Films can Force the Issue
Art not only imitates life but also often holds a mirror up to issues of the time. The film Philadelphia was released on Dec.24, 1993 and was one of the first Hollywood pictures to acknowledge HIV/AIDS and homophobia. The movie stars Tom Hanks as Andrew Beckett, a man with AIDS who faces discrimination for his condition and Denzel Washington as Joe Miller, a homophobic lawyer and the only one willing to represent Beckett in a wrongful dismissal suit.
The film was inspired in part by the story of Geoffrey Bowers, an attorney who in 1987 sued his own law firm for wrongful dismissal in one of the first AIDS discrimination cases. The film was a commercial success, grossing over US$200 million and earned Hanks his first Oscar for Best Actor and Bruce Springsteen an Oscar for Best Song “Streets of Philadelphia”. Director Jonathan Demme is said to have felt that Springsteen would bring an audience who may not otherwise see a movie about a gay man dying of AIDS. Also nominated for Best Song was Neil Young’s “Philadelphia” which audiences may remember from the film’s poignant final scene.
The film, the songs, the “Boss” and his music video all undoubtedly did much to raise AIDS awareness.