Sunday, October 12, 2014
"Pride": Solidarity between the LGBT community and mine workers in "The Iron Lady's" Britain, not overplayed
“Pride”, by Matthew Warchus, certainly provides lilt, as it is practically a full fledge British musical and comedy about political solidarity leading to an unusual episode of gay history. The film starts at Gay Pride in London in 1984, when some gay activists circulate the idea of helping raise money for the coal miners striking in Wales. Conservative Margaret Thatcher, “The Iron Lady” (Jan. 26, 2012) was the common enemy to be faced. In fact, in the prelude to the film, the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” gets sung to lyrics about solidarity, Fred Waring style. (I remember the real anthem in mixed chorus in middle school.)
Now, I personally am not a fan of linking “gay equality” to “socialism” (which some props in the film do), nor do I personally like to be recruited to pimp to raise money for “other people’s causes”. Stepping back from this, I understand the need for unity of sorts. I marched in parades and demonstrations a lot more in the past. But I’ve never belonged to a union, and I’ve never done without my own wages for the good of others. In fact, in my world, there was a tendency for singles to work for less and lowball the market.
Much of the story is told through the eyes of a fictitious and very likeable, even charismatic, participant, Joe (George McKay), who, at 20, can’t legally be in bars, where he often shows in the film’s many disco scenes that offer wonderful 80s music (which I miss in discos today). In one scene, his mother confronts him with the circular argument that he will have to live in secret (without a family), and she seems unaware of the logical flaw. Other activists seem to have been real, including Mark (Ben Schnetzer). Bill Nighy plays Cliff, a union official who eventually says he’s gay.
Of course, the film covers the issue of the public perception of the union’s accepting the participation of a gay group (GLSM, or Gays and Lesbians in Solidarity with Miners), driven into the dirt by conservative tabloids. Mark comes up with the idea that if you’re called a name, you own it. “Pervert” becomes part of the group’s trademark.
The miners eventually lose and go back to work in March 1985, but return for Pride March in 1985 at the end of the film. Joe has dropped out of school for his activism (a sacrifice), and on his 21st birthday, has to figure out how to resume his own life.
The film brings up AIDS about half-way through, first with an embedded TV report. It wasn’t until April 1984 that HIV (or HTLV-III) was announced as the cause of AIDS. There is a line about taking the test, but here was no antibody test until well into 1985. Mark, according to the credits, dies of AIDS, but another character, one of the first to be diagnosed as HIV+, is still alive today. There always were long-term non-progressors, even before modern medications.
The film is quite entertaining, and never gets too lost in political correctness (which I had "feared" going to see it). The Welsh scenery (some of it in winter, and some of it with shots of bridges and superhighways from air, people driving "the wrong way") is spectacular in wide screen. Only one or two lines mentions the economic importance of coal; the pollution issue and working conditions (I think those are big problems) are never addressed. I could compare this, however, to "Coal Miner's Daughter" (1981, by Michael Apted, where Sissy Spacek plays Loretta Lynn), "Matewan" by John Sayles, and various films about mountaintop removal reviewed on this blog.
I've been in London twice, 1982 and 2001. That's not enough times. In 1982, I visited a gay bar in Soho and witnessed a fight (one of only two in my lifetime in a gay bar), and then went to a downstairs disco.
The official site is here (CBS Films, Pathe, Calamity, and BBC Films). The film opened in mid-September but release was expanded this weekend. I saw it at the Angelika Mosaic in Merrifield, VA before a large Sunday afternoon audience (at least 2/3 full in a large auditorium). And a new restaurant across the street, True Food Kitchen, has long lines. And the new Ted’s Bulletin is busy, too.
Wikipedia attribution link for view of Hyde Park, where I stayed in 1982 some nights.