful scene was when Andrew collapsed during the trial. It demonstrated that love and humanity should be a binding factor among the people. Everyone rushes to check if he is alright while others call an ambulance. People showed care. They forget that he is gay. The same happens when Joe goes to see him in the hospital and feels comfortable touching him. Unlike the earlier scene where he feared any contact with him.
Formulated Question for discussion
1. If Ms. Melissa Benedict the lady who had AIDS in the movie, was lesbian, would she face the same challenges faced by Andrew in the organization? Why? Highlight the groups in the “Matrix of Oppression” that would have impacted Melissa.