AIDS Reruns: Becoming ‘Normal’? A Conversation on ‘The Normal Heart’ and the Media Ecology of HIV/AIDS

AIDS Reruns: Becoming 'Normal'? A Conversation on 'The Normal Heart' and the Media Ecology of HIV/AIDS
AIDS Reruns: Becoming 'Normal'? Conversation on 'The Normal Heart' and the Media Ecology of HIV/AIDS

In the weeks following the online
publication of Alexandra Juhasz and Ted Kerr’s conversation Home Video
Returns: Media Ecologies of the Past of HIV/AIDS
for Cineaste, the HBO
version of The Normal Heart debuted. The film provided the
conversationalists, coming from different generations and experiences of
HIV/AIDS, to further consider the theories and ideas brought up in their
initial conversation: How does the film version of The Normal Heart
relate to media ecologies of AIDS of the past? How is The Normal Heart
related to the ideas and histories of the “AIDS Crisis Revisitation” they put forward? Click here to read the conversation.

initial conversation had begun with talk of the Oscars, specifically for the Dallas
Buyers Club (
, 2013), also then focusing on Philomena (Stephen Frears,
2013) and
a host of more alternative AIDS videos that all build arguments about AIDS now
by using images and stories of AIDS past. It seems fitting then to begin this
follow up conversation with talk of the Emmy’s, given that The Normal Heart is nominated for 16

TED KERR: Its seems that as the golden
age of television continues, the Emmys have become, for some, as exciting as
the Oscars, which makes sense given that the differences between cinematic and
televised events continue to collapse. The Normal Heart certainly fits
into this move. But maybe more exciting than the Emmy nods,[2] reports that
President Barack Obama called director Ryan Murphy after seeing his HBO version
of The Normal Heart. Screenplay by Larry Kramer, based on his 1985 play,
the 2014 film chronicles the early days of the AIDS crisis in New York through
the life of Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo), a character Kramer molded after himself.
In the film, as in the play, we meet Ned just as his world is changing. The “gay-liberaterory” 1970s are over—a period Kramer was
critical of (see Faggots[3])—and on the horizon
is a horrible epidemic. The audience stays with Ned during his growing frustration
because no one around him is doing anything about the heightening emergency,
including the New York Mayor’s Office or the White House. He fights not only with his
brother to get involved but also, it seems, the entire NYC gay male community.
Eventually he founds an organization (what became Gay Men’s Health Crisis in
the real world to which this fiction refers)—made up largely of white gay men—to respond to the
epidemic, only to be unceremoniously kicked out due to what they see as his
over-aggressive and bombastic style. It is a classic story about one man’s courage to fight
the system for what he believes in.[4]

As part of the ongoing conversation,
Video Returns
[5] with Alexandra Juhasz,
in which we explore contemporary revisits to early AIDS activist media history,
and their impact on the present and future, I watched The Normal Heart
during Queens Pride at my friend Mathew Rodriquez’s house. He is a writer for the, and has written beautifully about his father who he lost to
HIV/AIDS.[6] He is about a
decade younger than me (I am 35). My conversationalist, Alex Juhasz, is from
another generation—the first one
affected and activated by AIDS and the generation that all these movies return
to and rely upon—she is fifty and
was an early AIDS video activist and member of ACT UP. I currently work at
Visual AIDS as the Programs Manager.

Before the film started Mathew
ordered pizza, and talked about all the friends we know who recently started
PrEP, the HIV Criminalization conference he had recently attended, and my
reluctance around watching The Normal Heart. As we talked I realized that while I
grew up always knowing about AIDS, I came to the virus and its meanings in
deeply personal and solo ways. I poured through the back pages of Entertainment
when they would annually publish the photos of those in the industry
lost to AIDS (crying in my parent’s basement upon seeing dancer Gabriel Trupin[7] among the dead). I
stayed home from school to watch Ryan White on Donahue because I felt
some connection to him, deflated and confused upon understanding he wasn’t gay and his HIV
status had nothing to do with sex. I repressed all of these mediated early
encounters with AIDS once I started working at AIDS service organizations with
people living with HIV and those fighting against the systems of oppression
that exasperate the epidemic. So this return to mass media AIDS events not only
brings up my unreconciled past, it gives me pause around other audiences as

