Monday, February 23, 2009
Last night Sean Penn stole an Oscar from Mickey Rourke. He won a victory because California voters felt bad about Proposition 8. Penn's performance was irrelevant.
Nate Silver called it as plainly as he could last night, "I blame Prop 8." He went into more detail today, "...politics of Sean Penn playing a gay icon in a year where Hollywood felt very guilty about the passage of Proposition 8. The disadvantage is that human beings have all sorts of cognitive biases, and it's easy to allow these biases to color one's thinking." That's what happened here. Milk is, as Andrew Sullivan calls it, a "less-than-stellar gay movie."
Milk is mis-educating an entire generation of gay activists, wrongly convincing them that they need to just be louder and more obnoxious to get the rights for which they are indisputably entitled. They're wrong, of course. We're in an entirely different phase of the struggle now. We're past rioting outside Mormon Temples to prove we exist. People know we exist and we need to show them we're deserving.
Harvey Milk was an inspiring man - the kind we needed in the 1970s. He's not what we need now. We don't need that kind of in-your-face identity politics. It won't work and it's counterproductive.
And Mickey, if you want an Oscar you're gonna have to play an illiterate-transgendered-quadriplegic community organizer in 1930s Berlin. That role has Oscar gold written all over it.