The Normal Heart comes out on DVD tomorrow. Based on the stageplay by Larry Kramer, it tells the story about the emergence of HIV and AIDs in the gay community of the early 80’s, as told through fictional writer Ned Weeks. Without knowledge or proper awareness of the disease, it spread as easily and effectively as it tore apart the lives of those it infected. Today, medical advancements allow people who have contracted the illness to lead lives as close to what one considers normal as possible. But even ten years ago, those prospects weren’t nearly as hopeful.
Aside from the film itself, on the DVD there’s a short “behind the scenes” feature that not only tells the story of the film’s inception, but also serves as an abridged biography of Larry Kramer himself. As an activist who was at the front of this crisis (as well as being the writer of the film), it’s important to know that there was a real person at the center of this story who was affected, broken, and rebuilt with the shards of a life that he puts on display here. Stories may be exaggerated with new and slanted perspectives but the events still bare the truth of what happened. The disease spread, and consumed a society that had only recently emerged from its adolescence into its wildly experimental phase of adulthood. While this may seem like a Stephanie Meyer-esque abstinence screed, it highlights the frustrations felt by Kramer over the ignorance and apathy at play in the community that he felt himself a part of and the society that wanted to pretend he wasn’t there.
The Normal Heart doesn’t directly celebrate Larry Kramer. In fact it could be considered self-depreciating to himself and the gay community he tries to represent. Still, he should be remembered as someone who helped bring the crisis to light, even if that’s portrayed through the shouting matches he had with, well, everyone.
The plight of those stricken with AIDs continues to this day, not only in countries on the other side of the world. Thousands of people have died in the United States in the last few years, and millions more are infected worldwide. It will still take serious effort to eradicate the disease; an effort that starts with the spread of information about preventing yourself from being infected or infecting others and ending with the discovery of a cure.
To make a donation towards those infected with HIV/AIDs, click here.
The Normal Heart comes out on DVD tomorrow, August 26th. Order it on Amazon here.