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AIDS and Its Metaphor

Angels in America and Stigma

In the film, Angels in America, stigma affects some of the main characters such as Roy Cohn and Prior Walter. These two characters are living with AIDS/HIV throughout the film and are shown at pivotal moments in their life. Stigma follows these characters throughout the movies and encounters their everyday life. Susan Sontag article, AIDS and Its Metaphor, brings up how certain groups are stigmatized and the roots of where stigma originated from.

When first introduced to the character Prior, on the outside he looks to be a normal white male with no major illness. The viewer meets him at the Louis grandmother’s funeral. Prior tells Louis that he is HIV positive and that his lesion is not skin cancer related. Louis goes into a meltdown and takes the news worse than Prior does. Louis is not known to stick around when it comes to those who fall terminally ill. When Prior turns terminally ill, Louis exists out of his life for good. The stigma being a main reason for driving their relationship apart. Louis does not want to be apart of something.

Roy is briefly showed throughout the film but has a prominent place in the story line. He is a closeted New York lawyer who is infected with AIDS. He is in denial about his diagnosis and claims that he has lung cancer. With him being in the closet, he does not want to claim AIDS because he does not want to claim that he is a homosexual. One reason behind him not claiming AIDS or being homosexual is the stigma that travels with both the disease and his sexual orientation.

Sontag focuses in on the basis of stigma and marginalization with different diseases and illnesses. She says the fear that comes with certain disease are from how serious the disease is and the mortality rate. With AIDS, the stigma that followed the deadly disease was that mostly homosexual males are infected by this. This stigma made it more difficult for homosexual men and for others. According to Sontag, “From the beginning the construction of the illness had depended on notions that separated one group of people away from another- the sick from the well, people with ARC from people with AIDS, them and us-while implying the imminent dissolution of these distinctions. Those who they think may be in the safe category believed that they had better chances of not catching AIDS/HIV because they were not homosexual. This ignorance and stigma led to many infections because people did not feel apart of that category.

When it comes to Angels in America, stigma affected a lot of choices of the characters who had  HIV/AIDS and those who were involved with the characters. If stigma of the deadly disease did not exist then people would not be afraid to continue their lives after being diagnosed. They would also be able to educate themselves on if they have the disease and get help. Fear and stigma are closely related because everyone is afraid of death.

Work Cited:

Angels in America. Dir. Mike Nichols. 2003. DVD.

Sontag, Susan. “AIDS and Its Metaphors.” 153-57. Web.

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