THE LAVENDER SCARE is an especially powerful gay-themed doc about gay oppression as it exposes the U.S. Government’s campaign in the 50s to whip up and exploit fear, hatred and sanctioned discrimination with its “lavender scare” that allowed the "cleansing" of gays from government and military jobs.
Precipitated by the “Commie” and Atomic Bomb panics and that old reliable known as prejudice (homosexual, in this case) that crested in the unfortunate 1950s, the U.S. Government escalated full frontal attack on gays, which was, “justified” by the convenient notion that homosexuals — especially susceptible to blackmail — must be cleansed from the government and military because they could facilitate the spread of Communism and spying in the U.S. This richly sourced doc also celebrates, among many luminaries cited here, the brave LGBTQ gay activist Frank Kameny (a Harvard-educated astronomer who became the “grandfather of gay rights”), who dared to step "out" and fight the powers-that-be by motivating others. He was just one of the toxic policy’s many victims in the brutal anti-gay crackdown but, always dignified and suited up, became the major force to confront authorities, lead marches and turn the tide that led to the 1969 Stonewall Riots. Full Exposure Films produced and distributes to theaters. PBS, beginning June 18, and digital channels follow. Glenn Close narrates.
This multiple award-winning doc is a wealth of archival material, poignant on camera commentary, and personal letters.
There are also surprising revelations, notably the extent of beloved legendary General and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower's involvement in this injustice. Believing homosexuals were “security risks,” he was key to this shameful effort to expose and force gays out of government jobs at all levels, including highly-respected diplomats.
The voices of Cynthia Nixon, Zachary Quinto, T.R. Knight, and David Hyde Pierce further bring to life the scope of these punishing events and the profound personal and professional impact on innocent lives. Also conveyed to great emotional effect are the positive changes brought by activists and the early 60s anti-war, progressive zeitgeist that arose and enabled the Stonewall rebellion.
The doc paints a most vivid portrait of how oppressive and conservative the 50s truly were and how this little-known “lavender scare” chapter dovetails so perfectly with so shameful and punishing a decade. Also exposes the power of fear and how it fathers panics, some to be ridiculed (Commies! Atomic Bombs! Gays! Oh, please!).
Much credit goes to the doc's director, producer/broadcast executive Josh Howard, who adapted historian David K. Johnson’s award-winning book and to the doc's editors and researchers who unearthed and effectively organized so much material into a chilling and ultimately thrilling true story.
The on-camera stories shared by “Lavender Scare” victims today and those who were close to victims are invaluable additions to the doc’s emotional punch.