“The Normal Heart”: A Review from a Participant


The picture above was taken in 1996 when the quilt was at 40,000+ panels.  It’s much bigger now.

Right off, let me clarify that I was not a participant in the movie or the play, I was in the healthcare profession in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

I am grateful that HBO made this film, finally.  It is a fairly accurate representation of what was going on in NYC and some other major cities at the time.  The depictions of fear, homophobia, paranoia on the part of the public, the health system, funeral homes etc. are, unfortunately, very accurate and perhaps, a bit toned down.  I am most proud of the way women and their intrinsic part in the fight for awareness and help for AIDS early victims is portrayed.  There were a lot of Estelle’s, Emma’s and nameless nurses fighting right alongside the men in the early days.  As I was a resident of Phoenix, AZ at the time, I can attest to the factuality of the death in Phoenix and, with some small caveats, how it was handled.  I did feel that the film ended a bit too soon as you don’t get to see what “Ned Weeks” (Larry Kramer) went out and did for the world.  He started Act Up!, a civil disobedience/activist organization to bring worldwide attention to the crisis.  He also was instrumental in the Silence=Death campaign.  And yes, he’s still with us too.

The best part about this film was the chance to watch it with my 22 year old son.  He has always been aware of AIDS and it’s effects on my life, as his godfather is a 21yr survivor of AIDS.  This is probably also the reason he has always been careful too.  It gave us a chance to talk about it one more time.  He had questions I’d never thought about like, “what are those purple things on his face?” {Kaposi’s carcinoma, though they don’t name it in the film}  and  a simple fact check on the “start date” of the epidemic {It was out there in 1979, just wasn’t defined as AIDS yet}.  I urge every person with access to HBO to sit down and watch it with their teenager, yes, teenager.  Kids today are back to thinking they are, in large part, invincible and “safer sex” has gone by the wayside.  So gird yourselves parents and grandparents, it’s time for “the talk” again.  Please!

There are a lot of folks here in “fly over country” who still think AIDS is a curse from God.  I personally can’t and won’t imagine any God who’d unleash a disease like this onto humanity.  And please don’t forget, this is not dusty history, it’s current events.  In fact, one of the fastest growing populations of people with AIDS are heterosexual women over 60.  Chew on that for a while, then go buy some condoms.


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