There was even a “Silence = True Death” sticker while Sookie was getting tested for carrying “Hep-V”
Thanks for this post. I’m struck by the way that horror troops shaped the coverage of AIDS, in the same way that they seem to currently shape the coverage of Ebola - though very different diseases in terms of their transmission. Both are about horrific transformations of bodies that seem to overnight lose their boundaries.
I think you can see a clear example of the ways that these fears about queer blood circulated in the X-Files. The early years featured many references to a deadly alien blood that killed anyone who came into proximity to it. I’m a bit rusty on the outlines, but there was a discourse about virus transmission as well, that led to the creation of a rebel force who literally refigured their bodies as prophylactic by sewing shut all their facial orifices.
Jeff - I find the zombie aesthetic to be interesting, especially in the current post 9/11 context. It seems like the zombie figure is tied to an “outside” threat (foreign), while the vampire is the threat among us…..
I really enjoyed your write-up on the vampire trope. Some of my colleagues have talked about the vampire-zombie dialectic and the ways each metaphor becomes more visible during specific historical moments. I wonder which might be more prominent today, in both the gay press and the MSM, especially given the ways HIV is often articulated as a “manageable” disease.
Andy, thanks for adding this “real world” context to our discussion this week. I am particularly struck by how you’ve connected the similarity between horror film tropes and news coverage of the virus.
Melanie- the HBO series Tru Blood is weaving a blood born pathogen arc into the final episodes of the series. This is unsurprising considering that vampirism has been an overt stand in for queerness in that specific story world.
I really appreciate that you bring the realm of supernatural connotation into a discussion of HIV/AIDS. I think we focus too often on denotative queer representation, forgetting that there is a whole connotative tradition that has shaped queer visibility in the media. Aside from news reports, can you think of other TV examples? I know people have talked about Aliens as metaphor for HIV, but I can’t think of any TV series off the top of my head.
I haven’t researched either of those aspects, but you’ve made me curious! Finding audience testimonials from that time is difficult, but there might be some letters to the editor. I’ve mostly focused on the film as part of a larger discursive struggle around AIDS and gay sexuality, a topic that was very much in flux in the 80s.
Thank you! I also find it intriguing that they went on to make Queer as Folk. I wonder if there is an interview out there in which they discuss the HIV/AIDS storylines because I’m rather curious myself whether or not they had a change of heart regarding that topic and how to represent it on TV.
The entire interview is well worth reading because it is so dismissive of gay sexual culture as it had emerged post-Stonewall. Completely agree regarding the ending—it really diverges from so many other films about AIDS in which the protagonist dies! The ending is particularly interesting considering that when An Early Frost was made, being diagnosed with HIV was still very much seen as a death sentence whereas at the time Philadephia came out, that attitude had already begun to change.
Thank you! Yes, exactly. I have a whole chapter in my book about how the disarticulation of identity and sexuality happened during 80s and early 90s to usher in the proliferation of openly gay characters in TV.
Douglas Crimp is one of my favorite writers on the AIDS crisis and his book Melancholia and Moralism has certainly shaped my thinking. If you look at gay publications from the 80s, it’s interesting to see how many of them jumped on the moralizing bandwagon pretty quickly and wrote off the “sex-crazed” 70s as youthful digression in comparison to the new maturity that emerges in response to the AIDS crisis.