Gay Marriage in “Milk” Film by Gus Van Sant


Milk is a 2008 biographical motion picture by Gus Van Sant that presents a chronological view of the life of gay rights activist and politician, Harvey Milk. The movie presents a neutral perspective of the hardships that Harvey Milk had to go through and allows the audience a chance to make their own decision about not only the movie but also about the legitimacy of Harvey Milk’s struggle for the acquitting of his rights and the suffering that he chose to put himself through as a sacrifice to the degree of faith that he had in his beliefs.

The following paragraphs of this paper shall shed light upon the movie and shall attempt to elaborate upon the perspective that the movie has showed Harvey Milk in. The paper shall also take into account one movie review and shall elaborate upon the legitimacy of the opinions expressed in the critic. The paper shall give special attention to the numerous themes that the creators of the movie have chosen to highlight in Milk and shall attempt to elaborate upon the degree of sincerity with which they have put the movie together.


According to the Boston Globe (Morris), the movie serves to represent not only the degree of faith that Harvey Milk as a person held in his way of life. Wesley Morris notes and this member of the audience agrees with the fact that Sean Penn has done more than merely a remarkable job of portraying Harvey Milk’s innocence and sheds light upon the fact that Harvey Milk did not come forth with any desire, intention or motive to teach people about being gay, but came forth and stood for the supervisor election only because he believed that his faith was in the right place and that he could bring about a change in the lives of more people who lived like him and who remained quiet simply because they were afraid of the cold shoulder that society would give them and the intense degree of ostracism that they were treated with if they chose to state their orientation openly.

If one was to sum up Wesley Morris’ criticism of Milk in one of his statements, then it would have to be the following in which Wesley Morris has shed light upon the desperation that Harvey Milk faced as he came forth with a passionate desire to bring about a change.

For Milk, politics sprouted from necessity. Despite opening a camera shop on Castro Street, increasingly the center of gay San Francisco, he and Scott were barred from the neighborhood business association and decided to start their own. There Harvey gets a taste for the power of activism. He announces his first campaign for city supervisor while standing on a box with “soap” stenciled on the side and assembles a campaign staff of much younger, average-looking guys – apostles – who work as hard as their boss (Morris).

The film Milk basically relates to an individual who at first comes out of hiding, an individual who finally finds the confidence to break free of all concealment that had him fettered. The strength of this film is the enthusiasm of the lead character to live his life the way he wanted to, his ambition to achieve success and finally the completion of his goal. Harvey Milk is shown as a person who is a homosexual and is not afraid to hide, what others would consider a flaw in fact he goes all out to flaunt it. However the achievement of his success serves to render him blind to his sexual partners needs and want for his time and devotion.

The fact of importance here is that every story comes with a moral and this film points to the significance of the fact that one must not let power override his better judgment of right or wrong. Milk succeeded in his aim, he made it into politics and became the first homosexual male to hold public office. This fact pointed to two things the first that he achieved his aim of being recognized as being gay, and second his acceptance as a gay individual by being accepted into the public office.

The film strives to show, that even though the times the film portrayed are long gone the advancements in universal culture have been updated with time and are even more willing to accept homosexuals now than they were then. Yet it still appears to be as big a scandal today as it was then.

Even though his better judgment was dominated by his passion to prove himself, this driving force led him to his own destruction. Ambition and power took over his ability to care, and dominated him with an expressionless lack of emotion leading to the inevitable his lack of loyalty to his partners, lack of happiness, lack of anything meaningful, so much so that he even forgot to enjoy the gift of life, until the day he loses it to a bullet, shot by a person who he failed to assist, a friend or ally who when faced with his betrayal was in turn driven by his own fiery need for revenge.

The strength of this film is its extreme core of pessimism. It is the negativity of the film that compels a person to actually sit up and pay attention. The film in spite of a theme that under normal circumstances would have been controversial despite the narration of very true events, it tends to support a point without offending any of the viewers being of gay background, straight or politically active or liberal. In all cases it comes across as a film that makes appoint with a solid background of evidence and at the end of it there is a worthy lesson. Power when overrides better judgment often leads to damnation.

The historic recordings from the actual days of Harvey Milk that the creators of the movie have used with much frequency serve to do a lot more than bring the movie to life but also serve to show the audience a glimpse of the actual energy that existed in the days of Harvey Milk and the joys and sorrows that existed in them (Penn, Hirsch and Brolin).

When watching Milk, one cannot help but feel that sometimes, society does not give due credit to some of the people who very rightfully deserve it. The movie helps the audience to see how one sometimes chooses to put their own selves in a condition where there is no way back and how one willingly pays the price for going against the norms and trends that society is not very willing to accept. The movie serves to set the audience thinking about the numerous other oppressions that prevail in our society and how we pass by them every day, ignoring them simply because of the comfort that we find in the repose of lying to ourselves.

Half way through the movie, one begins to feel that there is a strong sense of sincerity that the creators of the movie held with the theme of the movie. It would not be unjustified to concur that there is a strong sense of commitment that can be seen in the effort that the actors, directors and producers put in the making of this movie. The movie proceeds by providing a sincere yet pure look into the tale of a man who dedicated his life to the beliefs that he held and makes one realize that it may be common to find a mob of people protesting against a much stronger entity and dedicating their time to the desire to attain their rights, but it is highly rare to find a single man, standing up against some of the strongest powers of his time, and raising his voice in his quest for the attainment of his rights.


In light of the above discussion, we can conclude that the movie Milk presents an excellent portrayal of Harvey Milk’s actual struggle to bring about the change that he desired and knew would serve to improve lives for countless people. The discussion also allows us to concur that Wesley Morris’s critic of Milk was completely justified and that the movie indeed does

Works Cited

Milk. Dir. Gus Van Sant. Perf. Sean Penn, et al. 2008.

Morris, Wesley. Milk Movie Review. 2008. Web.

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