[Marxism] Fw: "AIDS for Rent"

Louis R Godena louisgodena at ids.net
Fri Jan 6 16:47:52 MST 2006

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Yasmin Nair 
To: leftqueer 
Sent: Friday, January 06, 2006 5:47 PM
Subject: [leftqueer] "AIDS for Rent"

Hi everyone,

Below is a link to my recent column on Rent, the movie. It looks at the representation of AIDS activism,  the controversy over authorship surrounding the "plot," and the intense fan culture that has developed around the original musical.

As always, I welcome any comments and/or asides. 




"AIDS for Rent"

I recently attended a screening of Rent, the film based on the musical by Jonathan Larson. Given my cynicism about popular depictions of AIDS, I was unsurprised to find that it erases the massive organizing around AIDS by queers furious about government inaction in the 1980s. The activism of groups like ACT UP ( AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power ) led to significant shifts in policy and treatment alternatives, but none of t hat is apparent in Rent, which appropriates the group's name and part of its slogan ( "Act Up, Fight AIDS" ) in one of its songs without a single pink triangle in sight. 
Despite these and other flaws, the appearance of Rent brings two sets of narratives to our attention. The first consists of the fan material generated by "Rentheads," people who were in their teens when the musical appeared in 1996 and remain devoted to it. The second is the dispute between the estate of Jonathan Larson and Sarah Schulman, the lesbian novelist and playwright who has argued that Larson borrowed details from her 1990 novel People in Trouble. Taken together, these narratives form a cultural text about AIDS and the choices we make in remembering how the epidemic came about............

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