Feminist Sunday: Dallas Buyers’ Club

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Feminist Sundays is a weekly meme created at Books and Reviews. The aim is simply to have a place and a time to talk about feminism and women’s issues. This is a place of tolerance, creativity, discussion, criticism and praise. Remember to keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, although healthy discussion is encouraged.

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB AND AIDS

Last Saturday I finally watched Dallas Buyers Club, a movie that I had long wanted to see because it speaks of an era that changed the world. For those of you who do not know about it, Dallas Buyers Club tells the story of Ron Woodroof who has recently been diagnosed with AIDS and is looking for a way out of the system that, he thinks, is just killing AIDS patients with their drug testing. This all takes place in Dallas in 1985 when AIDS was still not completely understood and people were afraid of those suffering from it. But since it is a movie, here is the trailer.

Now, why this movie and this theme? First of all because of a personal interest since my mom has been a nurse since the early 1980’s and the chaos and confusion that she and medical staff had to face until they discovered what was AIDS and how it was transmitted is epic. I do not know how they made it, but these people deserve all my respect and love. Secondly, because at the time AIDS was a “queer/fagot’s disease”. The movie makes a great point of who and how were affected: Ron is a heterosexual man, but the people surrounding him are transsexuals, homosexuals and some women. If you still haven’t figured it out it was society’s outcasts. Ron himself refuses to believe he suffers from AIDS because he is not gay and he feels free to insult others suffering from the disease as well. But, as time goes by, the disease proves to be a far stronger link than what differentiates them. That is how the relationship between Ro and Raynon (Jared Leto), a transsexual who is friends with Eve, emerges.

But, there is also a missing link here and that is professional women. If you are a fan of Grey’s Anatomy you can see how women doctors were treated in the character of Ellis Grey. In this film, Jennifer Garner plays Eve, a young, hopeful and hard-working doctor who has to fight against her boss and the chemical industry personified in middle-aged, white men in suits who just want to make the most of the AIDS epidemic. She joins Ron, Raynor and the whole buyers club who are just looking a day more to live.

Eve and Raynor at the hospital.
Eve and Raynor at the hospital.

All this came to my mind after thinking of the book Queer Theory by Donald E. Hall. I read the chapter “Who and What is Queer?” where he mentions the 1980’s as a decade that saw the emergence of AIDS and, as a consequence, the criminalization of homosexuality. That the disease was at first linked mainly to homosexual men did not help and a kind of hysteria was unleashed putting AIDS victims into the “outcast” group that already contained women, transsexual and travesties. So, queer theory is the name given to those theories and approaches that study – in the case of literature and movies- the representation of outcast groups in society and how they create their identities. AIDS patients became a part of these theories as they developed in the 1990s because along with other groups they were being misrepresented in both art and life. In the movie, Eve, Ron and Raynor stand for the three groups that suffered the most repression and criticism in this period: professional (medical) women, transsexuals and AIDS patients no matter their previous identities: Ron was well-respected in his misogynist, drug-dealing group until they knew he suffered from AIDS. Then, they repudiated him.

So, this is why I thought it was important to devote a Feminist Sunday to Dallas Buyers CLub. Because, not so long ago – and sadly still nowadays – AIDS has labelled people as outcasts usually in relation to their sexual orientation or even their gender. I think it is important for feminism to remember those battles that seem won but that still need to be fought and, above all, those battles that unite us rather than divide us.

7 thoughts on “Feminist Sunday: Dallas Buyers’ Club

  1. Thanks for this very thoughtful post, Elena. It’s a brilliant film, and a brave one for Matthew McConaughey to have made. You’ve made me think about it all over again!

    1. Thanks, Susan. I thought it was amazing and yes, Matthew McConaughey is a great actor when he does things like this. I usually associate him to romantic comedies, but he’s better than we all think!

        1. That was what I liked. Let’s be sincere, it is still a Hollywood mainstream movie, but it presents something not so mainstream. How many years are there between DBC and Philadelphia? AIDS still needs to be talked about, or at least I think it important.

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