In May 2012, Vice President Joe Biden gave an interview on “Meet The Press” where he said he was “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex marriage. That comment and others during the interview made headlines around the world, especially considering that President Obama until then was still saying he was “evolving” on the issue.
The vice president’s off-the-cuff remarks forced the president’s hand, and four days later, he announced in an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts (oh, hey fam!) that he supported same-sex marriage—officially the most important endorsement of marriage equality in the world up to that point, and probably still to this day.
In that same Biden interview, a line stuck out about how “Will & Grace” “probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody’s ever done so far.”
Now somehow that sentence is both comforting and terrifying at the same time, but regardless, it was a classic example of the impact that pop culture and other artistic endeavors can have on politics and the fight for equal rights.
Movies belong in that discussion when we’re talking about the arts affecting change.
“Philadelphia” was the first major Hollywood film to tackle AIDS and homophobia. The 1993 film helped destigmatize those subjects and got people talking about HIV in particular in a way they never had before.
“Trevor” was the 1994 Oscar-winning short film about a 13-year-old boy who attempts suicide after being rejected by his friends because of his sexuality. That film led to the creation of the Trevor Project, the 24-hour confidential suicide prevention hotline for LGBT youth that has undoubtedly saved countless lives over its nearly two decades in existence.
This week and through Oct. 8, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Out On Film festival, one of the largest and longest-running LGBT film festivals in the country. Every year’s lineup is a snapshot of what issues we as a community are either already talking about, or should be talking about.
Now, it’s not all about politics or activism of course. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud comedies in the mix as usual, but there are also many opportunities to be inspired and motivated to action as well.
I recently spoke with one of the Out On Film actor-filmmakers, Fawzia Mirza, a Pakistani Muslim lesbian whose “Signature Move” screens Oct. 6. She told me she looks at art as “artivism.”
“There are the people who, when something happens, they’re the first to make the phone calls or organize the rally or show up at the rally or make the noise,” she said. “Then there’s the people who raise money. There’s the people who write letters, there’s the people who write articles, there’s the people who organize vehicles and venues. And then also there’s the people who make art and have a voice that ways. There are people at all ends of the spectrum at all times and all of those voices matter.”
That’s an excellent summary of all of the roles that all of us can play in the conversation on any given issue, now more than ever.
Happy 30th, Out On Film. You’ve never looked better.