ALEXANDRA JUHASZ: I too was reluctant
to watch the Normal Heart, so our anticipated conversation about it also
forced my hand. I was worried that the mainstreamification of my own history
would be upsetting, and I was right. In 1986, I arrived in NYC, fresh-faced and
political (I was a feminist and also active in the nascent gay/lesbian rights
movements), to attend grad school in Cinema Studies at NYU. I volunteered at
(Kramer’s) GMHC soon
thereafter, and found myself in 1987 working in the fledgling Audio-Visual
Department, which at that time was the incredible Jean Carlomusto who was single-handedly
producing a cable access show called “The Living With AIDS Show.”[8] With few real
skills of my own, but a lot of chutzpah and real conviction, I suggested to
Jean that I produce a segment for the show about women and AIDS. Feminist,
anti-racist and anti-poverty activists in NY were just mobilizing around a
shared raising awareness about the certain affliction that women (and children)
would face in large numbers if the government, public health, non-profits, the
media, and activists did not think logically (and politically) and realize, and
act, on the imminent threat that HIV posed to communities outside the gay white
men who had first organized GMHC (and hemophiliacs, Haitians and heroin
addicts, the other known “risk groups” at that time).

“Living with AIDS: Women and AIDS” (1987) was one of the
first documentaries about this issue, and also the first show from GMHC that
took the shape of long-form (30 minutes) documentary, rather than the talk show
format Carlomusto had been using to that point. GMHC’s Audio-Visual
Department went on to make a great many more of these documentaries. They
played on Manhattan cable access and then moved into the broader AIDS
mediascape in a variety of ways: they were bought and borrowed from GMHC, they
were donated to libraries, community centers and hospitals, they played at
conferences and in film festivals, we screened them to activists and

In a 1994 I wrote my first article
about AIDS activist media for Cineaste. There I explained: “Women and AIDS, a tape I produced
with Carlomusto in 1987, utilizes a conventional documentary style to relay the
then unconventional information that women, too, suffer from AIDS. The tape
consists of talking-head interviews with female activists, educators, and
healthcare providers who articulately present the distinct issues which affect
women within the AIDS crisis: the potential dangers of negotiating safer sex;
safer sex as birth control; the effects of racism, poverty, sexism, and
homophobia upon HIV-infected women; and the scapegoating of prostitutes as an
attack upon all women. The tape also includes detailed information about
cleaning IV drug works and safer sex.”[9]

I start with this, my history, because
it marks that women were always active in HIV/AIDS, and lots of us were “heroes” in that we too tried to raise
awareness of the epidemic through a variety of enraged and informed acts and in
the name of many beliefs.

TK: I think that is great place to
start Alex. There has been a lot of push back against the film version of The
Normal Heart
in terms of race, such as Sarah Schulman’s interview in New
magazine, and then a
response from Peter Staley on the Huffington Post 
but with the exception of the article on Indiewire we
mention further down, there has been little-to-no pushback regarding the lack
of women and the role they and feminism play in the epidemic in the
conversation about The Normal Heart.

In thinking again of Obama watching
the movie, I wonder, did he watch it alone or with some of the many women who
help to shape his life: his daughters? Michelle? Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor
to the President? Surely one of them would have noted that the Julia Roberts’ character and the lesbian that
makes an appearance later in the film could not have been the only women
involved? Nellie Andreeva’s reports for Deadline
Hollywood that the President was incredibly moved by the TV movie, to which Murphy
responded, “The whole movie is
about Larry trying to get the attention of Washington and 30 years later, to
get a call from the President is a full-circle moment.” But is that what the movie is about?
Is that what moved Obama? Thinking about him watching the film, I am curious to
consider what he saw—and what he didn’t see—when watching The
Normal Heart

AJ: Like me, I’m sure the
President saw things that are basically forbidden from the image landscape,
what we call our AIDS media ecology, although they are seared into my own
memory banks: seemingly healthy people getting horribly sick, quickly, and
dying even faster to the indifference of the broader society. It was shocking
then, as now.

TK: Agreed. At its most powerful, the
film evokes the emotional affect of We Were Here (David Weissman, Bill
Weber, 2011) in its ability to convey to a broad audience what it was like to
be in a social world where people were sick and dying. We see this in an early
scene where Ned runs into Sanford (Stephen Spinella), his face marked with KS
legions. He is a harbinger of the ever more sadness, disease and pain to come.
Kramer is successful in being able to broadcast to the mainstream (and its
President) the horror of the early American AIDS crisis that they may not
otherwise have witnessed.

AJ: We talk about the definitive (non)
depiction of KS in our earlier conversation, particularly in relation to its
function as verification of AIDS in the “home movies” in Philomena.
The politics of the representations of this visual symptom has its own history.
I was glad, in a ghoulish way, to see the Normal Heart team make the
difficult move of not erasing these common, and often scary, visible symptoms.[10]

TK: In our discussion, Home Video
we explore the idea of AIDS Crisis Revisitation, the name we have
bestowed on our current cultural moment, one where contemporary media
production is being made from earlier cultural objects about the first days of
AIDS in American and in particular in New York. Using examples like How to
Survive a Plague
(David France, 2013) and about twenty more films and
videos, both mainstream and activist, from the past and the present, we
look at the how this quite singular focus on the past makes it harder to
discuss the present, as communicated in the poster “Your Nostalgia Is
Killing Me” by Vincent
Chevlier and Ian Bradley-Perrin for a project called PosterVIRUS
(  And now, so soon
after our article was published online, there is yet another mainstream media
event of rather large cultural impact! It seemed important to consider if our
analysis of AIDS Crisis Revisitation helps to understand this particular act of
looking back for the benefit of now.

AJ: What’s most curious to me about The
Normal Heart
, in relation to the many films we discussed just a few short
weeks ago, is while it too revisits, and while it revisits the exact same
moment, and while this embrace of a moment that was once largely invisible and
offensive and caused indifference from the mainstream public, today with the distance
of time seems to inspire both pathos and maybe even anger from Obama and large
numbers of viewers, The Normal Heart looks at that same
time as all those other works but within the logics of a distinctly different
form. That is to say, it is not a rebuild from images made in the past but a
redo of images and words written in that very past moment made again for now.
In this way, it reminds me more of Elisabeth Subrin’s shot-by-shot
remake Shulie (1997),[11] and other similar
efforts that mimetically reproduce a dated artifact to see what happens when it
is both forced into another era, but also pressed through slightly different
hands and lenses.

TK: Right, this revisitation is
different from the other media we analyzed in that it is rooted in a stage play
from the time. However, the screenplay is something new. As Emily Colucci
points out in her review on Visual AIDS the play and the
HBO production share a similar foundation but are quite different projects. For
instance, she points to a seemingly innocuous script change from Ned Weeks in
the original play version who says, “That’s how I want to be
defined: as one of the men who fought the war,” to “That’s how I want to be
remembered: as one of the men who won the war,” in the film version. This shift, from struggle to triumph /
remembrance recalls less about the early AIDS activist movement than it
indicates about recent gay politics. HBO’s The Normal Heart collapses and elides past and
present politics. While it emphasizes the very real importance of how HIV/AIDS
galvanized a push back against structural homophobia, it also leaves much out.

AJ: While I may agree with your
interpretation of the political shifts that underlie the history of this text,
I do think it’s understandable,
and inevitable, that a return through redo will write new needs into old forms!

TK: And there’s no stronger
re-write than that of writing out gender! In her think piece for Indiewire’s Women & Hollywood blog Marcie Bianco
points out the erasure of women within many of the mainstream films of the AIDS
Crisis Revisitation. This is exemplified by the underwhelming use of Julia
Roberts as Dr. Emma Brookner (compared to the blistering performance by Ellen
Barkin in the 2011 Broadway production in the same role) and the stock lesbian
character volunteering at GMHC that recalls Alison Pill’s turn as token
lesbian in Milk (2008, Gus Van Sant, who by the way did a 1998
shot-by-shot remake of 1960’s Psycho). Must every gay revisionist movie event
have only one quirky likable lesbian? In concert with Bianco we would like to
add that these misrepresentations do not stop with the lack of women’s bodies on screen.
The fact of their missing is indicative of a bigger issue: the erasure of
feminist and queer politics that women, and others, brought / bring to the

