This month I had the great pleasure of seeing both parts of Angels in America presented by The Signature Theatre Company. Wowza, Tony Kushner is a genius. I have read the plays before and I have seen the HBO miniseries, but nothing compared to seeing this work of art live and breathe on stage. Nothing.
Before we saw part 1, Millennium Approaches, I had warned my friend David that I might become a crying, bawling, gasping for air, mess. You see, I am the type of person that would cry at a good Hallmark commercial. Almost every episode of Grey’s Anatomy has heaving sobs uncontrollably. I guess Whitney Houston put it best when she sang “I get so emotional baby.” Cause I do. I would rather be feel every little emotion than nothing at all. I thought that my overactive tear ducts would be acerbated by not only the play but of my own journey with HIV.
There were a few times, while watching the plays, that I had to choke back the tears, but very few. I was expecting to be much more emotionally effected. I am not saying that it was not a beautiful production. It was. Everything from the acting, directing, scenic and lighting designed thrilled every fiber of my theatrical being. But as I person living with HIV now in the present day, I did not connect personally to the character of Prior as I thought that I would . I find this to be true with 90% of how HIV/AIDS is portrayed in TV, Film, or Theatre.
The reason for this is because most of these were written in the late 80s and into the mid 90s. Primarily dealing with the onset of this terrible disease. This is not to say that these depictions are not important, they extremely are. But they are our history. We have move so far past that. Unfortunately, when dealing with HIV in the media, that is all we see. Where is the journey of the person who has HIV now? The trendy cute HIV positive guy who is never sick, devilishly handsome, smart, talented, witty, and who finds it hard to date because of being HIV positive. Ok, there was Jeffrey, but even that was written in 1995. That is he closest media representation to what I am going through and it was written 16 years ago! And come on now, I have been lifting weights for some time, but no Michael T. Weiss am I. How could you say no to him?
Other than Jeffrey, I haven’t seen anything close to what I am going through. All I see is people covered with lesions, losing their eye sight, dying of a bizarre cat flu and who are running to the bathroom every five minutes with dysentery. While some days I fight a loosing battle with my complexion and it might look like I have a lesion on my face or I drink to much and feel like I have some sort of bizarre cat flu, I do not. And I am so thankful that my problems are no where close to what these people had to go through.
I know that this might make me sound a little winey and that I am blaming the entertainment industry for my dating woes, but it got me thinking about the correlation between not having current correct media representations on how it is to actually live with this disease and how prospective dates react to me being positive. I think that a lot of people who are negative, I was like this as well, have this thought that it will never happen to me. That only other people, people that they wouldn’t even know, get infected. So, when presented with an opportunity to date someone who is positive, they push it away out of fear. Fear that they might actually fall in love and that they will watch their lover wither and die in front of them. Fear that will automatically become positive if they have sex with someone who is positive. I am not saying it’s not without its risks. Life isn’t without its risks.
So let this be my little plea to the entertainment community to please start exploring the stories of HIV positive people today. People who are just living a normal life who have to deal with this stigma. I mean, Cancer was discovered before the time of Christ and we still see it all over the media. I am just asking for a little more light to be shed on this struggle. A little more light without all the death.
All Right Mr. De Mille, I’m Ready for My Close-up