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“The Laramie Project” tells the story of a group of young people creating a play about the events that happened in the town of Laramie, Wyoming. The group conducted interviews about the murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay student that had accusedly hit on two straight teenagers at a bar. These teenagers then kidnapped Matthew, tied him to a post, and then brutally beat him into a coma–and then death. This film filled me with both disappointment and hope at the actions of human beings.
One of the main things that really made me sad was the fact that nobody that was interviewed in the film wanted to talk about the shooting that had happened in town. This was not because they were distraught with grief, but because they did not want to be bothered. I thought that this was kind of weird. Here is this chance to represent yourself and your town, and yet people were more bothered by all the attention than the actual murder itself; their priorities really were not straight. It was not that they did not want to discuss it. The core problem was that these people did not want to put the blame on their small town of Laramie and the fact that yes, there was a homophobic mentality. This cold-shoulder treatment is seen all the time, even in today’s society. People do not want to talk about the issues at hand, such as the troubles that queer individuals face and police brutality, saying that the time and place just “is not right.” When will the time be right? Having the spotlight to discuss these issues is a good way of bringing them into the public eye, to give them the attention they deserve. If everyone had that mentality of just pushing every discussion off, then nothing would get done in this country.
Another big theme that jumped out at me throughout the film was the extreme amount of victim shaming. I could not believe that people had actually said that it was Matthew Shepard’s fault, that he had been “asking for it!” This is absolutely unacceptable, especially by today’s standards. For example, many people in the film had been talking about how Matthew had been hitting on two heterosexual boys, or that he had been “flaunting his gayness.” Even worse still was when one of the citizens said something along the lines of Matthew not being a saint because he had HIV; that is like saying someone is a bad person because they got lung cancer from smoking! The fact that these words had left so many Laramie residents’ mouths shows that they really did not have any sympathy for his brutal murder. Victim blaming does not only occur with hate crimes. It can also be seen in modern times in the debates of what women should wear and do with their bodies. For example, in the recent case of the Stanford Rapist Brock Turner–who had raped an unconscious woman–there were people still excusing his actions by saying things such as “she should not have been drunk”. Or, better yet, maybe Brock Turner should not have raped her! Maybe Henderson and McKinney should not have tortured Matthew Shepard just for hitting on them! The ignorance of some people really baffles me sometimes.
However, not every scene in “The Laramie Project” was negative.; there were a couple of scenes that filled me with hope. For example, during the scene depicting the town parade with the section for Matthew, I was happy to see that the section had gathered more and more supporters! To me, it showed that there were still good people in that town who were willing to put themselves out there to support him–even if it meant that others may see them as a supporter of the LGBTQ community. If a crowd like that could be drawn in Laramie, there is no telling what kinds of support a service like that could gather in other parts of the country! I thought it was a shame, however, that it took such a tragedy in order to bring the people together. It took the murder of an innocent young man in order to get people to think that maybe homosexuality was not that bad after all. In the end though they did end up united, and I guess that is what really matters
Overall, I thought that “The Laramie Project” was a good film. I thought the style of the film was neat–a film based on the interview process for a controversial play. At first, I had thought it was a real-time documentary! It made me really emotional at times, but those moments made me think of the struggles that the LGBTQ community face even more. It really is not easy being out, especially in small, rural towns where so many people are close-minded. I believe that the world still has a long way to go in terms of equality for all, but I think that we are slowly but surely on the right path.
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