AJ: It is a little humiliating, this
simplification and eradication of women, especially being one such active AIDS
activist myself! The role of lesbians and women within HIV activism has been
amply documented by historians, theorists and activists,[12] so I need not do
that here. But let me mark a few important points about women’s contributions
that seem most relevant for this conversation about the AIDS politics of The
Normal Heart
. First of all, many of us got involved in early AIDS activism
(remember me volunteering at 22, I didn’t know anyone with HIV at the time) because unlike “mainstream America” we immediately understood the
injustice, injury, and inhumanity defining the broader culture’s non-response to
AIDS even if we were not personally at risk. Furthermore, as you say, we
brought at least a generation worth of feminist, leftist and civil rights thinking
and activism to AIDS organizing (remember Living with AIDS: Women and AIDS?).[13] Feminists
immediately made the connections to poverty, racism, sexism, and a political
analysis of health care and sexuality that AIDS activism sorely needed. A
little later, Queer Nation, queer activism, and queer studies grew to account
for this radical conjoining of gay men and lesbians and the kinds of politics,
art, and theory that we produced through this empowering union.

TK: In United in Anger (2012,
Jim Hubbard), which we touched on in Home Video Returns, the
viewer is given a behind-the-scenes look at the planning of the Stop The Church
action (1989), is brought into the church during the demonstration (as well as
on the street outside to get a sense of its largess and pandemonium), and then
is provided a post demo analysis—both at the time, and then retrospectively as activists
look back at the action. It is a 360 degree look at a critically important
action in AIDS history and even, perhaps, American activism more broadly. As we
can see in the footage, people from across race, class, gender and political
backgrounds came together to demonstrate against the Catholic Church. Stop the
Church was a collaboration between ACT UP and WHAM (Women’s Health Action
Network). At its inception the demonstration was rooted in a feminist
understanding of women’s reproductive and
sexual health, an awareness that Cardinal O’Connor’s anti-condom policies not only hurt HIV prevention efforts
but also exasperated human and reproductive health rights.

AJ: It’s interesting that Normal Heart
brings us to our own return to Stop the Church (Robert Hilferty, 1991)
given that it was so much on my mind in our discussion of Philomena. In
our previous analysis, I wanted to indicate how the political documentaries
made within the alternative AIDS media movement are empowered to make
profoundly radical, and often quite complex, statements about politics that
have to be quieted in more dominant fare. Philomena couldn’t overtly link
abortion, AIDS, sexuality, and religion in its anti-Church storytelling, so
these connections spill out and symptomatize into its media ecologies (the way
the film uses “home movies” of PWAs, with their KS lesions, for

TK: To get thousands of people out on
the street to demonstrate against the Catholic Church was no small feat. While
it took hours of activist time on phone trees, and flyering, it also took a
complex politic that brought together gay men, lesbians, Latina/os and other
predominantly Catholic communities, college health advocates, social justice
advocates and many other communities. This menage of agendas could not have
been possible without a women’s health inspired feminist/lesbian politic that existed on
a spectrum between anti-religious and a cautious pushback against power within
the church. This lengthy and articulated politic was not created for the Stop
The Church action, it is what enabled it. Milestones such as Play Fair
(1982) by The Sister of Perpetual Indulgence which was an early community
health brochure that recalls the self determination of Our Bodies, Ourselves
(1971) and The Denver Principles which is the reason we say Person With AIDS
(PWA), rather than AIDS victim, illustrate the ways in which feminist
approaches to health were a major part of AIDS activism from the beginning. But
you would not know that from watching The Normal Heart.

AJ: So the question is: why? Misogyny?
Gay male exclusionism or exceptionalism? A messy gay/lesbian/queer/feminist
politics that’s too complicated
for straights to get their simple heads around? What does HBO think
(successfully, I must add) American viewers want or are at last ready for now?

