“When We Rise”, directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Dustin Lance Black (supervising others), premiered at 9 PM EST on ABC stations on Monday, February 27, 2017. Local station WJLA noted the series with a Facebook Live session earlier, and two major news stories, about gay adoption and transgender bathroom issues last night (the Gavin Grimm case before SCOTUS).
It is the largest GLBTQ media event ever made (outside of the “Queer As Folk” series some years back). There was a two hour pilot; Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, there will be six more one-hour episodes.
ABC’s Blog entry describing the series is here.
The premier is centered on the post Stonewall period of the early 1970s, about the time of my own “second coming”. It focuses on several people who would gradually become known as gay activists.
Maybe the most conspicuous is Cleve Jone (Austin P. McKenzie) , who seems very charismatic and appealing as an 18 year old from Arizona. His Quaker father wants to “cure” him with psychiatry when he comes out in 1972. Kicked out, he moves to San Francisco and deals with a world of police raids (though already abating) and fag street beatings, and crashing in people’s grungy apartments. Hosting people used to be common in the gay community in earlier days, although it often started with tricks. Jones's father talks about "curing" him, but the script makes it clear that dad is worried about getting grandchildren.
Son Richard Socarides plays his dad Charles, the famous "therapist" with chilling effect.
Ken Jones (Jonathan Majors) deals with covert homosexuality talking to his Navy chaplain in the days long before “don’t ask, don’t tell” (after falling in love with a white sailor). When he goes out on pass, he finds many gay bars (like the Black Cat) “off limits” for servicemembers (and signs are actually posted to that effect; I never saw that personally).
Roma Guy (Emily Skeggs) moves to San Francisco from Maine to join the Women’s Movement.
Somehow, the title reminds me of the opening episode of ABC’s “The Winds of War” in 1981, “The Winds Rise.”
Here’s some typical coverage in The Advocate.
Wikipedia attribution link for San Francisco City Hall CCSA 3.0 by “Cabe6403”.
Updates: Wednesday, March 1
Episode 2 documents the Briggs Initiative in California in 1978, a referendum that would have mandated firing of teachers who promoted homosexuality (rather like Russia's anti-gay propaganda law in 2013). The motive for it sounds like it's only about procreation -- a self-effacing belief that accepting open sexuality in society interferes with "normal people" having children -- but people used to experience marital sex much more collectively.
The episode then moves to covering the assassination of Harvey Milk by Dan White.
Episode 3 covers the emergence of AIDS in 1981.
There is a shocking scene where monitors at a bath house come into the floor and rip off the towel of a young man with hairless chest covered with Kaposi's sarcoma lesions. "You can't be in here like that" the attendant says.