Xavier Alliance debuts “The Normal Heart”

By: Aiyana Moore ~Guest Writer~

Xavier LGBTQ Alliance partnered with Student Activities Council (SAC) to show the 2014 movie version of “The Normal Heart,” starring Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch and Jim Parsons, on Sept. 22.

Dr. Stephen Yandell, associate professor of English and faculty advisor of the Xavier LGBTQ Alliance, said he is excited to show the movie on campus.

“I’m really pleased that we are showing this film of the play and I think it really fits right in the middle of our Jesuit mission of not only understanding the world broadly, but making a difference for disenfranchised communities,” Yandell said.

“The Normal Heart,” originally a play that debuted in 1985, focuses on the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s in New York. It follows the story of Ned Weeks, played by Mark Ruffalo, a gay activist who attempts to gain awareness of the disease that is affecting the gay community.

Normal Heart - bestofsno dot com
Ryan Murphy’s adaptation of “The Normal Heart” premiered to rave reviews

“The play really addresses apathy on all fronts. Apathy from society at large and apathy from the LGBT community,” Yandell said. The movie deals with society’s lack of knowledge about HIV/AIDS, as well as with its constant denial of the problem.

“I really think it’s probably the best play for helping to explain what I think is a really good definition of privilege,” Yandell said. “Privilege is when you think something isn’t important because it doesn’t affect you directly.”

After the movie, there was an open discussion. In preparation for the discussion, Yandell said he looked forward to people’s reactions to the film the most.

“That’s the reason I’ve spent my whole career studying literature, because learning other people’s stories is a way to open our eyes to the world and understand our connections to humanity more broadly. This is a play that does that. By focusing on a handful of people, we learn about a larger human experience,” Yandell said.

Though there is considerably more knowledge about HIV and AIDS in today’s society than in the 1980s, it’s still important to remember the difficulties of another time, and it is especially important to not fall victim to the same mistakes.

“I think there’s a risk of the LGBT community forgetting its past, so it’s crucial to know these movements forward, toward treating people justly, is never easy and it’s easy to forget the steps that go into it,” Yandell said.