THE DALLAS BUYERS CLUB - 2013 – A Classic Review - directed by Jean-Marc Vallee – writers, Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack – players are: Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), Eve (Jennifer Garner), Rayon (Jared Leto), Dr. Sevard (Denis O’Hare).
Ron Woodroof is depicted as a super-macho, bull riding, racist, homophobic, Texan who gets AIDS and is forced to confront his mortality. The script is loosely based upon his personal journals depicting his battle with the disease and with the profit seeking drug com-panies who promoted their failing treatments.
During the 80s an invisible stal-ker was wrecking havoc in those communities that practiced unsafe sex and who were using intravenous drugs and sharing unclean needles. This stalker crossed formerly reliably hidden boundaries; solid macho repute-tions, married men with children, the famous and the not so famous. T
l sex business died during that epidemic.
The movie’s release stirred up a quagmire of con-troversy; about Woodroof - who in real life was rumored to be bi-sexual, not homo-phobic - and about Rayon a fabricated transgender woman who helps Woodroof find his humanity.
The trans community felt that they had been misrepresented by Jared Leto’s performance. They accused the filmmakers of portraying Rayon with cartoon, silly mannerisms that are designed to fulfill the straight world’s vision of gay people. Actually, I didn’t find Leto’s interpretations all that extreme.
That said, and based on my 50 year friendship with people in the gay community, I’ve found that gay and trans people react towards their friends and part-ners exactly like straight people. They do not fawn over each other in public, they do not vamp around in bazaar, and dramatic parodies of their straight friends; in fact, when confronted with such behavior in a social gathering they find it off-putting and embarrassing.
The writers worked on this script during a 20 year period that included interviews with Woodroof, an examination of his writings, meetings with the gay community and with drug company corporate officers. The plot is thick-ened with a conspiracy between the drug com-panies and the hospitals making deals to put AZT in their treatment plan even when the research showed that the drug actually lowers the patient’s immunity. The FDA is shown dragging its feet in approving possible alternative new drugs and keeping them from the market.
When Woodroof was treated at Dallas Mercy Hospital with AZT he had a bad reaction and launched into his own research about AZT and what alternatives might be available. Putting aside the profit motive and price gouging (it was the most expensive drug of all time), AZT did extend life up to a year, when the alternative was death within weeks. I had neighbors on my block in NYC – people I saw virtually every day - who seemed to disappear almost overnight - there they are - walking towards me on the street and hoping for a hug… and then, you blink… and they’re gone. Shamefully, when I found myself a bystander to this phenomenon I had no idea that I was an eyewitness to a monumental and soon to be world-wide, medical crisis.
Woodroof traveled to England, Germany, Den-mark, Japan and the far east to secure deals with foreign drug manufac-turers. Often disguised as a priest or a doctor, he made over 300 trips to Mexico bringing back as many as 500,000 pills at a time. Of the many drug treatment plans that he sold and that he claimed helped him, not one is in use today. One of the drugs he promoted (Compound Q – from China) caused dementia and, actually killed people.
Although drug companies and the government warned people that many of these “buyers club” treatment plans could kill them, it was an empty threat… they’d already been given a death sen-tence. In 1992 the Dallas Buyers Club had over 4000 members and was still being run by Ron Woodroof.
Giving Woodroof some credit, he did promote a healthy lifestyle, which was certain to benefit anyone with a life-threatening disease, and he also forced the FDA to take a more lax approach to diseases that were 100% fatal and to loosen restrictions on experimentation.