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Larry Clark’s “Kids”: A Reflection of 90s Youth Culture

         The film Kids is a gritty 1995 drama directed by Larry Clark. The story centers around Telly, a sex-crazed teenager who roams the streets of New York planning to de-flower as many girls as possible in twenty-four hours. After a young girl named Jenny finds out that she acquired HIV from Telly, she sets out to find him before he spreads it to more girls. The film follows Telly and his friends as they travel around the city causing trouble, while Jenny desperately tries to get to him before it’s too late.

          Using my sociological imagination, as well as all of the different concepts and theories taught in class, I am going to assess the film Kids from a sociological and historical perspective. I will apply different evaluative criteria draw from different disciplinary perspectives.

           Art imitates life; it works as a mirror reflection of the current culture. Every film ever made reflects a certain social context in some way. That being said, Kids teaches us a lot about the social conditions of that time. It was released in the mid ‘90s and was set in present day New York City.

           The HIV scare was still running rampant through the ‘90s – and this film puts the topic of the deadly sexually transmitted infection in the spotlight. New York City was one of many epicenters of the disease. In fact, even to this day, New York City is one of the top ten cities with the highest rate of HIV infections. Many of the current medicines that help current-day HIV victims were not yet invented, thus leaving everyone in a state of paranoia surrounding the disease. According to noted social workers Susan Wesley and Kevin Drummond, persons living with AIDS throughout the mid-1990s were still dying at a rather rapid rate and were often times both alone and in pain. Medications either didn’t work or only worked for a short period of time. For many, HIV/AIDS in the 90’s is marked by confusion, depression and fatigue. This fear is apparent in the film’s character Jenny as she constantly tries to reassure herself by saying aloud: “I’m not going to die, I’m not going to die.”

           However on the other hand, due to the severe lack of proper sexual education in inner-city schools, many youths were completely ignorant to the idea of HIV or other STDs. HIV imparticular was still fairly new in the scientific and social world. This lack of knowledge is clearly displayed as one disillusioned youth states: “They keep saying disease this and disease that. Everyone’s dying and shit. That shit is made up man, I don’t know no kid with AIDS. There ain’t no one I know who died from that. That is some make believe story. Condoms don’t work. They either break, or they slip off, or they make your dick shrink.” This quote perfectly sums up the kids lack of education regarding contraception and STDs.

            The rise of punk skateboarding culture rose during the 1990s – and the characters in this film are just caricatures of the actual youth culture among inner-city teenagers. If one types in “90’s skateboarding culture” to Google images, a still from Kids is one of the first things seen. This specific sub-culture is characterized by wild hairdos created with mass amounts of hair gel, an interest in skateboarding, loud rock and roll, individual freedom, and a complete rebellion of norms established by society.The teenagers in Larry Clark’s film blatantly fit into this popular subculture. Not only do they skateboard around the city, but they watch amateur skateboarding videos in their free time. They rebel against their parents as well as wear torn up jeans and Vans shoes.

            Kids also presents the viewer with an array of universal social and human problems. It helps shed a light on these issues that haven’t become any less prevalent now than they were in the time period that this film was both released and set in.

            The most obvious of all social problems that is shown in the film is drug and alcohol abuse among teenagers. There have always been concerns toward young people, particularly young men, who spend large amounts of leisure time on the streets. Problems such as under-age drinking and drug abuse have been heavily reported in local and national media. During this time period, crack and heroin practically infested the city. The increasing popularity of these drugs caused the crime rate to skyrocket. It wasn’t uncommon to see big time drug dealers walking openly in Times Square or Central Park. Characters in the movie even buy marijuana from a dealer right in the center of Central Park. The youths in this film rely on intoxicants – they are literally drinking from the moment they wake up until the moment they go to sleep. When Telly asks his friend what he wants to do with their afternoon, his friend replies: “I don’t know, drink a 40, smoke a blunt or some shit.”

             Homophobia is another issue that is brought up in the film. Anti-gay politics were prevalent during the 90s. The murder of college student Matthew Shepard over his sexual orientation is a prime example of the hatred many people shared toward the LGBTQ community. As two men walk in the park holding hands, the male characters of this film gather together and scream horrible anti-gay expletives at the two men. This is yet another case of masculinity acting as homophobia. The fear of being a sissy dominates the cultural definitions of manhood. American men are socialized into a very rigid definition of masculinity. Men fear being ridiculed as too feminine by other men and this fear perpetuates homophobia.