I am not sure I have the answers, but it seems clear to me that
contemporary marriage equality politics undercut the HBO version of The
Normal Heart,
exploiting Kramer’s foundational pro-monogamy politics to a new level. The
deathbed wedding as it played out in the 2011 Broadway revival was just one of
many powerful moments weaved into an emotional production. In the film, the
wedding makes a bigger impression, acting as a moment of character
consolidation and reconciliation. At the beginning of the film, Ned winces a
cardboard smile at the frivolity of Fire Island and all that it stands for.
Throughout the film he becomes more jovial and fulfilled through the love of
one good man. Finally, through marriage he is given full humanity, joy and
sorrow all at once. In the context of current LGBT activism, the wedding is a
celluloid nod to “how far we have
come.” It plays into the “same-sex-marriage-would-have-reduced-the-impact-of-AIDS” rhetoric that writers like Andrew
Sullivan have long been pushing. ( We have to ask, is
it an attempt to suggest that marriage equality is this generation’s LGBT war to be “fought” (or should we now say “won”?) If so, how did a
movement built on feminist politics, with a key moment being an anti-church
demonstration, find itself reduced to a TV movie wedding rendered in a
melodramatic register? Is the early AIDS crisis being exploited by gay media
makers now to craft an American tale of gay neo-liberal liberation?

AJ: Of course it is! How does today’s marriage project
affect our thinking about AIDS,do you think?

TK: Marita Sturkin in her book Tangled
, which in part looks at the role of images in producing both
memory and amnesia writes, “Some Vietnam veterans say they have forgotten where some of
their memories come from—their own
experience, documentary photographs, or Hollywood movies.” [4] Similarly, it is
fair to consider how films like How to Survive A Plague, United in
, We Were Here (David Weissman,Bill Weber 2012), Dallas Buyers
, and The Normal Heart impact the memory of those who lived
through the early days of the epidemic. As Sturkin explores, film is a memory
producing technology, heightening the stakes of representation as well as
history. How will The Normal Heart, which produced countless articles
and blog posts and which The Hollywood Reporter states had 1.4 million
viewers for its premier (the numbers will go up considering it is available to
view on demand via HBOGo) impact not just how mainstream audiences understand
AIDS, or how the contemporary gay community thinks about and uses AIDS, but how
people understand their own experiences of the early AIDS crisis? How will a
story rooted more in the heroism of one man, and a celebration of his marriage,
further erode an understanding of the complex histories of the early days of
the AIDS crisis? Will the feminist influences within the AIDS movement be eroded
in people’s minds in place of
a distinctly 21st century urban gay politics? What will people forget?

In thinking through the media
ecology of the AIDS Crisis Revisitation in relation to films like The Normal Heart it becomes
possible to imagine that if audiences are not vigilant, and if we privilege
only mainstream media production as the authority over AIDS history, the
revisitation will become less about HIV/AIDS, or the AIDS Crisis, and become
more about gay (male) history revisionism. The crisis is not over, AIDS has not
been won, and the epidemic is not only the story of gay men, As wonderful as a
wedding may be, it did not save Felix any more than marriage will fundamentally
improve the life chances of the 1.1 million people in America currently living
with HIV, gay straight or otherwise.

AJ: Ted, did you know that one of the
hardest things we had to express in early AIDS activism for/about women (not to
mention gay men), in relation to their sexual health and safer sex education,
was that neither marriage nor “monogamy” protected women from HIV? This one critical message was at
the heart of our actions against the Church and most of our safer sex outreach
and education! People need condoms because they need to take control over their
own sexual and reproductive health. As hard as this is for anyone, it’s harder still for

I have no problem
with romance, love, or marriage, except for as suggested and dangerous
protective remedies against the acquisition of STDs or pregnancy. This is why
GMHC Audio-Visual Department (
safer sex porno tapes and so much more pro-sex, safer sex media. We took
control over a pro-sex, anti-monogamy representational agenda, carefully
focused for particular (sexual) communities (straight women, lesbians, lesbians
of color, Latino gay men, etc.) just as we asked individuals to take control of
their own sexual and/or reproductive health.

