Stonewall (2015)

Where pride was whitewashed and proceeded to have a migraine for two hours.


It was the end of June, the year 1969 in the Stonewall Inn–an old ruin run by the Mafia making money off of homosexuals and transgender people who had nowhere else to gather.

The inn itself didn’t have much to brag about. Loud and expensive, full of the young and the poor, Stonewall was a refuge for those dubbed “different” by ugly societal standards and for those who just wanted a place to dance, the inn being one of the few gay places where dancing was allowed. Hygiene regulations were near nonexistent but pride remained all the same.

Police raids were held on a regular basis, as in most gay bars. They came around checking for ID and arresting those not wearing gender normative clothing, and the police, as we all know, are not exactly prone to nonviolence. Many people were beaten and ridiculed for their identities, while  people were forced to bottle up the injustice and move on.

On that fateful night, however, the voices of the people, violated and denied, began to rise. Arrest was resisted and people refused to give identification because why should identification be required solely for people who weren’t “normal?”

The crowd grew, the air still hot and heavy, this time beating with resistance– defiance in the face of discrimination, for they were every bit as human as those subjecting them to the inhumane.

Sound familiar? I’ll bet not.

The story of the Stonewall riots is one rarely, if ever, mentioned in history classes, and completely unheard of among those not part of the LGBT community. It has become something trivial– mere trivia, if you will. Director Roland Emmerich, known for Sci Fi films such as Independence Day and Godzilla, wanted to change this with his film Stonewall, released last week.

He did not, in my opinion, get very far.

Emmerich, a gay white man, has chosen, predictably, a gay white man (Danny, played by Jeremy Irvine) as his main character.  The reality is that the entire movement was actually  started by transexual women of color.

Let me repeat that. This entire movie about the sacrifices made by people of color and of orientations other than homosexual was turned into a coming of age story revolving around Danny, our bland-as-wheat protagonist.

No wonder the movie tanked.

There was one director’s flaw that Emmerich could not be blamed for, and that was having too complex a cast. I found our cast of characters delightfully easy to track– because there were basically four of them.

The first: the White Gay Man ™ . All white male homosexuals had real emotions and backstory. They acted upon nothing and yet were still portrayed in more civilized a light than everybody else. I wonder why that is.

The second: the Authority. This group consisted of policemen and mean, conservative teachers. Grrrr.

The third: transexual people and gay people of color. These were the “street” folk. They were strippers at clubs and did drugs and alcohol and made unwanted advances at our innocent, awkward little protagonist.

The fourth? Everybody else. Literally anybody who wasn’t gay or transexual was omitted from this movie: bisexual people, asexual people– I saw a lesbian woman get five lines in. It was riveting.

But that’s alright. Who even knows what asexual is, and aren’t bisexual people just easy? No, dear reader, that is repulsively far from the truth. But apparently, it’s all Emmerich knows.

Have I mentioned, by the way, that every character that fell under each respective category was a cookie-cutter character, the mold being every single stereotype on God’s good earth?

Danny, our naive main character, was the only character to show some sort of emotion other than desperation, and it was about as bad as you could imagine it. It was as if Emmerich had produced the entire movie and then realized, oh snap, I have to make this guy relatable. He goes back and tells Jeremy Irvine (Danny) to cry every twenty minutes.

Although I am considerably bitter over this misrepresented tragedy of an attempt at portraying a pivotal moment in history for an underrepresented people, there is something that cannot be denied, and that is that it seems to be working for straight people.

Emmerich held an interview with Buzzfeed in which he addresses the controversies in the movie. “You have to understand one thing: I didn’t make this movie only for gay people, I also made it for straight people,” he said. “…Straight audiences can feel for [Danny].”

For Danny they may feel, but everyone who wasn’t a white homosexual was painted in a suspiciously comedic light. The audience I saw the film with quite enjoyed themselves. They certainly laughed like the riots didn’t take lives.

Full of horribly executed good intentions, Stonewall attempts to reconstruct a powerful moment for minorities into something digestible for the straight audience. It was a migraine of a film and did injustice to those who sacrificed their lives for the cause.