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Aids (#110 of 26)

Macklemore, Warped Queer Advocacy, and Why Dallas Buyers Club is One of the Year’s Worst Films

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Macklemore, Warped Queer Advocacy, and Why <em>Dallas Buyers Club</em> is One of the Year’s Worst Films
Macklemore, Warped Queer Advocacy, and Why <em>Dallas Buyers Club</em> is One of the Year’s Worst Films

A few months back, I was driving out of New York, and Macklemore’s “Same Love” came on the radio. It was the rare Top 40 track with markedly gay-themed lyrics that had nothing to do with Lady Gaga. And it was rap. I’ll freely confess that music is my weak spot as a popular-media journalist, and I’ll admit that I jumped to some serious stereotyping conclusions when I heard the song. Though it didn’t have, from what I’ve gathered, Frank Ocean’s cool poetic stylings, I instantly assumed “Same Love” was by Ocean, because, ya know, he’s the most popular queer rapper. Perhaps the lyrics marked some hypothetical experiment—an instance of a (mostly) out artist using words like “if I was gay” to reimagine the experiences of growing up closeted (or questioning) through the eyes of a contrived straight person. Regardless of what this knee-jerk reading might say about my inability to discern one rapper’s musicality from another’s, it all felt, well, nice: Here was a queer artist with an explicitly gay-themed song that, while not even particularly catchy, was getting major play on a major radio station. Inevitably, I quickly learned that my Frank Ocean song wasn’t by Frank Ocean at all, but by a white, straight rapper who was ostensibly sticking up for me and his gay uncles. To crudely summarize a swirl of conflicted feelings, suddenly the song wasn’t so nice, and, definitely, wasn’t so cool.

Toronto International Film Festival 2013 Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyers Club

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Toronto International Film Festival 2013: Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyers Club
Toronto International Film Festival 2013: Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyers Club

With Dallas Buyers Club, Jean-Marc Vallée, previously known for his penchant for hyper-stylization, attempts a gritty approach to the inspired-by-true-events, issue-driven biopic formula. Matthew McConaughey stars as Ron Woodroof, a tenacious, rodeo-loving electrician from Texas who, upon being diagnosed with HIV, shouts at doctors, “I ain’t no faggot.” Not one to ever back down in a fight, Ron refuses to accept that he has 30 days left to live and, with a newfound knowledge of the disease, and booze streaming through his blood, he confronts the hospital’s administration and demands to be given AZT, a yet-to-be-FDA-approved pill that pharmaceutical companies are pushing for profit and that he gets on the sly through a hospital janitor. When his supply dries out, he heads to Mexico, where he’s eventually informed of an effective drug cocktail of proteins and vitamins, which he, dressed as a priest, smuggles back into the U.S. and—with the help of a well-connected, HIV-positive transsexual, Rayon (Jared Leto)—distributes via a membership-based business to people desperate for expensive, hard-to-get AIDS drugs.

Poster and Trailer Drop for Dallas Buyers Club, Starring Matthew McConaughey as Homophobic AIDS Patient

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Poster and Trailer Drop for <em>Dallas Buyers Club</em>, Starring Matthew McConaughey as Homophobic AIDS Patient
Poster and Trailer Drop for <em>Dallas Buyers Club</em>, Starring Matthew McConaughey as Homophobic AIDS Patient

Today marked the release of the trailer and poster for Dallas Buyers Club, the long-touted, awards-buzzy Matthew McConaughey vehicle, wherein the newly ubiquitous, former bongo drummer plays Ron Woodruff, a real-life AIDS victim who began smuggling treatment drugs across the border. Startlingly gaunt, McConnaughey pulled a drastic, Christian-Bale-esque slimdown for the part, as did co-star Jared Leto, who plays Rayon, a transsexual and fellow AIDS patient (reportedly, McConnaughey dropped 38 pounds for the film, while Leto lost 30).

Woodruff’s story, unfolding circa 1986, is indeed a remarkable one, telling of a club that was formed to offer AIDS sufferers pure alternatives to the government-dispersed AZT, which wreaked havoc on the bodies of many who took it. What Woodruff reportedly “started” began to spread very rapidly, with alternative, illegal med clubs cropping up all over the country (you’ll remember that AIDS patients who were forced to become scientists and fight for their own lives were documented last year in the remarkable How to Survive a Plague.)