TK: Normal Heart sure ain’t radical pro-sex,
safer sex porn! What moment in the film was it that made President Obama want
to call Murphy? Was it when Ned is trying to care for Felix in the shower, his
lover’s body marked with
KS? Is it the deathbed wedding, a memory of when he himself was forced to “evolve” faster on same sex marriage after a
fruitful gaffe by VP Joe Biden?

AJ: Can you imagine showing Obama the deathbed scene of Liberaceon (Chris
Vargas, 2011), a recent AIDS revisitation activist video we discussed in our
earlier conversation that imagines Liberace instructing his lover to begin a
militant AIDS activist movement as a response to Reagan’s
indifference to AIDS in its early years?

TK: Ha! Right!

Maybe I am inscribing too much
interest in romance to Obama’s viewing. Maybe it was the workplace drama that touched
him the most, given his own relationship with the Senate and the House of
Representatives. There is a scene towards the end of The Normal Heart
where Ned is getting kicked out of the organization he founded because his
anger has become too much for the other gays/guys. This poignant scene is at
the core of The Normal Heart. And it is also a moment in which various
media ecologies of HIV/AIDS come together in an impossible way illustrating
what happens when a radical politic is left on the preverbal cutting room

Behind Ned as he is being fired, a
version of Gran Fury’s “Men Use Condoms or
Beat It” poster hangs in the office Kramer was
asked to leave in 1983; the poster was not created until 1988. “The slogan itself,” Tom Kalin writes when I email him
about the use of the poster in the film, “first appeared on a black and white poster which featured a
very large erect cock and was printed to advertise the national Spring AIDS
Action 1988
. Reach My Lips and All People With AIDS Are Innocent
were also posters made for this series of nation-wide protests.”

Even if the use of the “Men Use Condoms” poster in the film was a case of “timing be dammed,” the anachronistic slip is still a
mistake. It communicates a fundamental misunderstanding of both the text of the
poster, and the text of the play itself.

AJ: I knew several of the members of
Gran Fury (through our shared participation in the Whitney ISP program and ACT
UP), and a feminist analysis was definitive to their collective work flow,
organizing, and production. The slogan, “ Men Use Condoms or
Beat It” was also used by the Women & AIDS
affinity group within ACT UP, and as Tom Fury reminded us, it was used to good
effect at the successful Shea Stadium intervention in 1988 where banners with
the slogan were unfurled before tens of thousands of fans.

TK: At its core, The Normal Heart
is about the inability to reconcile politics of respectability in the face of
suffering and death, and the need for people to stand up against power, and
what it looks like when people do / do not take action. The poster on the other
hand is a direct message to men to either use a condom or masturbate. It is an
bold and humorous message that underscores understandings around the complex
and political connections between sex, power, gender and HIV. The use of “Beat It” is not only a euphemism for
masturbation, but also a threat, a call to men to leave their sexual partners
alone if they are unwilling to play safe. The politics of GMHC, when they
forced Kramer out, and that of the poster are unreconcilable. The poster, even
if it had been available at the time, would have never hung in the GMHC office
as it was. It is the rage that still burned in Larry’s belly that lead
him to give yet another fiery speech about AIDS and the gay community in March
1987 at the LGBT Center of New York, that inspired the creation of ACT UP, that
then brought together the artists that would form Gran Fury to then make the
poster. Maybe it is a stretch, but it is worth considering that if the men
involved with Gay Men’s Health Crisis at
the time had the stomach for Kramer’s rage, the Gran Fury poster may not ever needed to be
created. It is interesting to note that in the real offices of GMHC, long after
the action portrayed in the movie occurred, “Men Use Condoms” could have appeared
on a wall or cubicle.  “GMHC did ask to do
a run of the sticker version for their own distribution once they started
focusing on safer sex campaigns, and we agreed,” said Gran Fury member Avram Finkelstein when I asked him as
well about the poster in the film.

When we conflate and erase histories
we loose the truth of nuance, the order of things, the ability to go back and
trace steps, and make sense of why something had to happen. Urgencies get lost.
Maybe we will never know why of all things within the AIDS Crisis Revisitation
Obama was moved by The Normal Heart, but let’s hope that for the
health of our nation and the world, it is not the only AIDS Crisis Revisitation
media he consumes. He did not see the whole story.

