The AIDS Epidemic in On Tidy Endings by Harvey Fierstein

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"On Tidy Endings," Harvey Fierstein's 1987 drama about the beginning of the "Gay period" (1086) and the AIDS epidemic, focuses on two different lifestyles that are affected by the death of a loved one and the coping that goes along with it. Using a Cultural Studies approach, one can see that one's culture, background, and "value system" (Lynn, 113) play an important role in understanding and accepting the text.

To understand and accept the text, one must first place it in history. Over many centuries, many people have accepted themselves and others as being gay or lesbian -- William Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson were believed to be. However, the AIDS epidemic, a disease that is considerably higher in the gay community than in the heterosexual community, has only been known about for a little less than twenty years. Therefore, it is much more difficult for one to understand the concept of the AIDS epidemic than it is for one to understand the concept of homosexuality. Furthermore, one cannot understand the text if s/he "question[s] whether homosexuality represents a choice or a destiny, a matter of preference or biology" (Lynn, 200). To understand and accept this text, one must be tolerant of the characters in it and of the decisions and choices that they have made. After dismantling the stereotypes and prejudices, "On Tidy Endings" can be accepted for what it is: a love triangle drama revolving around the lives of two gay men (one living, one dead) and the deceased's ex-wife. On the outer edges of that love triangle falls a young boy who is trapped in a world that steals his innocence.

As this play opens, the reader is introduced to a woman, Marion, and her son, Jimmy. These two characters are living in world ...

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...is for good reasons, though. After the arguments, stress, and weight that have been tossed around, Marion feels that it is necessary for Jimmy to kiss Arthur. Arthur and Jimmy both debate this fact with her, but Marion knows that "a child's kiss is magic. Why else would they be so stingy with them" ( 1097).

The cultural differences between the gay community and the heterosexual community have caused many problems over the past few decades. Nonetheless, with a better understanding of the gay community, the heterosexual community can begin to accept and welcome them into theirs, and vice versa.

Cultural Studies has provided a reader and a group of people with a basis as to what is acceptable and what is not. It has allowed for a better understanding and for an acceptance of texts involving subject material that may or may no be offensive to some readers.
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