How Hollywood Has Paved The Way For Same-Sex Rights

Today was one of those days that I will never forget. The United States Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision legalized same-sex marriages throughout the country setting off massive displays of celebration and love. This groundbreaking legal ruling doesn’t directly affect me in my personal life(I’m married with a wife and a 2 1/2-year-old son)but this ruling did get me thinking in a very different manner. It occurred to me that Hollywood has been dealing with both the political and social aspects of same-sex marriage for many years in both a direct and indirect way. As I sat down and quickly jotted down a few movie titles it became crystal clear that Hollywood may have just paved the way for the Supreme Court. Let’s take a look at a few titles.

Philadelphia – 

Tom Hanks and Antonio Bandraes in Philadelphia.
Tom Hanks and Antonio Banderas in Philadelphia.

The movie centers around  lawyer Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) who hides his homosexuality and HIV status at a law firm. But his secret is exposed when someone spots the illness‘s telltale lesions. Fired shortly afterwards, Beckett resolves to sue for discrimination. Now many of you are probably looking at this and saying,how in the world does this tie into same-sex marriage? Look no further than a simple scene involving Antonio Banderas and Tom Hanks while he’s in the hospital. Antonio(who plays his boyfriend) wants to go into the hospital room with him initially but is told he can’t because he isn’t family. The pain you see in his face breaks your heart because he would give anything to be next to the man he loves.

In that simple scene,Johnathan Demme touched on a very controversial issue of whether or not same-sex couples should be treated equally in the most dire of times. Through just the simplicity of the pain that was displayed by Antonio in that scene it leads us to the only logical conclusion that same-sex couples should be treated equally all of the time.

Brokeback Mountain 

Jake Gyllenhall and Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain
Jake Gyllenhall and Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain

This movie is about a cowboy named Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and a ranch hand named Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger). One night on Brokeback Mountain, Jack makes a pass at Ennis that is eventually returned. This movie is testament to the taboo nature that society regarded same-sex relationships. Jack and Ennis are so driven to conform to what society want that both end up marrying women that they don’t necessarily love. While having the typical family life they continue the relationship in secret for 20 years. 

If ever a movie showed the torture that some same-sex couple go through it’s this movie. Societal norms forced these guys to find a wife and the stress of living a lie leads to nothing but disaster. All they simply wanted was each other. They simply wanted love.

Milk-

Sean Penn as Harvey Milk
Sean Penn as Harvey Milk

This movie tells the story of Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) and his life as he moves into the Castro district in San Francisco. Through his photography business he ends up assisting in transforming that area into a mecca for gay and lesbians couples. In 1977 he becomes the first openly gay man elected to office and one year later he was shot dead by Dan White (Josh Brolin).

This movie really shows one of the more perfect example of how all gay and lesbian people just want to live a normal life.Harvey Milk wanted a normal life that included love,happiness,and a chance to make a living. However,again and again Harvey was faced with societal hurdles that no one should have to deal with.It was these hurdles that pushed him towards advocacy for Gay and Lesbian rights which put him in the national spotlight drawing the negativity of others(which eventually leads to his tragic death). I remember watching this movie and thinking that he died wanting something that most people just take for granted.

Conclusion – 

I am almost positive that someone will comment that I have missed out on some very important movies and my response would be that I probably did. Hollywood has been paving the way for not only the Supreme Court but society as well by showing us the struggle of same-sex couples. Hollywood will continue to show this in 2015 when Freeheld(due October 2)which stars Julianne Moore and Ellen Page which tackles the issue of LGBT rights head on.

Hollywood will continue to use its power to show the real life struggles of same-sex couple in the hopes that one day this debate will finally become a thing of the past.

Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
I'm a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and have been doing reviews for many years. My views on film are often heard in markets such as Atlanta, Houston, and satellite radio. My wife often tolerates my obsession for all things film related and two sons are at an age now where 'Trolls' is way cooler than dad. Follow me on twitter @mrsingleton.