Fear in Tony Kushner's Angels In America
Both parts of Tony Kushner's play Angels in America paint a painfully truthful picture of what gay men go through. In most cases, they suffer either inner anguish or public torment. Sometimes they must endure both. Being homosexual in America is a double-edged sword. If you publicly announce that you are gay, you suffer ridicule and are mocked by the ignorant of society; but if you keep your homosexuality a secret, you are condemned to personal turmoil. Kushner's work attempts to make America take a close look at itself and hopefully change its ways. The fear of public scrutiny forces many gay men into a life of denial and secrecy.
Kushner describes a society, not unlike our own society today, that looks down upon gay men and other minorities. By setting the play in the mid 80's, a time when gay-bashing was at its zenith, he is able to capture the prejudice towards homosexuals and all that surrounds it. The early 80's was also the time when AIDS was a new disease being made aware to the mass public for the first time. By setting the story in New York City, a melting pot of different cultures and people, Kushner proves that not just one group of people come in contact with homosexuals. All of these geographical and atmosphirical forces aid in setting the mood of the play. These surroundings drive the characters to act the way they do and make the choices they make.
Angels in America centers around the gay community which is one of the most scrutinized minorities in the world today. Kushner is able to convey his view more efficiently by having a broad range of power. His characters are of more than one social standing and are at different places in their lives. This technique affords him the opportunity to show that homosexual males do not all hold the same jobs and are not of one race, age, or religion. By doing this, he is succesful in showing that gay men are the same as anyone else. The only difference is who they choose to share a sexual life with. Once again modeling reality, several characters are confident in their sexuality but are hesitant to admit to it.
Roy Cohn and Joe Pitt represent the stereotypical gay man who refuses to publicly acknowledge his sexuality. They portray how gay men sometimes go to extreme lengths to deny their homosexuality. Both not only lie to others, but they lie to themselves. There is a certain sadness in the fact that some gay men desire the respect of strangers over being honest with themselves. Why do such a large number of gay men live lives in denial? The answer is simple. The answer is fear. Fear is the driving force behind many gay men's secrecy. The fear of how others may view them and the fear of how they will be received is overpowering.
Roy Cohn is a powerful, ruthless, well-connected lawyer, and he is also a closet homosexual. The reason for his double life can be traced back to...