Not since The China Syndrome, a film about a nuclear power plant accident released a week before a nuclear power plant accident, has a movie's release been more timely than Gus Van Sant's Milk. For the last two weeks, gays across America have taken to the streets protesting antigay ballot initiatives promoted by Christians. In Milk, gays take to the streets in the 1970s, much of it actual archival footage, protesting antigay ballot initiatives promoted by Christians. It's so timely you would swear the filmmakers planned the whole Prop 8 vote for publicity, rather than a McDonald's tie-in ("Get your Milk milk!").
At one point, Harvey Milk (Sean Penn), the first openly gay politician ever elected, says of Proposition 6, a California initiative designed to fire all gay teachers and their supporters, "If this thing passes, fight the hell back!" Just last week, a sign at a rally declared, "No more Mr. Nice Gay." Fights were never won by being polite.
Christians are still using the exact same arguments used by "singer" Anita Bryant and State Sen. John Briggs during the gay 70s. They still condemn gays as anti-family, sick and hedonistic. They still claim to know exactly what Almighty God thinks. They still say that accepting gay unions will mean the death of the family, civilization, and then end of life on Earth, the boiling of the seas and endless rain of frogs. The only thing that has changed in 30 years are the numbers on the propositions.
Back then, Christians said that accepting gays would mean accepting prostitutes, drug addicts and bestiality, as if the next logical step is screwing a cat. Now, they say that accepting gay marriage would mean polygamy, bestiality, and even polygamous bestiality (I have two cats, so I get it). Then, as now, Christians win arguments with fear and intimidation. They won their various antigay initiatives by scaring the public. Then, as now, gays had one argument: Give Us The Same Rights And Then Leave Us The Hell Alone.
The good news is that not only is the movie timely, it's also superb in every other way - storytelling, acting, and production. Slavishly sticking to the facts, it doesn't need to amp up the drama at key moments, because Milk's life and crusade included plenty of drama. Even the ending is timely, featuring a family values conservative going postal. Remember Jim D. Adkisson, the family values conservative who, earlier this year, went postal in a Tennessee church because he wanted to kill liberals and gays? When will Christians finally get that their Godly rhetoric leads to violence and murder?
Maybe Milk will inspire a new generation of activists to end this antigay nonsense once and for all. Maybe, with all its relevance and plus the fact that it's a great movie, Milk will actually change some minds. Take your favorite fundamentalist to see it.