Conservative students at Colorado College think Stonewall (2015)—a pro-gay film about gay liberation in New York City that bears the tagline “where pride began”—is too offensive to be shown on campus and want the administration to cancel an upcoming screening.
Just kidding. It’s actually gay student activists affiliated with the college’s LGBTQIA+ group who object to the film, which was directed by openly gay filmmaker Roland Emmerich and positively depicts gay people fighting for equality in 1969.
According to The Catalyst, Colorado College’s independent student newspaper:
A group of concerned students called for a boycott of the screening and created a group, Radicals Against Institutional Damage (R.A.I.D.). The group sent a letter signed by nine to key administration on campus expressing their views.
“This film is discursively violent,” write the activists. “In a world where cisgender, white gay people have finally achieved “marriage equality” and many see the struggle as being over, it is reinforcing a hierarchy of oppression to invent someone who never existed and place them in a historically-based film with the express purpose of silencing more marginalized groups.”
The film is based on historical events but is not an accurate retelling, and many have accused it of overlooking the important role that racial minorities and gay women played in the Stonewall riots; the cast is mostly white and male. But the college’s Film and Media Studies Department is quite aware of the controversy, and thought a screening of the film featuring producer Adam Press would be the perfect venue for a discussion of Stonewall’s cinematic shortcomings. Film criticism is, after all, a fundamental component of a college’s film department—or should be, at least.
But the students aren’t having any of it:
“Critical discussion is simply a way of engaging in respectability politics,” said first-year Amelia Eskani. “I think Colorado College should cancel the screening because the safety and well-being of queer and trans* students surpasses the importance of a critical discussion.” …
“If CC is really as dedicated to diversity and inclusion,” said junior Grace Montesano, “They would never have agreed to screen a film that queer students have repeatedly stated is a threat to our identity and our safety.” …
“It is fallacious to equate the rights of students to view a movie with the rights of students to exist free of violence.”
That’s right: the film isn’t merely offensive to gay and trans students (despite having a truly gay-affirming message), it’s actively dangerous to their physical well-being, according to R.A.I.D.
This is a complaint emotionally-coddled students often make: that some kind of expression is so triggering that allowing it to proceed constitutes an act of violence. Such complaints are usually pure hyperbole, but hyperbole doesn’t even begin to cover the opinions of Colorado College’s precious snowflakes. If screening Stonewall on campus is an act of violence against queer students, what would students say about, I don’t know, a Kirk Cameron film? Pure genocide? Would a visit to campus from Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum result in mass fainting spells?
The college initially caved to demands for censorship and indefinitely postponed the screening, according to The College Fix. But a spokesperson for the film department told me the event was back on and would take place Thursday evening.
Maybe the 2015 version of Stonewall was the wrong film to show; a quick Wikipedia search suggests superior cinematic treatments of the subject do exist. But students who demand safe-space protection from art that doesn’t quite live up to expectations are truly pitiful. They will never be able to interact with anyone outside the pathetic bubble they have created for themselves.
Photo Credit: Stonewall