“Angels In America”: Why Do Men Prefer To Be On The ‘Down Low’?

1225 words - 5 pages

Over the years America’s ability to address taboo issues by channeling them through popular culture has become increasingly popular (Pruitt, 2007). Among the many taboo issues as evidenced by the number of mainstream films which minimally address the matter, is the issue of men living on the down low (Hamilton, 2009). An example of such is the 2011 film “For Colored Girls.” The film like many bring up the issue of men being on the down low, but they have neglected to go in-depth as to why men chose this lifestyle – rather than the age old notion that they fear social rejection (Pruitt, 2007). As it relates to the drama “Angels in America,” written by Tony Kushner, the work does a great job highlighting men who have secret lifestyles and two of the characters within the drama that exemplify characteristics of living on the down low – Joe Pitt and Ray Cohn (Kushner, 1993)
To begin with, ‘Down Low’ is a phrase that was coined by members of the African American urban culture during late 1980’s which defines gay men who appear to be straight (Hamilton, 2009). Many characteristics of men living on the down low include individuals (who appear as though they are straight) who are sometimes married with children, members of the clergy, elected officials, ex-convicts, and most notable in a number of low-budget and often overlooked films – straight acting thugs (Hamilton, 2009). It is almost virtually impossible to be appreciative of the drama “Angels in America” without having an understanding about the history of the AIDS crisis as well as a more extensive story of lesbians and gays in the United States of America. While men and women have engaged in homosexual conduct in all times and various cultures, it was only in the twentieth century that homosexuality came to be seen as a “fundamental orientation” rather than an explicit act. In the United States of America, the contemporary gay rights movement followed World War Two, which as a result, brought millions of unmarried adults into close contact in large cities far from their families. “Gay bars and political organizations existed generally undisclosed in the 1950s and `60s, but New York City's Stonewall Riot in 1969 helped usher in a period of growing openness among gays and greater public acceptance (Hamilton, 2009).”
“Although gay life flourished in the 1970s, many gays saw the '80s as a period of retrenchment and tragedy. The first cases of AIDS were diagnosed among gay men in 1981; within ten years more than 100,000 people died of the disease in the U.S. alone. In the early years of the epidemic, ignorance and fear resulted in widespread discrimination against AIDS patients, and the national media reported the story in a sensationalistic manner, if at all. Gays' anger about the mainstream reaction to AIDS became interlinked with political frustration, as a conservative backlash that began in the late '70s hindered the cause of gay rights. For many gay activists, Presidents Reagan and Bush...

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