On Tidy Endings Essay
by Malynda J Walker
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
edited: Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Posted: Wednesday, January 27, 2010
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Discussion of the play of the same name.
Written: August 7, 2002
“On Tidy Endings” by Harvey Fierstein, a play discussing AIDS and homosexuality, was written at a time in our nation’s history when AIDS was nearly unheard of and homosexuality was a horrible “disease” to most. The bravery which Fierstein exemplified upon the writing and production of this play is commendable. He not only wrote a play about homosexuality, he is a homosexual himself. The controversy surrounding this play must have been unimaginable.
Nearly thirty years ago, the time of this play’s conception, most Americans believed that homosexuality was utterly wrong and went against “God’s Law.” Naturally, from there, the bigotry continued when AIDS became prevalent. Not only was AIDS considered a homosexual disease but it was thought of as a punishment laid down by God to destroy homosexuals because of their sins.
The 1970’s and the 1980’s were a time in America when the free loving ways of the 1960’ were giving way to more staid and somber times. The “hippies” began to grow up and become “responsible, upstanding citizens.” Perhaps due to feelings of guilt for being so sexually free, Americans began to condemn homosexuals and into the closet these people went for fear of ridicule. Once AIDS was discovered and became tagged as a homosexual disease, gays and lesbians were forced to bolt the closet door in a way.
For a man like Fierstein, who was gay himself, to write a play discussing such taboo topics as does “On Tidy Endings” in the climate in which it was written is outstanding. With the performance of this play, Fierstein began to open the proverbial closet doors and blind eyes and let the light of truth shine. He was in no way politically correct. He spoke the absolute truth about AIDS and homosexuality in America at that point in history and didn’t back down. He personalized the play in a way that made people believe that it could happen to anyone. He opened hearts and minds.
Of course, in this day and age, we understand that AIDS can strike anyone and we are much more open to homosexuality with many states legalizing same sex marriages and employers beginning to offer benefits to same sex partners. We still have not forgotten how AIDS victims and homosexuals were treated because ignorant people do continue to perpetuate the hate infested mythology of the late seventies and eighties. Thankfully, we also have written works by those most affected by the misconceptions, like “On Tidy Endings,” to remind us of how it used to be and to show us how every day, normal, loving persons can be discriminated against and vilified by the fear of the unknown.
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