In 2015 America, where gay marriage has been endorsed by the U.S. Supreme Court, a mainstream movie about the 1969 Stonewall riot in New York City that helped spark the LGBT civil-rights movement wouldn’t seem to be something that would still provoke a boycott.
But Roland Emmerich’s upcoming historical drama caused a minor furor after the first trailer debuted online last week, with the director forced to defending himself from unlikely quarters. The Gay-Straight Alliance Network was one of the organizations urging a boycott of the film, based purely on the trailer, arguing that Emmerich “whitewashed” the story and diminished the contributions of racial minorities and transgender activists.
Larry Kramer, the gay activist and author of The Normal Heart, is having none of it. In a Facebook post, responding to Emmerich’s defense of the film, he urged the director, “Don’t listen to the crazies,” and defended the use of artistic license.
“don’t listen to the crazies,” Kramer wrote. “for some reason there is a group of ‘activists’ that insists on maintaining their prime importance and participation during this riot. unfortunately there seems no one left alive to say ‘it wasnt that way at all’, or ‘who are or where the f–k were you.’ as with so much history there is no way to ‘prove’ a lot of stuff, which allows artists such as yourself (and me I might add) to take essences and attempt to find and convey meaning and truth. i sincerely hope this boycott your film sh-t peters out. we are not dealing with another ‘Cruising’ here. keeping your film from being seen is only hurting ourselves. good luck and thank you for your passion. larry kramer”
In the trailer, Jeremy Irvine’s character is depicted throwing the first brick, but many credit trailblazers like Stormé DeLarverie and Marsha P. Johnson — a mixed-race lesbian and African-American drag queen, respectively — with striking the first blow against the police on June 28, 1969.
In Emmerich’s initial response to the online petitions, he wrote:
“I understand that following the release of our trailer there have been initial concerns about how this character’s involvement is portrayed, but when this film — which is truly a labor of love for me — finally comes to theaters, audiences will see that it deeply honors the real-life activists who were there — including Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Ray Castro — and all the brave people who sparked the civil rights movement which continues to this day. We are all the same in our struggle for acceptance.”