             The horrors of sexual assault is brought to life in the movie – and one of the biggest reasons why it occurs in this film is probably due to the lack of education that these teenagers have over what “sexual assault” really constitutes. A female character passes out after getting too intoxicated. One of the central male characters then pulls down her pants and has sex with her while the woman drifts in and out of consciousness. It is apparent that the boy doesn’t think what he is doing is wrong.

             Kids also provides sufficient evidence for a couple different sociological theories. The first theory that I am going to examine is Emile Durkheim’s Functionalist Approach. Durkheim believes that every element of human life has a particular function that helps society run smoothly. The functionalist approach would find that these reckless kids, who society refers to as juvenile delinquents, are necessary to serve as an example for other children and teenagers. Durkheim might say that these children acting badly, and having to pay the consequences because of it, would detract kids from getting involved with illegal activities. They would learn from the mistakes of the kids deemed “bad”, and in turn would not resort to that kind of behavior. The delinquency of these kids also helps institutions thrive. Jails need inmates, hospitals need patients, and rehabs need inpatients in order to stay in business. Therefore in a way, the illegal activities of these kids help certain parts of society function.

             The next theory to put under the microscope is the Interaction Approach. The peer group society that these kids dwell in provides a space where they develop the social self. Sociologist Charles Cooley observed how individuals build their self-image from the judgments of others. This is similar to the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy, a prediction that causes itself to come true. In simpler terms – the characters in Kids are treated as hoodlums by society; therefore, they behave like so. Presentation of self is also apparent in the film. Telly’s interpersonal demeanor changes depending on who he is interacting with. For example he acts hard and tough when around his close friends, then he acts innocent around his mother, and then acts cool and suave around the girl he has his eyes on. He is taking on a multiplicity of roles in order to present himself in an appropriate fashion depending on who he is around. The Interaction Approach states that scenes represent the actual places where subcultural participants experience their shared identity through social interaction. Local scenes are centralized within a single venue. The subculture in this film is 90s punk skateboarders and their scene is among the streets of New York City.

             Larry Clark’s film is not preachy. It presents the behavior and acts of these teenagers objectively. Some might say that it is condoning these actions by showing them. But as one film critic said, Kids is a wake-up call to the world. We are meant to be disgusted by the way these kids act, and in turn watching the film might help some youths decide to turn a new leaf. The film represents the social context in which it is set in, it brings up a conversation regarding social human problems, and it aligns with different sociological perspectives. The main character asks the same question that is going on in the audiences mind by the conclusion: “Jesus Christ, what happened?!”

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can we just talk about the fact that Keith Haring didn’t just draw dogs and collages of people jumping. He was a strong advocate for normalizing sexuality throughout the 80s and revolutionized the expression of sex as well as brought attention the fight against aids. “the penis will once again be a penis, after it has been a phallus. Repetition, it could be said, destroys the despotic value of the signifier …”

Things a 62 Year Old Poz Gay Man Told Me About the AIDS Crisis
  • He had to start a new address book every year because he couldnt look at all the crossed out names anymore
  • There was only one funeral home in the whole city that would bury HIV+ poz people (NYC)
  • That lesbian separatists left their colonies to take care of the gay men because barely anyone outside of the community would 
  • He met the love of his life, but sabotaged the relationship because he was negative and was in the mindset that he would eventually infect him and cared about him too much to go on (even though the guy was aware of his positive status) and that if that happened today, he would never do that again

One AIDS Death Every 8 Minutes
Grand Central Station, New York City, 23 January 1991

Day of Desperation
Early morning protests took place downtown Manhattan with AIDS activists protested the Government’s involvement in the Gulf War to the exclusion of vital interests at home. That afternoon — 5:00 RUSH HOUR — Grand Central Station was filled with demonstrators protesting under the banners: “Money For AIDS, Not For War” and “One AIDS Death Every 8 Minutes.”

Because you’re more than your disease.

Chad is only 25. He is gay, and has been with his partner for 15 months. 

He was last tested for HIV a year ago, and the results were negative. 

He came to my ER last Thursday with back pain - but the back pain didn’t concern the physician. The red plaques on his body did. He reported having them for 5 months or more.

These red plaques are tell tale signs of Kaposi Sarcoma, tumors that themselves are telltale signs of AIDS and a severely throttled immune system. 

Chad admitted to knowing this, but not seeking help. 

His back pain came from meningitis. He had fungus in his blood, in his spinal cord, and in his brain. He had to be placed on extreme forms of anti-fungals. We had to medicate him for the fevers, chills, and spasms the treatment caused. He had panic attacks.

And his nurses, myself included, were angry to some extent. Who would let this happen to themselves? We said in the hallways. Who grows red scales on their bodies, has every warning sign of HIV, but doesn’t seek help?

