Roland Emmerich’s upcoming historical drama Stonewall, which depicts the 1969 Stonewall Riots that kicked off New York’s gay rights movement, won’t hit theaters until September, but is already stirring up controversy.
After the first trailer was released online Tuesday, LGBT activist groups have denounced the film, the action of which revolves around a white, cisgender male protagonist, for “whitewashing” this important episode in LGBT history.
The Gay-Straight Alliance Network launched a petition to boycott the film, which has garnered more than 10,000 signatures. It reads, “Do not throw money at the capitalistic industry that fails to recognize true s/heros. Do not support a film that erases our history. Do not watch Stonewall.
And a MoveOn petition that currently has 230 signatures states, “We are BOYCOTTING Roland Emmerich’s Stonewall movie for erasing the contributions of of-color queer and gender non-comforming [sic] activists.”
The statement goes on to argue, “A historically accurate film about the Stonewall Riots would center the stories of queer and gender-noncomforming [sic] people of color like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. Not relegate them to background characters in the service of a white cis-male fictional protagonist.”
Jeremy Irvine stars as Danny, a fictional young man who leaves his hometown in the Midwest for New York City in the late 1960s, where he discovers the Stonewall Inn and becomes a part of the gay community on Christopher Street. As tensions rise and the riots erupt over the summer of 1969, Danny finds himself caught up in a historic moment at the birthplace of a new movement.
In response to the backlash, Emmerich posted a statement to Facebook Thursday morning, writing, “when this film — which is truly a labor of love for me — finally comes to theaters, audiences will see that it deeply honors the real-life activists who were there — including Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Ray Castro — and all the brave people who sparked the civil rights movement which continues to this day. We are all the same in our struggle for acceptance.”
Matt Baume offers a more historical perspective of the Stonewall events (with a special appearance from Cleve Jones):
What do you think? Should we pass judgement before anyone even sees the film? Is Hollywood “whitewashing” worth it to get non-LGBTs educated about our movement?
After all, it is NOT a documentary and some might argue the benefits of event fictionalization outweigh actual events in educating those not close to the movement.
More to come.