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‘Stonewall’ casting causes controversy

Historical inaccuracies concern LGBT community

Taylor Young, Staff Reporter
Originally published October 27, 2015

The first brick was thrown through the window at 3 a.m. by either Marsha P. Johnson, an African American transgender woman, Sylvia Rivera, a Puerto Rican drag queen. Hurled at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, on Jan. 28, 1969, it was the first of many uprisings that became known as the Stonewall Riots.

Director Roland Emmerich has taken a new approach on the historic Stonewall Riots. In “Stonewall,” the movie, Johnson/Rivera is played by a cisgender white male.

Blond haired and blue eyed Jeremy Irvine plays Danny Winters, who represents Johnson/Rivera. When asked why Emmerich made this decision, he told Buzzfeed he wanted to make a “compelling, fictionalized drama of those days centering on homeless LGBT youth, specifically a young Midwestern gay man who is kicked out of his home for his sexuality and comes to New York.”

The director took creative liber- ties that were met with strong disap- proval. A petition to boycott the 2015 movie on the Gay-Straight Alliance Network has 24,798 out of 25,000 signatures, because it is “white/cis- washed” and “isn’t accurately representing the riots.” Another petition on MoveOn Petitions has 528 out of 750 signatures.

Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote in his review of the movie: “its invention of a generic white knight who prompted the riots by hurling the first brick into a window is tantamount to stealing history from the people who made it.”

Sophomore Skylar Neuen, a member of the GSA Club, has similar feelings, “Historically inaccurate, very insensitive and also just ugh,” he said. “Transgender people and people of color already don’t get enough press and representation anyway, and that just made it like 80 bazillion times worse.”

In response to why Emmerich chose the main character he did, Neuen thinks the choice could have been made to make the movie more marketable. “If the white man sees a white man, they’re like, ‘I can identify with that.’”

Emmerich’s decision did the exact opposite. Most people didn’t even know about the movie, includ- ing Brian Reardon, a language arts teacher and the advisor of the GSA club.

The one part of the movie that is historically accurate is in its trailer, which shows clips of the Seneca Falls Conference for women’s rights and Martin Luther King’s famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. However, Emmerich does say that the film is a fictionalized but inspired by true events, and not a documentary. The question is, should this historical event be documented in a fictionalized or accurate way?

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‘Stonewall’ casting causes controversy