Angels in America

by: Tony Kushner

Millennium Approaches, Act One, Scenes 6–9

Scene Nine presents a darker, all-too-real image—Roy Cohn's cynical view of politics and identity. Here, at the outset of the play, Roy presents the polar opposite of Kushner's own politics of solidarity. Roy not only feels no solidarity with other oppressed groups, like women or racial minorities; he even rejects other gays and lesbians. Since his personal bonds with others are based not on affection or shared ideology but on power, this is not surprising. Roy might desire another man, but desire is irrelevant—he only identifies with other powerful people, like Nancy Reagan, rather than powerless gays. (A gay rights bill was introduced in the New York city council in 1971, the first in the country, but gay activists could not get it passed until 1986, the year after the setting of Act One.) Roy believes his money and status protects him from oppression, can even buy him immunity from AIDS in the form of AZT. But the events of the play will demonstrate how wrong he is: the disbarment committee is so quick to rule in Act Four of Perestroika because Roy is a "little faggot," and AIDS cannot be held at bay no matter how many drugs Roy takes. In real life, too, Kushner has noted that the newspaper coverage after Cohn died seemed to take a gleeful, homophobic pleasure in revealing his sexual orientation and his cause of death. Roy's politics of clout may have benefited him for decades, but they fail in his hour of greatest struggle.


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