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‘It’s a Sin’: AIDS as Generation Black Hole

I inhaled the HBO Max/Channel 4 AIDS dramatic mini-series It’s a Sin in one day and am still thinking about it.

As someone who was in ACT UP and moved to the West Village in the early 90s, AIDS is never off my radar. I’ll never forget my beautiful young friends who seemed like ghosts even before they died. I’ll never forget equating sex with death even before I lost my virginity.

The London-set series has charisma to spare–hip-strutting, head-strong boys; head-spinning montages; spot-on 80s and 90s set and costume design; catchphrases! But it spares no soundtrack cliches nor no 90s-era micro-aggression: witness its centralization of white characters; the lack of sex life for the sole female protagonist, who seems to exist solely to caretake men.

I resist the critique that It’s a Sin fast-forwards too quickly, though. While I was still in my teens, the transition from carefree club life and wanton fucking to hospitals, funerals, and activism took place in the blink of an eye. Gender/sexual harassment/trauma was so widespread it was background noise–something you white-knuckled through if you wanted an apartment, job, not to get beat to a pulp. Believe me. As someone who has often called out aberrant behavior—who confronted the landlord who stuck his tongue down my throat, who refused to work for the newspaper editor who licked his lips while asking if I had a boyfriend–my career and livelihood suffered mightily.

Gen X is too hard on Z/millennials, but we resent younger people’s assumption that we’re oblivious to trauma. My generation of queers just was swamped with too much macro-aggression–mass extinction and existential horror–to tackle micro. Oh how this show captures that giddy ghastly time.

Birds of America

I take great solace in artists who don’t just improvise upon accepted conventions but flat-out improve them; such creatives are holy alchemists. In this vein, as in many others, the painter Kerry James Marshall is a true bright light. Today he released a new series. A wily subversion of the works of John James Audubon, these paintings explore the deeply problematic “one-drop” rule through the markings of birds—all of the ones pictured here are deemed “black” by Marshall and are indubitably beautiful. (Cue the old 60s saw.) Arguably our country’s greatest living painter, Marshall embodies Jean Houston’s words: “Wounding becomes sacred when we are willing to release our old stories and become the vehicles through which the new story may emerge into time.” To serve as such vehicles, we must model Marshall’s magic in whatever is our true calling.

(To chart this calling, book an intuition session here.)

So Much ‘Hunger’

I’m so obsessed with The Hunger (1983) right now, streaming on the Criterion Channel, which is the best $10 monthly investment you can make in your cinematic education. Directed by Tony Scott (Top Gun!), this blue-blue valentine stars Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve as a lady doctor and lady vampire respectively who embark upon lady carnal love. Oh, and you know who’s the spurned lover in this scenario? Mr David Bowie, that’s who. Really it’s so futile to resist this movie that I don’t see why you’d try. The plot may be as flimsy as GOP logic but its cerulean desire—not to mention fear and horror of physical intimacy—is just so of the moment. Dig if you will this picture.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy