April 6, 2015 | Uncategorized  |  1 Comment

The story Monstro by Junto Diaz is a fictional story about an outbreak that causes zombie like humans to take over, the story also shows and depicts how people not affected by the epidemic treat the sick or infected people. The story Monstro follows and supports the traditional models of zombie fiction in many ways, as described in the article Insecure Lives: Zombies, Global Health, and the Totalitarianism of Generalizaion by Steven Pokornowski. This article looks at how health and security in zombie fiction literature, or media, relates to topics like race, empire, and colonialism (Pokornowski 1). One of these rules for zombie fiction to follow or a common theme in zombie fiction is a lack of security in health matters. Pokornowski describes this as the marriage between political or military forces and global health agencies and how the two interact when it comes to an outbreak (Pokornowski 1-2). In Monstro this is seen multiple times, both early on in the outbreak and later as the disease continues to spread. In the story, doctors were examining the “viktims” and using them in experiments where they would take them out of quarantine zones and see what occurred, the result was extreme reactions from the infected patients as they tried to come back to the quarantine zone where they felt safe (Diaz). These quarantine zones are set up by the government officials or military officials where doctors work in to study the patients or infected people, this relation is what Pokornowski describes as the relation of military and doctors and how they interact during an infectious outbreak.

The marriage between political groups and health care groups also plays a role in Monstro when the disease breaks out. In times of outbreak political, military, and health care officials begin to take over as a totalitarian dictator for the situation and make decisions to try and protect as many people as possible (Pokornowski 2). For example a doctor calling for a quarantine or a military organization calling for immediate medical attention to people. In Monstro a lockdown gets ordered by the W.H.O. or World Health Organization (Diaz). This is an exact agency referenced in Pokornowski’s article that has a new found authority in a time of crisis like this outbreak.

Monstro tells the story of a nineteen year old boy living in Haiti during an outbreak the citizens call Monstro (Diaz). The boy has his friends Alex and Mysty throughout the outbreak and introduce the topic of race and culture during an outbreak. In the article Insecure Lives: Zombies, Global Health, and the Totalitarianism of Generalization by Pokornowski, the zombie fiction genre can be traced back to Haiti calling it the birthplace of the modern zombie from which American and western literature and media get the basis for zombies from (Pokornowski 2). This Haitian story of zombies is heavily influenced by spirituality and folklore, this can be found in Monstro when discussing and referring to the causation of the sickness that caused infected people to act zombie like. One of the doctors, Dr. DeGraff, asked the wife of a man who was ill why he was sick or how get go sick, the wife’s response was that someone witched him (Diaz). The infected person in Monstro was rambling, twitching, and seeming to be possessed, with the causation being a mystery. This matches Pokornowski’s theory on zombies, especially those originating in Haitian stories, that have a mysterious cause, the zombies have no real form, that was adopted by western cultures when zombies were introduced in the 1920’s (Pokornowski). Monstro follows this rule of sticking to Caribbean traditional zombie story, as well as introducing race issues

The dehumanization factor plays a role in Monstro, not only amongst the narrator and his friends, but also when handling the outbreak situation in Haiti. One example of this is when the narrator is visiting his friend Alex at school and called Alex’s brown friend and standing out because of how tall he is and how dark his voice is (Diaz). This relates to the fear of not knowing aspect during an apocalypse or epidemic outbreak. This is also evident when Alex offers the narrator a gun every time they leave somewhere, because that was how things were in the Dominican Republic (Diaz). The separation due to cultural differences is as prevent throughout the story Monstro as the necessary separation of infected versus not infected citizens.

A major factor in a zombie infection situation is the quarantine. The disease became detectable with a scanner that showed red for people uninfected and blue for people who have been infected, the narrator recounts this moment as one of extreme fear saying he almost shat himself because of how many people turned up blue on the scanner just walking around on the street (Diaz). This kind of fear drives quarantine stations and creates the idea of dehumanization and the separation of communities, for example infected or not infected. Monstro follows the traditional archetype of zombie fiction with it’s themes of fear of the infected and with it’s relation to classic Haitian zombie fiction and political and military influences.


Works Cited


Diaz, Junot. “Monstro.” The New Yorker (4 June 2012): 29pp. Web.


Pokornowski, Stephen. 31.2 Literature and Medicine (Fall 2013):  15 pp. Proquest. Web.

A graphic novel comprises both artistic abilities and literary abilities with the combination of image and words. Graphic novels take the text of a regular novel to the next level by using pictures as a mode of transportation for the reader to not only read the words, but go beyond what is written and visualize the world within the author’s mind. The graphic novel, Marbles, by Ellen Forney is a perfect example of a graphic novel carrying the reader off the pages of the book and into the mind of a talented woman. The film American Splendor also follows this sneak peak into the life of a talented writer named Harvey Pekar who writes a comic book series based on the mundane encounters the Harvey’s life. Both Forney and Pekar and many other artists have a common thread, mental illness. Forney writes her graphic novel in an autobiographical sense from the point of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and how her life has changed since then. Pekar writes for this graphic novel in the film as an outlet for his depression. The reoccurring theme of mental illness in art is intertwined into both stories with the theme of being a crazy artist.

In the graphic novel, Marbles, Ellen Forney is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had many revelations during her therapy session with her psychiatrist that lead her to the conclusion that she is now a crazy artist. Forney is shown receiving a card welcoming her to Club Van Gogh saying “the true artist is a crazy artist” surrounded adjectives with negative connotations like “unpredictable… dangerous… scary… deadly…” (Forney 22). The next image shown is of Forney sitting in her chair calling her self a crazy artist as she is surrounded by tombstones of famous artists with mental disorders, for example Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Jimi Hendrix (Forney 22). These two images and texts serve a great purpose to the novel and the story of Ellen Forney because it shows how she is welcomed to a community of artists typically remembered for their great art first and their mental disorder second. Since Forney ‘s graphic novel is biographical, the images used show her inside thoughts on the events happening in her life. When being diagnosed with bipolar disorder she is reliving instances in her life where the symptoms were present, like being too talkative or being inappropriate in a social setting (Forney 16). After realizing Forney possesses all these signs of bipolar disorder she is concerned going on medication will limit her abilities as an artist, a common fear of artist with mental disorders, and she decides to go on the medication (Forney 24). A big decision that can alter someone’s life, but Forney wanted to keep her artistic abilities despite how foggy they become due to the medication.

In the interview Ellen Forney: Losing One’s Marbles, by Amy Gall, Forney brings up an interesting point on wanting to pose more questions that answers. What does crazy mean? Forney asks, this is a common question that artists beyond Ellen Forney have asked, whether or not they are crazy and the truth is that only the person can dictate whether or not they are crazy (Gall). The question of whether or not a mental illness is a gift or a curse is also a major is also brought up in Gall’s interview and there again is no real answer to this. For Forney, after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder her life takes a turn for the worse and the better as she comes to realize her full potential as an artist. The novel itself ends with Forney realizing her strengths and knowing that she is okay (Forney 237). That is what is the gift aspect, this disorder helped Forney realize her abilities, it was difficult, but she made it through. The curse aspect were the hard times or manic episodes, but in the ends Forney made it through and is, as she says, okay.

This same question of whether having a mental disorder is a curse or a gift is prevalent in the film American Splendor as well. The main character Harvey Pekar is a down on his luck man with depression. As an outlet for his depression he teams up with his talented illustrator friend and being a comic book series about the funny and average things that happen in Pekar’s life. Again these comics and graphics are biographical, like Marbles was, but with less emphasis on mania, and more on the mundane. Some of the comic strips feature office scenes or quick conversations witnessed on the bus or at a restaurant. These comics bring a lot of success for Pekar which is the gift. Due to Pekar’s misfortune and depression and writing about these misfortunes he becomes successful. The curse of this story is that it is not easy, depression is still a mental disorder and can be painful to live with. The curse of Pekar’s depression is his life falling apart, he loses his wife, his friends, all because he is depressed.

Mental disorders can be a gift and can be a curse, no disorder is all good or all bad. Forney handles and expresses her in an appropriate way, same as Harvey with his comics. Each person has a different relation with mental disorders, but can come together on one thing, that though they maybe crazy, they still have a gift.


Works Cited


American Splendor. Dir. Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini. Perf. Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis, Harvey Pekar, Joyce Brabner. New Line Cinema, 2003. DVD.


Forney, Ellen. Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir. New York: Gotham, 2012. Print.


Gall, Amy. “Ellen Forney: Losing One’s Marbles.” Lambda Literary. Lambda Literary, 6 Dec. 2012. Web. Feb. 2015. <>.

For my research paper I am looking at comparing metaphors of AIDS in contagion stories like the TV series The Walking Dead. I want to mainly focus on the dead before dying topic in both zombie fiction and AIDS fiction, like Angels in America. I am going to focus on the sense of community aspect of a contagious outbreak, where the group of the infected form and the group of the not infected form and the fear that accompanies this. Within that I want to look at how groups who are infected try and regain a sense of normalcy, and how groups alienate one another. I want to compare The Walking Dead to Angels in America as examples of how groups come together in times of contagion, and how those groups that are infected are the dead before dying.

A sense of normalcy, this could be anything from sticking to a morning ritual of brushing teeth, breakfast, and the Today show or something as simple as riding the escalator whenever the power surge on in an apocalyptic-like zombie event. The book Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion takes on the world of zombie apocalypses taking into account the zombie perspective of the outbreak and showing how the idea of contagion affects more than just the living, it affects the already dead too. The contagion theme and zombie life can also be a metaphor for other diseases or the collapse of a government, both of which relate to normalcy, and the lack there of.

R, who is one of the main characters of the story, is a recently dead zombie, in the early stages of decay, and the main narrator of the novel (Marion 3). The zombie group that R is apart of lives in an old airport because they like having walls and barriers (Marion 4). This is one of the first grasps at normalcy, not needing a shelter or protection yet wanting it because it makes them feel safe. R says having no walls and being out in the fields would be what fully-dead is like, nothing but feeling empty (Marion 5). Another way this tribe of zombies like to regain normalcy is through naming one another. Since no one can remember their names from before the zombies go by letters once possibly in their names, like R or R’s friend M (Marion 3). Despite the lack or normalcy, the zombies crave being as close to human life as possible. Byond names, the group theorizes about their possible past professions based on their outfits, for example, R is in slacks, a shirt, and tie and believes he was once a businessman or a young office temp (Marion 3). These examples of trying to regain normalcy perpetuate the symbolism of the dead zombies to the living humans after some form of crash, either political or contagion.

The first two sentences of the book are what really start to introduce the metaphoric and symbolic element to being a zombie. “I am dead, but its not so bad. I’ve learned to live with it” (Marion 3). Dead yet living, but what is dead? Could be the collapse of a government, or a viral outbreak that causes population to diminish, death itself in Warm Bodies could mean either of which. The theme of living dead is brought up in the article Infection, Media, and Capitalism by Stephanie Boluk when discussing integration of the dead. Boluk states that the infectious world makes for an integrated world as people who are affected come together and people who are not affected by the contagious disease come together (Boluk 127). This same scenario happens when a disease like AIDS spreads, those diagnosed with the disease form a community that can identify with one another and relate to one another because they have a similar connection, whereas the non AIDS group comes together as being afraid or suspicious of the infected group. R in Warm Bodies would be apart of the AIDS group in this scenario because he is infected.

These pandemics like AIDS bring along an special form of anxiety where a whole group of people can be alienated by another group. These same anxieties are what accompany any major modern change in society, like capitalism for example or totalitarianism (Boluk 127). The infected group or deviant group is looked at as a threat by the majority group, therefore leaving the infected or deviant group to be treated as deadly or harmful; this means that no matter what the scenario is, the deviant group will always be viewed as a threat (Pokornowski 2). Despite how badly R and his group of zombies want normalcy, they can never get it because they are the threat. Both the spread of disease and the spread of a new political movement classified as modernity change the normalcy that is so sought after in a post apocalyptic world. Contagion as a metaphor for other kinds of outbreaks like AIDS or a progressive political movement may reign true for Warm Bodies, in any story of zombies whether or not the dead are the deviant group or if the living are the ones viewed as a threat is up for the audience to decide.


Works Cited

Boluk, Stephanie and Wylie Lenz. “Infection, Media, and Capitalism” 10.2 The Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies (Fall/Winter 2010): 126-64.


Marion, Isaac. Warm Bodies: A Novel. New York: Atria, 2011. Print.


Pokornowski, Stephen. 31.2 Literature and Medicine (Fall 2013):  15 pp. Proquest. Web.

Reality and fantasy oppose one another; reality is the mundane scenarios of pouring coffee, reading a book, or riding the bus. Fantasy is the beyond real events, for example pouring coffee and a dragon swoops in and steals the coffee. In American Splendor, the tie between what is real and what is fantasy are the drawings and graphic images. These images play two important roles in the film beyond separating reality from fantasy; they show the passage of time and depict the main character Harvey’s inner thoughts.

The film American Splendor, directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, covers a chronological timespan of multiple decades. Beyond trends, lighting, music, and other tactics filmmakers use to show time progression, this film uses graphics. American Splendor follows the life of Harvey Pekar, a down on his luck man who starts writing comics about his life and some of the ordinary and realist aspects of it, no sugar coating. Harvey is a comic enthusiast, but is not the best artists so he enlists his friend Robert Crumb to do the drawings for his comics called American Splendor. One example of the film showing the progression of time was early on when Harvey’s comics start to gain popularity. The viewer sees Harvey, played by Paul Giamatti, sitting on the bus and then the shot is transformed into a black and white hand drawing with a word bubble. This is done repeatedly through the film and is there to show how Harvey is getting his ideas from real life, the reality he lives in then becomes fantasy through his comics.

Another example of how images and graphics are used in American Splendor is when Harvey is at the grocery store theorizing on which checkout lane to chose and which will be the fastest. He chooses wrong and is stuck behind an older woman trying to explain her coupons and a sale to the cashier. Harvey, who remains silent through this is seen getting angrier and angrier, meanwhile thought bubbles outside his head show what he is really thinking. His inner thoughts depicted by the cartoon graphics also show what he hopes and wishes for, in this situation he wishes for something more than the meager existence of waiting in line at the grocery store. These uses of graphic images in the film help tell the story by showing the real and the fantasy side to Harvey, the images connect the two worlds and lets the viewer get a deeper look at how Harvey’s mind functions making the film itself more relatable.

Employing the incorporation of these graphic images are important to the story and the film because of how unique the film is. Andrea Meyer writes in her article The Strange and Wonderful World of “American Splendor” that the biopic/ documentary/ narrative/ comic book feel to the film is what makes it unique and unlike any other (Meyer). Since the film follows the true story of Harvey Pekar it is like a documentary in its biographical nature, however the use of comic book images and actor portrayals makes the film less serious, more relatable, and more narrative based.

The graphic images do make the film American Splendor unique, but since this is a film, the images play an important role in the flow of the film. The images do not disturb the narrative; they only add commentary or new perspectives on Harvey’s actions making it the link between reality and fantasy, as well as biopic and narrative. This differs from a graphic novel, like Marbles by Ellen Forney for example, where the images are the narrative and the images have to show the progression of time and have to show inner thoughts all as stationary images. There are positives and negatives to both kinds of use of images, but both stories follow a true story expressed through graphic images. Forney moves in and out of realism when characters are drawn with little to no facial features, like her therapist on (Forney 12). The film American Splendor fluidly moves from realism to fantasy in two ways, when Harvey is shown with thought bubbled popping in and out of thin air to show how he feels, and also when the fourth wall is broken and the viewers see the real Harvey Pekar sitting in a chair narrating the story of his life. Either way graphic images are a unique tool that can seamlessly transport the viewer from what is real to what is unreal in seconds, while still presenting a fluid story.

Works Cited

American Splendor (2003). Film.

Forney, Ellen. Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir. New York: Gotham, 2012. Print.

Meyer, Andrea. “The Strange and Wonderful World of American Splendor” Indpendent Film & Video Monthly (Sep 2003):41-43

Marbles Mania

February 28, 2015 | Uncategorized  |  Leave a Comment

Realism is a key element in a biographical novel, it is the nonfiction degree to which the story is depicting someone’s life, it is also the level of how relatable a story is based how truly it describes a persons life. A reader can relate to a fictionalized character, but there is something more relatable when the story is true and it comes straight from the mouth of the person who experienced it. Ellen Forney is that character, her autobiographical graphic novel Marbles takes a personal and in depth look into the life of a manic depressive, bipolar woman navigating her way through her diagnosis.

Since this is a graphic novel, the media through which the story is depicted is unique and very helpful in assisting Forney in expressing her thoughts through mental illness. Marbles takes on two major topics; being crazy vs. being an artist, and living with mental illness. The graphic novel is so unique because as Forney is writing and drawing she is writing and drawing about a time where she herself felt she could never draw the same way again, she though the medications would make her a failure or an artist. It is inception, and makes the reader think deeper about how Forney was feeling when drawing some of these scenes.

One scene from the book where the reality of Forney’s medical diagnosis and her own personal expressiveness intertwine is early on, in chapter two. This scene starts with Forney meeting with her psychiatrist, Karen, for the first time (Forney 15). The dialogue is conversant. Ellen is talking about her life, saying that she and her mom have “bipolar tendencies” (Forney 15), but that neither her or her mom are “bipolar bipolar.” (Forney 15). Karen then references the DSM, which Ellen knows is the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders from her stint as a psychology major in college (Forney 15). Karen proceeds to go over different symptoms of manic episodes; abnormal mood changes like and inflated self esteem, lack of need for sleep, and being very talkative are some of the first symptoms Karen reads off (Forney 16). Karen later offers to put Ellen on a lithium regimen, as it is the most effective treatment for bipolar, but Ellen refuses because she does not want the drugs to interfere with her art (Forney 23). After this Karen proceeds to ask Ellen about exercise, drug, and alcohol use; Ellen pauses and freezes thinking about the pros and cons for telling her psychiatrist about her drug use and how to then tell her about it while not getting hung up on it (Forney 15). This scene as a whole is very important to the story because this the first time Ellen is being introduced to the possibility that she is bipolar or manic depressive, as well as the first time the audience sees this as well.

Seeing it is very important to this novel as well. Not only is there a verbal dialogue to tell the story, there are visuals as well to depict each scene and characterize Ellen as well as her manic depressive tendencies. In this same scene the frames which the dialogue is coming from perfectly express what is happening in the mind of Ellen and help in the readers ability to diagnose Ellen. While Karen is reciting the symptoms of a manic episode, Ellen is drawn being brazen at a party, having loads of energy to show her lack of tiredness, and a big mouth will lots of words jammed into a classic speech bubble to show how talkative she is (Forney 16). The outlandish, and ridiculous at some times, drawings really show how Forney felt during this time; one image that sums this up is a headshot of herself holding a sign saying bipolar 1 disorder with numbers beneath it, an allusion to a mug shot (Forney 19). This image show how her diagnosis makes her feel trapped, but it also shows the realism element that is expressed as art; she is feeling labeled, but instead of saying that she is able to show that and use a mug shot as a metaphor for it.

Feeling trapped is a lot like how Harper felt in Angels in America: Millennium Awaits by Tony Kushner. In the play Harper as multiple hallucinations brought on by a binge of prescription drugs. Harper wants to get away and mentions Antarctica as her place of escape, a place where she can escape from her mind (Kushner 80). Harper can not handle reality so she runs away and in this magic story she is able to hitch a ride with her travel agent Mr. Lies all the way to Antarctica. Ellen in Marbles feels this same way of wanting to escape, and she does so through drawing. Both methods of escaping reality and the reality of mental disorder show how self expression is important for holding on to reality.

Works Cited

Forney, Ellen. Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir. New York: Gotham, 2012. Print.


Kushner, Tony. Angels in America part One, Millennium Approaches 1993, Theatre Communications Group

            Angels in America truly is a fantasia. The endless amount of themes big and small, symbols, underlying metaphors, and all magic realism in between makes for an overwhelming and confusing yet deep and moving play of a disease like AIDS can affect the human race. Of all the overarching themes of the film and play one stands out: guilt. Each character in the film experiences guilt, for a decision made, for a past decision, for something that may have seemed right and appropriate in the moment yet in the long run was the wrong choice. Guilt is a feeling of regret, however it is more than regret, it is regret plus carrying the blame of causing something negative. In Angels in America each character deals experiences guilt in different ways, however three main characters experience it the most; Roy, Joe, and Louis.

First, explaining how guilt and AIDS are connected. In the article AIDS and its Metaphors, by Susan Sontag, AIDS is linked to having an imputation of guilt (Sontag 153). Like any disease there is a moment of asking why me? Why did I get this disease? AIDS is judged since it spread through what is deemed deviant, promiscuous sex, as something indulgent (Sontag 153). This means AIDS is not only attached to a stigma for being spread through homosexual sex, which was a popular view since the disease started with homosexual males, but also AIDS is attached to guilt because this sex is not only viewed as deviant, but also as wrong. For doing something wrong, people feel guilty. Since AIDS was perceived as a disease of sexual perversity and sexual excess, it was appeared as willful and therefore deserved more blame (Sontag 153). Deserving more blame is where the feeling of guilt comes in, that this was caused by the patient’s willfulness and now must feel guilty.

Of course it can not be there fault because at the time of the outbreak there was no information on what the disease was or even how to prevent or cure AIDS. In Angels in America AZT, the experimental drug to treat AIDS, was still in testing. The relationship between guilt and AIDS is seen throughout the film Angels in America in an unusual connection. The three characters; Roy, Joe, and Louis who all experience guilt in the extreme sense all have something in common, that is how the guilt is presented to them. Roy, Joe, and Louis each have a character that presents the guilt to them and acts as a reminder of the guilt they should feel. In the play this is evident, yet not as apparent in the film Angels in America because the character that acts as the guilt trigger for all three men is played by the same actor. In the film version of Angels in America the actress is Meryl Streep, who plays a Rabbi, Hannah, and Ethel Rosenberg.

Roy’s guilt lies in Ethel Rosenberg, the woman he had killed during a court case he was working in his younger years. Though he does not initially regret his decision that day in court, he eventually learns he was wrong to send an innocent woman to die. In Angels in America, Ethel would continuously enter Roy’s life in ghost form in moments of Roy’s misfortune, for example, while he is on the floor of his apartment screaming because he has AIDS and is dying of pain. She enjoys his misfortune as a pariah of payback, unlike the others, Joe and Louis, who do have a reconciliation moment.

Joe in the film and in the play leaves his wife because he is gay, he does have to do this for himself, however it was not the best time to leave his wife since she is unstable due to her addiction to Valium. Joe does not appear to feel guilty, enter stage left, Hannah, his Mormon mother who reminds him of how awful he is treating his wife while he is living with another man for a month. Joe does have a reconciliation moment with Harper where he wants forgiveness and for her to take him back, but she leaves him. Louis wants to leave his boyfriend Prior, who was recently diagnosed with AIDS, because Louis is not good at handling death. Louis asks his Rabbi for advice and to make a confession, to which the Rabbi responds, we are Jewish, we believe in guilt.

The importance of having one actor play these parts in particular is that they are all linked to guilt, it shows how though each character is experiencing something different in their lives they are still intertwined and all of them have guilt for different reasons. The real importance of presenting guilt in this way is to show in the end how each character finds forgiveness and reconciliation. Angels in America is a very enlightening play and film as well as being very complex, having this complicated element of guilt makes for a more subtle way of expressing characters emotions, rather than just spelling them out, making the guilt and forgiveness theme that much more important.

Works Cited

Sontag, Susan. “AIDS and its Metaphors.”  The Disability Studies Reader. Ed. Lennard Davis. New York: Routledge, 2006.


Angels in America (2001) HBO, Amazon Prime.

For the group facilitation I analyzed the play Angels in America by Tony Kushner for its multifaceted themes and literary devices employed to tell the story of the AIDS outbreak in New York. Angels in America is a two part theater production divided into three acts a piece, for the group facilitation we focused on Angels in America Part One: Millennium Approaches. Millennium Approaches focuses around two couples; Joe and Harper, and Prior and Louis, as well as Joe’s future boss Roy. Joe is a younger, Mormon man, married to Harper who is coming to terms with who he is and who he loves. Harper is a housewife with an addiction to Valium, this causes her to hallucinate and invent things in her mind. Louis is a Jewish, gay man who recently lost his grandmother and now has to console his boyfriend, Prior, who is infected with the AIDS virus.

Louis during Part One Millennium Approaches leaves Prior because he cannot handle him having AIDS, while Joe is leaving Harper because he needs to be true to himself (Kushner II. IX.). Throughout the play the use of split scene staging is employed, where two plots maybe unfolding on the stage at the same time, the text reads fluently as if all the character were in one conversation, even though it is separate. During the facilitation we discussed the significance of using split scenes and why Kushner would chose to use them. We came to a consensus that in this particular scene, Act II Scene IX, that it is a split scene because both couples were experiencing betrayal and leaving the other partner. Though each couple was arguing over a different occurrence, Louis leaving Prior because he has AIDS and Joe leaving Harper because he is gay (Kushner II. IX.). Despite the difference in arguments between the couples both were involving a betrayal and ended in one person leaving (Kushner II. IX.). The significance of this and why Kushner uses these split scenes frequently throughout the play is to juxtapose each relationship and show how despite major differences amongst characters, they are all still the same.

Another scene we discussed involved Roy Cohn who is a middle aged, powerhouse, gay lawyer who is accepting he is gay yet not vocalizing that fact to the public (Act I. IX.). Though this was not a split scene, it was important to analyze for its significance in regards to stigmas. In the scene, Roy is being diagnosed with AIDS by his doctor, he does not accept the diagnosis because AIDS is a “gay disease” and Roy did not want to be viewed as gay (Kushner I. IX.). This dissociation from the disease and the stigma attached to it was important to the story because it showed another non-stereotypical gay man in the play, as well as brought about the topic of stigmas and the acceptance of AIDS. In the article Stigma, HIV and AIDS: An Exploration and Elaboration of A Stigma Trajectory, by Angelo Alonzo and Nancy Reynolds, AIDS is discussed on terms of communities and how if someone in a straight community is diagnosed with AIDS it is frowned upon, but if someone in a gay community is diagnosed with AIDS it is accepted and people in that community are supportive and will not alienate (Alonzo, Reynolds 305). This applies to Roy because he is a gay man in a straight community and it would ruin his career if he were honest about his disease, so he calls it liver cancer. This is also discussed in the article Death Before Dying, which we discussed in class, that having AIDS means death, it is viewed as an impending doom which there is no return from (Niehaus 854). We also discussed in class the lack of education on AIDS and how making sex a taboo also progressed the disease (Niehaus 854). The topics of stigma and avoiding the diagnosis of AIDS is important to the story of Angels in America because it shows abnormal ways people cope, like Roy calling it liver cancer. After reading the articles I had more questions about the play, there are so many little lines that seem minute in the grand scheme of the play, but they are very significant, like Louis’s conversation with Belieze where he mentions the title of the play (Kushner III. II.). Also after reading the play, I was thinking about the magical realism aspect of the play and the significance of adding supernatural elements to a reality based situation which really got me invested in researching those possibilities and themes from the play.

I was surprised by how long we spent on the split scenes, in a good way obviously, my group had a lot of topics that we wanted to discuss because each one of us had a different take away from the play. It was great to read act two scene 9 with Joe, Harper, Louis, and Prior out loud to help the class see how it builds and comes together. It was also beneficial to show that clip from the film because the film version and the play version have the same words, but express different themes. The play makes this into a betrayal scenario, whereas the film is still betrayal, but it can be more about the running away or escaping theme because it shows Harper going into the fridge and Louis literally running away from his problems.


Works Cited

Kushner, Tony. “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes.” Theater Communications Group, 2013 Revised edition.

Niehaus, Isak.“Death Before Dying.” Journal of South African Studies 33.4 (2007):845-860.

The passage of time plays a very intricate role in any film; in the made for television film And the Band Played On, directed by Roger Spottiswoode and based on the non-fiction novel by Randy Shilts, time play a major part in the how the true story of the AIDS crisis unfolds. The film, And the Band Played On, follows the true story of Don Francis who is an epidemiologist studying the AIDS outbreak during its initial beginnings. Since the film and book are telling the true story of the outbreak, the film has to fit almost a decade into one feature film.

Compressing years into a two and a half hour movie is a challenge on its own, however Spottiswoode succeeds by employing multiple tactics. Subtitles are used off and on throughout the film depicting the passage of time, one example of subtitles is when the date and location is given, for instance San Francisco 1984. Having frequent subtitles like this helps with the flow of the story in the film and assists with the viewers understanding of what is happening. The story jumps around a lot because outbreaks were happening in many different areas, the film does mainly focus on San Francisco and New York. Another way the progression of time is shown in subtitles is when the cases of AIDS and deaths from AIDS in the United States is shown, one of the larger ratios near the end of the film was “8408 cases in the U.S. and 6305 deaths”. Without using a date or location or anything, the increasing numbers of cases and deaths show how time has progressed by how much the disease has spread. Using statistics in this sense not only shows the passage of time, it also adds drama to the story and puts more urgency on the characters, who are based on real doctors and scientists, to find the cure and take action, it helps to carry the story line. One other technique employed is the usage of actual newsreel from the 1980’s about the AIDS crisis, which started out not having a name. The clips show news anchors discussing the disease, reported cases, deaths, and even shows the new anchors reporting misconceptions about the disease, which since it took so long to prove what it was there were a lot of misconceptions about it. Another newsreel and real life footage used was from the elections, and the speeches president Ronald Reagan gave upon winning the election. Since elections are every four years, and AIDS was a big political issue as well at the time, using clips from Reagan’s speeches fit in with the story well.

Using these methods of telling time allows the story to flow, but also shows how the disease itself has grown from it first conception to a full on epidemic. And the Band Played On the film shows a lot of the unawareness that the public had about this issue. One major example of this is the stigma that AIDS is a gay mans disease. In the article Stigma, HIV and AIDS: An Exploration and Elaboration of a Stigma Trajectory by Angelo A. Alonzo and Nancy R. Reynolds, AIDS is analyzed for its continuous negative reception in society (Alonzo, Reynolds 303). The explanation behind why AIDS has been so severely stigmatized is because the disease initiated with a deviant group in society, gay men. Homosexuality is not the “’correct’ sexual orientation” (Alonzo, Reynolds 303) it is socially deviant because it is not the majority. Stigmas come from judgment paced on the deviant behavior, in this case, being gay and AIDS are deviant behavior so they are both stigmatized (Alonzo, Reynolds 305). These stigmas are also less prevalent and more prevalent in certain communities; within a gay community having AIDS will be less of a stigma, but in a less gay community having AIDS will be more of stigma and viewed as more of a stigma (Alonzo, Reynolds 305). This was seen multiple times throughout the movie And the Band Played On, in the gay community in San Francisco everyone supported one another and joined together to protest closing the bathhouses. Another example is Bobbi Campbell, he was not stigmatized in the gay community, he was idolized and made the poster boy for the fight against AIDS. However, doctors and new anchors in the beginning of the movie had nothing else to refer to AIDS as other than gay cancer, and since in the early stages the most prevalent victims of AIDS all had one thing in common, that they were gay, made the disease a stigma. However, through the passage of time AIDS became less stigmatized by the end of the movie, which was shown through the news reels and through all the medical research done to prove how AIDS is spread.


Works Cited

Alonzo, Angelo and Nancy Reynolds. “Stigma, HIV and AIDS.”  Social Science
Medicine 41.3 (1995): 303-315. Web.


And the Band Played on. HBO Home Video, 2001. Film.

Cancer is a life changing event, there are many different ways of addressing cancer and coping with it; there is that fighting spirit, or lack there of, there is using comedy as a defense mechanism, or there is detaching from the situation completely. There is no one-way to cope or deal with cancer, it is a combination of all of these methods and emotions. Robina Josephine Khalid argues in her article Demilitarizing Disease: Ambivalent Warfare and Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals that the “body is engaged in contact rather than combat, I might be getting a step closer to the nurturance which Lorde promotes. Such as shift might we be crucial in allowing use to bridge the chasm between an ill body and its perceived war with the mind.” (Khalid 700). Khalid is stating that cancer as a disease has been militarized, meaning that cancer is now viewed as a battle or war with ones body. Comparing the AIDS virus to terrorists in the Middle East, and genes, hormones, and cells within the human body as something to root against, and try and kill (Khalid 698-699). Khalid does not believe that cancer should be viewed as a battle, she believes it is a western idea that cancer is war with ones body, Khalid poses this as a pregnant woman would not want to think that the body in which life is born is a place of war (Khalid 700). Cancer should be viewed contact not combat in Khalid’s opinion, that cancer should be humanized instead of demonized (Khalid 710). A pregnant woman would most likely not want to refer to her body as a war zone, however the militarization of cancer as a form of coping is a very important concept and is seen in many different forms of popular media.

Even Audre Lorde comments on her fighting nature in The Cancer Journals, stating “I don’t feel like being strong, but do I have a choice? It hurts when even my sisters look at me in the street with cold and silent eyes” (Lorde 10). This feeling of needing to be strong and fighting to get trough cancer is a popular idea. In the play W;t by Margaret Edson, the main character Vivian has just been diagnosed with stage four cancer and told she must endure the highest dosage of treatment to stay alive, repeatedly Vivian is told she has to be tough, each time Vivian responds with I know I am (Edson 12). Vivian is characterized as a strong woman, she is a professor and scholar of 17th century literature, specifically Donne, and has always put her work before her life, which is how she ended up with stage four cancer, because she avoided going to the doctors office for so long because she was finishing up writing an article for an encyclopedia. Despite her emotionally void nature, Vivian does have sentimental moments throughout the play, while reminiscing on her childhood or sharing a popsicle wither nurse Susie. This idea of militarizing cancer does make this diagnosis a battle with ones body, however it does not mean that someone must always been strong and tough or always have to be fighting. It may not be Khalid’s belief, but having cancer be a battle does not mean it has to be fought alone. In the film The Fault in our Stars the main character, Hazel, was diagnoses with thyroid cancer and it has now spread to her lung. She is young and still a bit of a rebellious teenager, she realizes she is still fighting her cancer, but has help from others. Her rebellious nature comes out when she is forced to go to a teens with cancer support group that takes place in what she mockingly refers to as “the literal heart of Jesus,” though she does not always want to go to group therapy, she has made a friend their and also met the boy she loves there, Augustus. Besides her friends and boyfriend, Hazel has her parents undying support, every time she so much as breathes heavy her mother or father come rushing to her side to make sure everything is okay. Hazel realizes she is in a fight with herself, throughout the film she is often seen talking to her lungs, begging them not to fail her, telling them to cooperate every time she takes the stairs. This is a kind of militarization that is working, Khalid’s idea is that the body should not be a war zone with T cells as terrorists, however cancer can still be viewed as a battle. For Vivian the battle was fighting through each of the eight rounds of treatment, for Hazel it was every flight of staircase and every time her lungs flooded with fluid. Cancer is a battle and the fighting spirit can help get through it.

Works Cited

Edson, Margaret. W;t. New York: Faber and Faber, Inc., 1999. Print.

Khalid, Robina Josephine. “Demilitarizing Disease: Ambivalent Warfare and Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals” African American Review (Fall 2008): 697-717. MLA International Bibliography. Web.

Lorde, Audre. The Cancer Journals. Argyle, NY: Spinsters, Ink, 1980. 1-15.Web.

The Fault In Our Stars. Dir. Josh Boone. Perf. Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. 20th Century Fox, 2014. DVD.

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