When We Rise… Against ‘When We Rise’

The series “provides a timely statement on the importance of identity”, says the NYT’s front page teaser for the article reviewing When We Rise, ABC’s new P.C. mini-series on the history of the LGBTQRSTUVWXYZ movement (“Review: ‘When We Rise’ Charts the History of Gay and Transgender Rights”).

“Timely statement” is a code phrase for Trump’s fascist AmeriKKKa.

The show sounds insufferable and heavy handed. The piece starts this way:

“Identity politics” is one of those labels that say most about the labeler. Used as a pejorative (generally by people who already feel safe in their identity), it implies that causes like race, gender and sexual-orientation rights should be secondary to concerns that — so the argument goes — are more concrete and universal.

“When We Rise,” ABC’s sweeping four-night history of the gay rights movement, is a rebuttal. As a television drama, it often plays like a high-minded, dutiful educational video. But at its best moments, it’s also a timely statement that identity is not just an abstraction but a matter of family, livelihood, life and death.

Largely written by Dustin Lance Black, “When We Rise” begins in post-Stonewall San Francisco, tracing a trio of idealists — people who would not take “social-justice warrior” as an insult — whose lives intersect on and off over five decades. (Mr. Black wrote the screenplay for the film “Milk,” about the San Francisco gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, whose work and 1978 assassination figure in here.)

There are hilariously contrived plot points which inadvertently shine light on the inexorable polemical trajectory of ‘intersectionality’. How to keep score with all the contrasting Diversity Pokemon Points?!

Cleve Jones (Austin P. McKenzie as a young man, Guy Pearce as an older adult) arrives in the city after coming out at home in Arizona; later, he conceives the Names Project’s AIDS Memorial Quilt. Roma Guy (Emily Skeggs younger, Mary-Louise Parker older) becomes enmeshed in feminist organizing while discovering her own sexuality. After a tour in Vietnam, Ken Jones (Jonathan Majors and Michael K. Williams) returns stateside to work in a military anti-racism program, even as he has to hide his sexual orientation…

The early hours of “When We Rise” are impressively specific, both about the gay and transgender subcultures of the 1970s and 1980s and the nuts-and-bolts tactics of organizing, alliance and local politics. Roma’s community organizing introduces her to tensions between mainstream and radical feminists, gay women of color and “straight white Wellesley girls,” respectability politics and revolution.

As Roma partners and raises a daughter with a fellow activist, Diane (Fiona Dourif and Rachel Griffiths), the political issues become personal: Does fighting for equal rights mean rubber-stamping the traditional construct of marriage? (Her polyamorous mentor, played by Carrie Preston, would say no.)

If “When We Rise” has a thread, it’s coalition-building, getting disparate voices to find a common chord. The out-groups it portrays are hardly monoliths — Ken, who’s African-American, encounters racism among gay white men and homophobia among black community leaders…

In actuality, the show must be really bad, given that this same SJW NYT reviewer writes: “The series’ latter section grows darker and gets rushed, losing any nuance or idiosyncrasy in exposition-heavy dialogue.”

If an SJW limns “exposition-heavy dialogue”, you know it must be torture to sit through.

However: “High-powered guest stars appear throughout, among them Rosie O’Donnell, Whoopi Goldberg and Rob Reiner.”

Rosie and Whoopie? So, there’s hope! LOL.

The trailer (from the obligatory Shepard Fairey styled font and onwards) demonstrates just how awful this show looks. You pretty much know the arc of the whole mini-series already, with the Angels in America-like deification of trannies and deviants, the stock Hollywood caricatures of straight white conservatives, all against an ‘uplifting’ crappy pop song about ‘rising up’, etc.


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