Whole Milk

Come for the movie. Stay for the bonus features.

By Nancy Ford

Sean Penn in the title role in Milk.

 No need to go into specifics about the biopic portraying the final years of slain champion of equality Harvey Milk; those details have been hashed and rehashed. Rather, Milk’s back story serves as a delicious side dish to the entrée that is the film.

 Released on DVD and Blu-ray disc moments after the film toted away a couple of of Oscars, Milk ‘s glorious bonus features remind us that in 1977, Harvey Milk was indeed the first gay man elected to major public office, but not the first gay person. That distinction belongs to Elaine Noble, an out lesbian who served two terms in Massachusetts’ House of Representatives starting in January 1975.

 Note, too, that Harvey Milk lost three elections before he hired lesbian Ann Kronenberg to manage his successful—and final—campaign for city supervisor. Bonus feature interviews with Harvey Milk’s real-life friends including Kronenberg (who, by the way, is a stone hottie), Rainbow Flag designer Gilbert Baker, and others, make Milk spring to life.

 But it’s an interview with The NAMES Project AIDS quilt creator Cleve Jones that poses deeper questions. Based on what we know about many gay men in the late 1970s, chances are good that Harvey Milk may have already been infected with HIV at the time of his death. Would he have been remembered as the hero he is today if his death had come from a virus instead of a bullet? Without Harvey Milk, would our community have been able to rally together against AIDS the very next decade? Did Harvey’s resolve and message of hope prepare us to be able to fight—and survive—what was coming?

 Anita Bryant and California’s Proposition 6 originally organized conservatives against gay equality, 30 years ago. Now with Prop 8, they’re still singing the same song. And so are we.

 Watch Milk. Listen closely to those who knew him. Rewind. Watch again. This is our history, and it bears repeating.

 2008. Universal Studios Home Entertainment (


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