On December 14, 1993, the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles hosted the world premiere and benefit screening of Philadelphia, starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington and directed by Jonathan Demme.
The film broke ground for Hanks’ Oscar-winning performance as a gay man afflicted with AIDS and discrimination of the conservative society around him. One week later, the film’s
theatrical opening came one day after the Clinton administration issued its “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” directive, a political compromise intending to provide space for homosexual service members to remain in the military as long as they did not openly declare their sexual orientation. Hollywood has struggled with its own reputation for presenting sanitized versions of reality – see #OscarsSoWhite. However, as attitudes within broader society have changed, it is undeniable that movies have become dramatically more diverse in the stories they tell and the characters they portray. Case in point, Clea DuVall’s Happiest Season starring Kristen Stewart is one of Hulu’s hottest films of the season, a rom-com about a same-sex couple travelling home for the holidays to meet the family.
Listen to Mary Steenburgen reflecting on the changes in cultural attitudes in the 27 years between her two roles in Philadelphia and Happiest Season. Also enjoy the title song from Bruce Springsteen and closing ballad from Neil Young.