Movie critic: Boycott of allegorical Stonewall is understandable

Stonewall Inn is now one of New York's national historical landmarks. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Stonewall Inn is now one of New York’s national historical landmarks. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

By Joanna Wagner
LGBT Perspectives TV & Movie Critic

SAN FRANCISCO — I think Roland Emmerich has tried to remake the Wizard of Oz. We have this Dorothy from Kansas named Danny, who fleeing a whirlwind of prejudice ends up in New York/Emerald City. He is misled by a scheming bar owner/wizard, is attacked by police/flying monkeys, while being cared for by a lion, a tin man and a scarecrow/drag queen, a lesbian and a transgender woman. White cis Danny saves the day by angrily leading the crowd and tossing a brick through a window, starting the Stonewall riots. The problem with the adaptation is Dorothy was a victim and observer. The real rescuing was done by everyone else.

The film, sight unseen, has created tremendous controversy in the LGBT community because this isn’t an allegorical tale; it’s about real people, many of whom are still alive, and a real event. It was not led by a cis white male, though they did participate. It was started by transgender people and butch lesbians of colour.

Why would Emmerich tell the story in a way so at odds with reality? The claim could be made that he did it to appeal to white moviegoers, that he could put more straight, cis, white butts in movie seats. You could say it’s his money, his production and he can tell any damn story he wants to the audience he wants.

This is a story that probably won’t appeal to a straight, white audience. When they have a choice between the latest blockbuster or a film about a historical event led by queer people, where do you think the money will be spent? Stonewall will probably have a limited release and the people who will go see it are LGBT people and their allies. He really can’t claim it was a marketing decision. That audience would probably be fine with the story being told from the perspective of the real participants.

It’s emblematic of a growing rift between assimilated, middle-class gays and everyone else. We’re all happy that same-sex marriage was finally made law, but it’s really a symbolic gesture. Who will benefit the most from it? Will it help homeless young people? Will it make a difference to transgender people whose only option for earning a living is prostitution? A tremendous amount of money and energy was spent making marriage happen while other problems went unaddressed.

Stonewall is a whitewash of the true history and it’s understandable why there is a move to boycott it. I write reviews, so I probably will go see it, but I can understand why anyone else would not.

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