On the agenda at the House of Jello here is to see the film “Milk,” the story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official, who was murdered in November 1978. 1978 seems like another universe to me: I was 17 years old, had just graduated from high school, and had figured out absolutely nothing about myself. So I don’t remember hearing the news of Harvey Milk’s death, and I don’t remember feeling connected to him. I was busy sitting in the basement with my friends getting high and listening to Roxy Music or the Grateful Dead, knowing I didn’t fit in, but not quite understanding why. I had an idea. I didn’t know what to do with it. But that, is another post altogether.
So here we are 30 years later (good Christ! Is it really?). And I know that “Milk” will be a powerful and moving story, and that Sean Penn as Harvey Milk will probably be nominated for an Academy Award. And it seems he has a good shot at winning it:
Sorry, but that seems to be the price Penn must pay if he wants to win another Oscar to match the chunk of academy gold he nabbed for 2003’s Mystic River. That’s because gay roles that win Academy Awards for actors almost always must suffer ghastly deaths.
No star has ever won an Oscar for portraying a gay, lesbian or transgender person who lives happily ever after.
That seems pretty unbelievable, but think about it:
The character of Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) gets to live, yes, at the end of Capote, but we know that he’ll end up croaking from booze and pills someday while stumbling around Joanne Carson‘s house in Beverly Hills, Calif.
The five other roles that paid off with Oscars have horrible ends on screen: Tom Hanks dies of AIDS in Philadelphia, Hilary Swank gets beaten to death in Boys Don’t Cry, Nicole Kidman commits suicide in The Hours, Charlize Theron is executed in Monster, and William Hurt gets shot – much like Sean Penn – in Kiss of the Spider Woman.
Perhaps some day an actor will be recognized with an Oscar for playing a gay character who actually lives to tell the tale.