Alexandra Juhasz has been making and thinking about AIDS activist video since the mid-Eighties. She is the author of AIDS TV: Identity, Community and Alternative Video (Duke, 1995) and many more recent essays about the changing shape of the representation of AIDS including “From the Scenes of Queens: Genre, AIDS and Queer Love,” in The Cinema of Todd Haynes; “So Many Alternatives: The Alternative AIDS Video Movement,” From ACT UP to the WTO, “Forgetting ACT UP,” ACT UP 25 Forum, Quarterly Journal of Speech; “AIDS Video: To Dream and Dance with the Censor,” Jump Cut. She was a guest editor for APLA’s Corpus V: Women, Gay Men and AIDS (March 2006) and is interviewed in the ACT UP Oral History project online. As a videomaker, she has made a large number of AIDS educational videos including GMHC’s Living with AIDS: Women and AIDS (1987), Safer and Sexier: A College Student’s Guide to Safer Sex (1991) and, most recently, Video Remains (2005). She is a professor of media studies at Pitzer College.

Canadian born Theodore Kerr is a writer, artist, and organizer living in Brooklyn, New York. He was the programs manager at Visual AIDS, and is board member with QUEEROCRACY. He has written for NY Press, Lambda Literary, In the Flesh, and other publications. For AIDS ACTION NOW’s posterVIRUS campaign, he created “Inflamed: litany for a burning condom” with Chaplin Christopher Jones. With artist Aldrin Valdez, Kerr co-organizes Foundation Sharing, a queer series of readings, performances, zines, and visual art. He is a graduate of the New School for Public Engagement, Riggio: Writing and Democracy Program. Currently Kerr is doing his graduate work at Union Theological Seminary.

[1] Complete list of nominations:

[2] Nellie Andreeva, “President Obama Fan of HBO’s The Normal Heart:

[3] Larry Kramer, Faggots, 1978
Random House.

[4] Giving it a modern feel, the movie
fits into the current cultural moment of premium television. Weeks is not
dissimilar to Breaking Bad’s Walter White, or Mad Men’s
Don Draper, an unlikeable anti-hero the audience ends up rooting for despite
themselves. Of course, we wrote of another recent likable anti-hero in our
discussion of DBC.

[5] See “Home Video Returns,” Cineaste, web exclusive, April 2014:

[6] (

[7] Trupin was one of Madonna’s dancers featured in Truth or Dare, the 1991
documentary directed by Alek Keshishian that followed the Blond Ambition tour.
Trupin died on December 15, 1995 in San Francisco, California.

[8] See this article that I wrote in 1994,
as part of my doctoral research, to learn more about Jean’s history at GMHC and elsewhere in the AIDS activist video

[9] Alexandra Juhasz, Cineaste, vols. XX, no.4 (1994) and XXI, nos.
1-2 (1995) “So Many Alternatives,” The Alternative AIDS
Video Movement.

[10] While Todd Haynes Poison
(1991) is not explicitly about AIDS, the lesions that mark the faces of
characters in the Horror section of the film remain one of the more powerful
attempts to visualize the impact of KS lesions on our community.

[11] See my collection, F is for Phony:
Fake Documentary and Truth
(University of Minnesota
Press, 2006) co-edited with Jesse Lerner, for more on Shulie and the
tradition of remakes.

[12] see, for example: Deborah Gould, Moving
Politics: Emotion and ACT UP
Fight Against AIDS;
Cvetkovich, An Archive of Feeling: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public
Sarah Schulman, Stagestruck: Theater, AIDS, and the Marketing of Gay
ACT UP NY/ Women and
AIDS Book Group, Women, AIDS and Activism; or my own AIDS TV:
Identity, Community and Activist Video

[13] See Sarah Schulman and Jim Hubbard’s for interviews
with women in ACT UP who explain their political backgrounds before joining
this group.

Tangled Memories: The Vietnam War, the AIDS Epidemic, and the Politics of Remembering
(UC Press, 1997).

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