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Listen to Meryl: The Cure for Trump Fatigue Is Making Art

Retake Film

The hateful incoming administration can pry queer films away from our cold, dead hands.

The truth is dead. We now live in an age where our reality TV star president can say whatever he wants, tweet whatever he wants, and he won't be held accountable. What's to keep all this madness in check? Journalism is on its deathbed, so where do we go to find this thing called truth in a post-facts world?

Now more than ever, we need art. We need to hold up Shakespeare's proverbial mirror to society to keep our cultural blood flowing. For liberals, especially those in the LGBT community, we have grown complacent in our Obama-led march of progress. It's hard to believe that this time eight years ago, "don't ask, don't tell" was still a thing and marriage equality was confined to a handful of states. But on November 8 the voters elected to "Make America Great Again." We can't curl up in the fetal position and cry for the next four years. We need art and culture to get us through these next steps.

Art can put us back on the path to progress, if we let it. Escapism is nice, but it's a coping mechanism. It's numbing. It's easy. It's temporary. Art is supposed to move us, challenge us, and provoke us as a society. It ought to make us uncomfortable. Where would we be without Larry Kramer's angry 1980s rhetoric of The Normal Heart or Tony Kushner's damning portrayal of conservatism in Angels in America?

I'm a gay filmmaker who grew up in a two-stoplight town in Missouri -- "Trump Country." I know these people. Only a handful of them are true psychopaths. I believe the rest can be reached with continued visibility and by showing them honest portrayals of who we are.

When I applied to film schools 10 years ago, I pitched myself as a gay Spike Lee and held up Do the Right Thing as an example of what I wanted to do. By the time I graduated in 2009, hope and change were in the air. I didn't need to be radical. I kept working with gay stories in my short-film work, with the goal to show audiences that gay people suffer the same as straight people. We're all cut from the same cloth.

My 2012 short film Barbie Boy explored the story of a little boy who plays with dolls and quickly realizes he may be a little different from everyone else. The story connected with audiences, and went on to play in over 60 film festivals, many of them non-LGBT. But I cheated. It's easy to get an audience's sympathies with a suffering 7-year-old. So I challenged myself to get a little darker with my next project, Retake -- my first feature-length film releasing on VOD/DVD Tuesday. I expanded on the "cut from the same cloth" idea by looking at a complex, adult relationship and showing that no matter who we sleep with, we all long for the past.

That notion of "we're all cut from the same cloth" seems rarefied to me now in Trump World. We aren't coming together as a beautifully diverse nation. In fact, it's looking like we're going to have to fight to be heard, yet again. Our weapon in times like these has always been art, and it needs to be sharpened. Our goal in knowledge and enlightenment is truth.

Right now we need to embrace institutions like gay film festivals. I'm so grateful that queer film fests have not faced extinction the way gay bars have in cities across the country and that we have that platform as queer artists. I'm even more thankful that there continues to be a starving audience that wants to see itself represented on screen. The world needs to know we still exist, we're still powerful, and we're going to continue talking about our experiences. We're here to tell our stories that show we laugh and suffer, just as everyone does.

To the patrons out there, keep on watching the shows that prominently feature queer or trans characters. Pay your money to see that gay play or film at your local theater. Support your local queer film fest, and if you like a gay artist on the radio, buy their album. To the artists, let's keep creating. Let's show the world what it means to be queer under a Trump presidency. If we can't finance it, Kickstart it. If we can't Kickstart it, let's shoot it on an iPhone. Let's show the world the truth -- no matter how badly or how loudly those in Trumpland would like to deny it. Only together can patrons and artists show that we aren't going anywhere and hopefully begin the process of healing.

I'll close with a passage from Tony Kushner's Angels in America.

Harper: In your experience of the world, how do people change?
Mormon Mother: Well, it has something to do with God, so it's not very nice. God splits the skin with a jagged thumbnail from throat to belly and then plunges a huge filthy hand in, he grabs hold of your bloody tubes and they slip to evade his grasp but he squeezes hard, he insists, he pulls and pulls till all your innards are yanked out and the pain! We can't even talk about that. And then he stuffs them back, dirty, tangled and torn. It's up to you to do the stitching.

Let's get to stitching.

NICK CORPORON is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker. His film Retake can be found online at iTunes and Amazon.

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