I got my answer that day. His mother came to visit as I was calming him from a panic attack. He couldn’t stand the thought of another round of amphotericin B that night. After a small dose of ativan, I plunked him in a wheelchair, and we made a point to get out of the unit for a bit. He’d been in that room for 7 days straight, growing weaker. He hadn’t seen or heard from his partner since his diagnosis. 

His mother asked me why he was so weak and he pulled me down before I could answer. “I don’t want her to know what I have,” he whispered in my ear. 

And it hit me. He is all alone. 

He is an island in the middle of nurses and doctors who are fighting hard for him, but who do not - can not - truly understand what he is going through, or why he made the choices he did in delaying treatment. 

I told his mother he has an infection in his blood and spine. I carefully avoided words that could hint at HIV; but in truth, if she had wanted to really know, less than 5 seconds googling the rash on her son’s body would have lead her to an answer. 

After she left and we returned inside, I helped him into bed. 

“Why didn’t you find help earlier?” I asked as I helped him get his weakened legs onto the mattress. 

“I didn’t think anyone would care. I thought I’d have to beg for help, and…I don’t know. I didn’t think I’d get the help. I’d be shunned.”

I was speechless for a moment. I hate that, in 2015, someone would avoid life saving treatment because of the shame society places on diseases. 

He continued “My boyfriend is the best thing that’s happened to me in years, and I knew he’d leave. My mom knows I’m gay but doesn’t ever talk about it. My dad hasn’t talked to me in years. I saw the signs and I felt like…well, my life is over. I only came in because the pain got so bad.”

I hate to think of how many more days you will spend in that room, listening to us badger you into eating hospital food, into just one more dose of amphotericin, just one more lap around the unit. I hate to think that those days may only stop because we lose the battle against the raging infection in your immunosuppressed body.

I hate to think that you may not live to see the year 2016.

You are so much more than your disease, Chad. You are more than your sexual orientation. You are more than your mother’s opinions and your fathers silence. 

I hope you’ll see it before it’s too late. 

anonymous asked:

Can aids be transferred only between (dmab) man/man and (dmab/dfab) woman/man?

HIV/AIDS can be transferred between any two people, DMAB to DMAB, DFAB to DMAB, DFAB to DFAB, etc.  It is transferred through bodily fluids:

  • Blood
  • Semen (cum)
  • Pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum)
  • Rectal fluids
  • Vaginal fluids
  • Breastmilk

Any two people who transfer bodily fluids can transfer HIV between them. That could include:

  • A health care professional accidentally exposed to a patient’s blood
  • A child breastfeeding from its parent
  • Two people having sex in which vaginal fluid, rectal fluid, or semen is exchanged
  • Two people sharing the same needles to inject drugs
  • Someone who has received donated blood or organs from another human
  • And other situations

You CANNOT get HIV by:

  • Standing near, breathing the same air as, shaking hands with, or hugging someone with HIV
  • Mosquito or other insect bite
  • Saliva, tears, or sweat - so it’s fine to kiss someone with HIV as long as both of you do not have open, bloody sores in your mouths
  • Drinking fountains, public transportation
  • Toilet seats

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and AIDS is the disease that virus causes.  It stands for Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome, and it happens in the late stages of HIV.

I highly suggest all of you go to AIDS.gov and poke around a bit. It’s super easy to read and explains SO MUCH.  Enjoy!

HIV vaccine that transforms cell DNA brings fresh hope

Vaccines normally train the immune system to fight an infection.

Instead, researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in California have altered the DNA of monkeys to give their cells HIV-fighting properties.

The team describe it as “a big deal” and want to start human trials soon. Independent experts say the idea is worth “strong consideration”.

This technique uses gene therapy to introduce a new section of DNA inside healthy muscle cells.

That strip of DNA contains the instructions for manufacturing the tools to neutralise HIV, which are then constantly pumped out into the bloodstream.

Experiments, reported in the journal Nature, showed the monkeys were protected from all types of HIV for at least 34 weeks.

As there was also protection against very high doses, equivalent to the amount of new virus that would be produced in a chronically infected patient, the researchers believe the approach may be useful in people who already have HIV.

Lead researcher Prof Michael Farzan told the BBC: “We are closer than any other approach to universal protection, but we still have hurdles, primarily with safety for giving it to many, many people.

Dr Anthony Fauci, of the US National Institutes of Health, said: “This innovative research holds promise for moving us toward two important goals: achieving long-term protection from HIV infection, and putting HIV into sustained remission in chronically infected people.”

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Researchers believe that they might have a developed a vaccine to treat HIV, but the virus continues to mutate. Will we ever find a cure?