Roland Emmerich believes that Stonewall was a "white event."
The gay director, while promoting his new blockbuster Independence Day: Resurgence, dismissed criticisms that his prior film, Stonewall, had whitewashed history.
“My movie was exactly what they said it wasn’t,” Roland Emmerich told The Guardian. “It was politically correct. It had black, transgender people in there. We just got killed by one voice on the internet who saw a trailer and said, this is whitewashing Stonewall. Stonewall was a white event, let’s be honest. But nobody wanted to hear that anymore.”
The 2015 movie, which depicted the Stonewall riots in New York, featured a fictional white gay character, Danny Winters (Jeremy Irvine) as the lead who threw the first brick during the historic LGBT protests against harassment by law enforcement.
The event is seen as the birth of the modern LGBT rights movement, and early reviews of the film skewered Emmerich's production for historical inaccuracy and erasing the role of trans people and people of color, who reports say played central roles in the protests. Stonewall ultimately failed at the box office.
In an op-ed for The Advocate, Rev. Irene Monroe, who witnessed the Stonewall riots, remembers that the majority of protesters were people of color, because those were the customers who patronized the Stonewall Inn. In fact, "many believe the decision to raid Stonewall that fateful night happened because the police were increasingly incensed by how many LGBT people of color hung out there," she wrote, citing how media erasure of this reality has been problematic in both the past and the present.
"Those brown and black LGBTQ people are not only absent from the photos of that night but have been bleached from its written history," Monroe concluded. "Many LGBTQ blacks and Latinos argue that one of the reasons for the gulf between whites and themselves is about how the dominant queer community rewrote and continues to control the narrative of Stonewall."
Emmerich's most recent comments illustrate how he still has not processed how he is contributing to this erasure, even after months of protestations from LGBT people of color and the critical and box-office failure of his film. Prior to Stonewall's release, a group of LGBT activists of color outlined the reasons for this outrage in another op-ed for The Advocate and explained why the gay director should be paying attention.
"We are angry because racism and transphobia continuously delegate us to supporting roles in history," they wrote. "We are angry because racism and transphobia fuels the many voices that are telling queer people of color that a boycott of Stonewall is extreme and that we should be grateful a movie about the Stonewall riots was even made. We are angry because highly influential gay white men are amused and angered by our anger and resentment of how intersecting forms of racism and transphobia create movies like Stonewall."
Emmerich has higher hopes for Independence Day: Resurgence, a big-budget sequel that includes LGBT representation. In his interview with The Guardian, Emmerich said it was past time LGBT characters had leading roles in big-ticket action films.
“Sure, why not?" he said. "Right now I have a gay couple in [Independence Day: Resurgence]. It’s time for it. It would be very interesting to see if the studios go for it."