The Naked Community Organizer: Politics and Reflexivity in Gus Van Sant's Milk

The Naked Community Organizer: Politics and Reflexivity in Gus Van Sant's Milk By Julia Erhart "I am not a candidate, I am part of a movement. The movement is the candidate. There is a difference." Spoken by Harvey Milk's character in Gus Van Sant's Milk (2008), these words emblematize a critical tension in a film that both is and is not a conventional biopic. Appearing to advance a key theme in the movie, these words downplay the significance of the individual in favor of a collective movement and in so doing would appear to cancel out the movie's very "biopicness." At the same time, the fact that they are spoken by a blockbuster Hollywood star chosen to play an "exceptional" individual within a movie bearing a one-man title impedes the movie's generic capacity not to be a biopic. The tension between the individual "Harvey Milk" and the gay political community disturbs--in interesting ways--the movie's compliance with generic conventions. In what follows, I will explore how, because of its downplaying of the individual in favour of a focus on politics, the movie both is and is not a conventional biopic. Because it is not a mainstream film but a movie targeted at a presumably guaranteed, albeit niche, audience, Milk can elevate http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png a/b: Auto/Biography Studies Autobiography Society, Inc.

The Naked Community Organizer: Politics and Reflexivity in Gus Van Sant's Milk

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Publisher
Autobiography Society, Inc.
Copyright
Copyright © Autobiography Society, Inc.
ISSN
2151-7290
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Abstract

By Julia Erhart "I am not a candidate, I am part of a movement. The movement is the candidate. There is a difference." Spoken by Harvey Milk's character in Gus Van Sant's Milk (2008), these words emblematize a critical tension in a film that both is and is not a conventional biopic. Appearing to advance a key theme in the movie, these words downplay the significance of the individual in favor of a collective movement and in so doing would appear to cancel out the movie's very "biopicness." At the same time, the fact that they are spoken by a blockbuster Hollywood star chosen to play an "exceptional" individual within a movie bearing a one-man title impedes the movie's generic capacity not to be a biopic. The tension between the individual "Harvey Milk" and the gay political community disturbs--in interesting ways--the movie's compliance with generic conventions. In what follows, I will explore how, because of its downplaying of the individual in favour of a focus on politics, the movie both is and is not a conventional biopic. Because it is not a mainstream film but a movie targeted at a presumably guaranteed, albeit niche, audience, Milk can elevate

Journal

a/b: Auto/Biography StudiesAutobiography Society, Inc.

Published: May 5, 2011

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