michael j. morris

Milk, the Academy Awards, Same-Sex Marriage
23 February, 2009, 10:40 pm
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Not that the Academy Awards matter to me almost at all, but I wanted to share these videos as a continued commentary on the film Milk and also as a contribution to the on-going public dialogue surrounding same-sex equal rights and same-sex marriage in this nation. Even though I wasn’t watching, I am pleased that these were words spoken to many Americans last night. Particularly moving was the speech by Dustin Lance Black, who wrote the screenplay for Milk.


More inspiration
18 January, 2009, 12:30 pm
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My friend CoCo wrote the most beautiful post exploring the possibility of “dance as gift” or “dance from one to one.” It was so inspiring and so related to some of the ideas I have been having in my art seminar class. Not to mention the ongoing question of “Who is your art for?” You can read it here.

Two books are rocking my world right now: 

Dancing Desires: Choreographing Sexualities On and Off the Stage (edited by Jane Desmond. It is a collection of essays addressing the relationship between sexuality studies and dance history, their intimate relationship to one another, and their historical exclusion of one another. It seeks to reexamine both not only in the context of one another, but making each central to the other. Thus far it has done an amazing a provocative job of it. it is also feeding really naturally into thoughts I am having for a new piece in the spring (working title “Negotiation of Gender and Gaze”). 

The second book I just bought yesterday. It is entitled:
 The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding (by Mark Johnson). I just started it yesterday, but it is an exciting examination of the centrality of corporeal existence to our construction/understanding of meaning. It speaks of the mind and body in a non-dualism, but as a unified whole, emphasizing the embodied nature of experience, thought, feeling, belief, spirituality, aesthetics, etc. I read the first chapter in Barnes & Noble, and because I have no self control when it comes to books, I bought it on the spot.

I also saw Milk again yesterday, and let me reiterate: if you haven’t yet seen it, you should. Even a second time, I was deeply moved. I was asked whether it was essential to see it on the big screen, and I wasn’t sure. Now I will say this: the experience will be entirely different from big to small screen. I recommend big.

I am off to brunch, then rehearsal, then some quality friend-time.

22 December, 2008, 12:54 pm
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I saw Gus Van Sant’s Milk a couple of days ago, and I think I am only now able to append language to my experience. First, in short, I recommend it. Not only do I see it as an important historical depiction, but the relevant dialogue it raises with the times in which we now live was staggering.

Here are some of my thoughts:

It gave me some measure of hope, even though the story of Harvey Milk is a tragedy. It gave me hope because it reminded me that things do change, things have changed in some parts of this country. Some of the battles that were being fought during the 1970s have been won, and it gives me hope that given time the battles in which we now find ourselves (same culture war, different battles) will too be won. It is [hopefully] only a matter of time before our society/culture stops passing legislation that is based on our differences and instead builds a society that honors our commonalities. That is my hope.

It made me angry. Some of the arguments that opponents to equal rights raised during the 1970s are still being raised today. And they are absurd. Arguments such as homosexuality is a threat to the family unit, the core of society. First, just because I am homosexual does not mean I think everyone is/should be/will be. I respect and honor families that are respectable and honorable (as in, rooted in love for one another), regardless of the gender or sexuality of the parents. The more offensive layer of this argument is that it assumes that because we are homosexual, we do not want or cannot have families. It says that our families are not real, or worse, that they are threatening. It says that because two men cannot procreate with one another, they cannot and should not be able to marry, to love and raise children, to be a family. 
It would be exhausting and frankly frustrating to list and rebuttal every hateful and fallacious argument that was represented in the film and continues to be active in our society today. And I assume that generally my readership are not those who need to be convinced. All of this simply to say that the conservative right defended and advanced their position with assumptions, misapprehensions, hate, and lies then and they continue to do so now. It angers me that this is the case, and that those same arguments are still holding weight with individuals in our country/culture today.

It saddened me. Because the movement that started in California in the 1970s is still being challenged in California today, and I regret to say that it has still barely begun in other places. I have lived in three states at this point (Louisiana, Mississippi, and Ohio). All three have banned same-sex marriage in their constitutions. In the 1970s in California, they won the battle over professional discrimination based on sexuality. At my undergraduate college, Belhaven College, openly homosexual professors will not be hired, and if ever a professor already on faculty came out as homosexual (which to my knowledge has never happened) they would be fired, because Belhaven presents itself as a Christian institution, and homosexuality is a sin in their world. It saddens me to realize that battles that have been won almost thirty years ago in parts of our country have yet to begin in other parts, the parts I have called home.

These are just some of my reactions. They compel me to action, although I have yet to recognize what form that action will take, beyond simply continuing to be who I am, to be out and about, to do what I do, and by being open about my homosexuality and my perspectives hopefully change the way our society views us.

I urge you to go see Milk as supporting films like this is an important statement in supporting the causes, the lives, and rights it represents. When these stories are told and there is no one there to listen, it is far easier for a society to continue to believe that we aren’t here, that those stories don’t matter, and things are just fine. We are here, those stories do matter, and things are not fine. Supporting this film is just a small way of making that statement.