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Why They Hate (or Love) Larry Kramer

January 23, 1994

L arry Kramer's commentary "Why I Hated 'Philadelphia' " (Jan. 9) produced an unusually heavy response from readers. A sample of their opinions:


I'm angry too, Larry--at you for being so oblivious to what "Philadelphia" really is, what director Jonathan Demme and screenwriter Ron Nyswaner have so lovingly created. The audience I was with, at the movie I saw, was moved beyond emotion. A woman was found in the restroom afterward, beyond consolation. The entire audience sat motionless for minutes after the final credits rolled in total silence.

Andy Beckett's death was certainly not medically inaccurate. My brother would gladly dispute Kramer's inaccuracy, if only he hadn't died the very same way.

At fund-raising screenings of the movie, audiences have felt compelled to donate thousands of dollars to AIDS charities. That certainly goes a much longer way toward helping the cause than the misrepresentation of Kramer's unbelievable critique.

If his commentary misguides just one potential viewer to not see the film, Kramer has done his part at setting back the cause.

Since his "fury is directed at the third silent President," I'd strongly recommend that Kramer wake up and direct his anger in that direction, and not at what is one of the most socially important and compassionate films ever made.


Los Angeles

Kramer has overlooked the purpose of "Philadelphia." The film wasn't made to speak for him, or even to him. He is already so hyper-aware of the AIDS crisis, on a personal and political level, that it's doubtful a six-hour documentary could adequately address his anger and concerns.

"Philadelphia" was made to speak to a much broader audience, as yet untouched by AIDS and still anxious to ignore the subject. This it does exceedingly well, and many of the film's strengths become apparent only after one considers director Demme's narrative options and choices.

Of necessity, the target audience for "Philadelphia" is overwhelmingly heterosexual, and rather than provoke and agitate, Demme chose to involve them with familiar, mainstream characters and situations. This was in fact the same approach employed, with great success, by "An Early Frost" and "Longtime Companion." The bottom line is that a great many people are deeply and privately moved by the film.

I, for one, appreciated Tom Hanks' morally centered, ambitious, cultured, successful, monogamous and, yes, straight-acting character, especially the way he integrated his life into a supportive and accepting traditional family. There are a great many gay men who find a flagrantly sexual lifestyle self-destructive, and who are angry about being a minority within a minority. "Philadelphia" speaks to them as well.

In its own strange way, Kramer's pronouncement on "Philadelphia" is as arrogant and narrow as any made by the Catholic Legion of Decency during the 1940s and '50s. I suspect his real complaint is that he wasn't approached to be consultant emeritus on the production. I'm curious to know who solicited his opinion, and why The Times ran it just as the film is opening wide.


Washington, D.C.

As a gay man living with AIDS, I was disgusted by Kramer's comments concerning "Philadelphia." As the self-anointed, all-knowing guru of AIDS activism, Kramer expects to be taken seriously by spewing forth nothing but mean-spirited diatribe.

His anger and resentment toward all who will not portray AIDS only as vile killer does nothing but a disservice to the brave individuals, like myself and those around the globe, who are struggling to come to grips with an early mortality.

Jonathan Demme rightfully made "Philadelphia" as "mainstream" because Americans don't need to be confronted with images of young men and women suffering as their bodies, and often their minds, waste away.

I live with AIDS every day, as does Kramer. But I live with hope for a better tomorrow. Kramer lives in an AIDS-induced chamber of horrors wherein everything and everyone is wrong--except him.

Larry Kramer is indeed the world's angriest and saddest man.


Los Angeles

As usual Kramer is the angriest dog in the world. That "Philadelphia" was produced at all is a miracle!

Granted, character development might leave something to be desired, but this occurs in many American movies, whether gay or straight. Let's face facts--the name of the game in Hollywood is money. Maybe "Philadelphia" will lead to more movies addressing the issues of gays and AIDS.

Kramer ends his diatribe blaming Reagan, Bush and Clinton for AIDS. Every piece he writes ends with the same old chestnut. Larry: Get a life. It doesn't matter who is President. More money is being spent on AIDS research than on any disease in history. We are no closer to a cure or vaccine than five years ago. Maybe there will never be a cure or prevention. Who are you going to blame in 10 years?



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