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The Normal Heart

The Normal Heart

A Heart Wrenching Cautionary Tale 

By Stevan Crary 

HBO’s primary cup of tea is eight-season medieval fantasies and four-hour-long superhero films, both with characters that desperately need therapy. However, in 2014 they decided to flip the switch and make a film with more serious themes in mind. This film is about Ned Weeks, played by Mark Ruffalo, who finds out that the only community and lover that gives him perceived fulfillment is dying. He must fight for research of a misunderstood virus before it is too late. On second thought, this sounds like more needed therapy.  

“The Normal Heart” is not for a normal heart. It was hard to watch a picture about a gay man (Ned Weeks) fighting against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic in the 1980s. Weeks fought an uphill battle for the whole runtime of the film advocating for the U.S. government to stop the spread. [1] It showed how selfish and indifferent people can be when others face death. Between the complex topic and snail pace of the film, it was challenging to finish. Still, it is admirable to wrestle a gloomy monster of a story from a unique perspective. 

For “The Normal Heart,” HBO went all out in crafting a story they felt was relevant to today. Photo by HBO.

Unlike today, the gay community in the 1980s was demonized to a greater extent. When a virus targeted people within the community, people turned a blind eye. For most straight Americans, this epidemic didn’t seem to concern them. This was the dire problem that Ned Weeks faced like a brave fish trying to jump over the Hoover’s dam.  

Sadly, the story is still relevant today. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “There is currently no effective cure. Once people get HIV, they have it for life.” [2] This virus attacks the body’s immune system, and if it isn’t treated, it can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). 

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“The Normal Heart” serves as a painful reminder that we all face death no matter our background or lifestyle. The only way to work through it together is to give what is needed most. Everyone is entitled to love. So, love unconditionally. 

References 

  1. Murphy, R. (Director). (2014). The Normal Heart [Motion picture]. HBO. 
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, June 1). About HIV/AIDS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved December 3, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/whatishiv.html   
View Comment (1)
  • First, thank you for brining attention to this film. Second, while you are correct in your statement that there is not a cure for HIV, PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) type pharmaceuticals do exist. These drugs reduce the risk of contracting HIV by 92% (https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/pre-exposure-prophylaxis-prep). Other antiretroviral (ART) drugs reduce the amount of HIV virus in a positive person’s body to an undetectable level. Undetectable = Untransmittable (https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/treatment-prevention). While neither of these are a cure they can stop the spread of HIV.

    I agree that this movie can be hard to watch – it’s so full of pain and suffering. However I believe that it is important to represent and feel the pain and panic of gay men during the AIDS crisis. Imagine if the COVID-19 pandemic had been completely ignored by the government and the people you love were left to die with no cure in sight and minimal research being conducted. Anyone might go a little crazy too if they saw those in power indifferent to their suffering.

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