Angels in America (Millennium Approaches)

Comment here for the first part of Angels in America.  We began discussing the functions of myth in culture last time, and in particular how its place has changed in the era of mass culture.  For our opening comments, I suppose, it might be interesting to pick any of the characters in whom you’re particularly interested and talk about what appear to be their foundational myths and what troubles they seem to be having with respect to them.

As many of you may well know, Angels in America was made into an HBO mini-series about a decade ago, starring Al Pacino as Roy, Meryl Streep as Hannah, Mary Louise Parker as Harper, and Emma Thompson as the Angel.  It’s worth watching if you’ve the time.  You can find many clips on Youtube; my favorite scene is here.

White male American/British playwrights we haven’t mentioned yet: Arthur Miller (major works Death of a Salesman and The Crucible)
Tom Stoppard (major work Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead)
Edward Albee (major work Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf)
David Mamet (major work Glengarry Glen Ross)
Sam Shepard (major work True West)

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15 Responses to “Angels in America (Millennium Approaches)”

  1. jeanine says:

    Louis is the character that really comes out . Kushner does not intend Louis to be seen as a heartless villain. Readers may see him as this bad guy. But he’s just a man on his journey but along the way he has made mistakes and I think he’s learning from them. If he makes a mistake he’ll take that responsibility. That is why I like this character because he isn’t just like he doesn’t care what’s going on and he cares for him-self and others thats what I picked up.

  2. mhealy101 says:

    In my opinion Harper and Joe are the most appealing characters to me. Yes, Louis and Prior have their problems, but it doesn’t seem to interest, me in the way Joe and Harper’s problems do. The reason I find them so intriguing is their bizarre relationship with one another and their individual character themselves. I find Joes closet sexuality interesting and rather shocking at first. Harper’s addiction to Valium and prescription drugs is also something I was appealed to as well.

  3. hernandez says:

    Almost all of the characters are interesting. Joe and Harper are a very interesting and strange couple. Harper is an addict who thinks its hopeless of her husband to stick around and help her because she’s a pill popper (addict). Joes is the most interesting character for me thou. He seems like he has a duty to be by his wife’s side regardless if she’s an addict and because he may be a homosexual. I love that. Louis is another character who interests me. His denial is far beyond Joes and his perception of homosexuals is horrendous.

  4. nmulet says:

    I wouldn’t say that I’m interested in Hannah, Joe’s mother, but I am interested in her belief of the myth that the city is this dangerous, evil, doomed place. I imagine most suburban parents (and maybe their children too) believe this myth about all cities, but especially New York City. NYC gets this stigma that it’s a really bad place to live in: corruptive, filled with drugs, sex, & alcohol, rampant with crime, and just an all-around bad place to live. I’m not saying that most of those things aren’t true, but bad things happen everywhere. Danger is everywhere. Drugs are everywhere. Even in suburbs. I would imagine these things are worse in the suburbs b/c bad things are covered up or done in private. Living in the city, there’s an awareness, so a person can protect themselves or be educated about what’s going on.

  5. chris88wong says:

    Angels in America definitely provides us with many common myths and stereotypes that we may or may not be proud of. What caught my attention the most were Louis and Prior. Louis plays the stereotypical Jew; neurotic, always contradicting, and wracked with guilt. And we see the development of his character as he regains his morals after his guiltless abandonment of his lover. Prior is our tragic character. Struck by the AIDS virus, he asks for a shoulder to cry on but ends up with nothing. Coming from a very prestigious and stable lineage, it is darkly ironic that he contracts the debilitating virus.

  6. Zasha Lucas says:

    Harper and Joe are the characters that got my attention the most. Although all the characters were interesting those two were a strange couple. Joe is sexually confused and he makes it clear he does not want to be with Harper but he still sticks around. I also feel bad for Harper because she was told that Joe was gay and then she just starts making up things like being pregnant and “popping pills”. They’re both really troubled characters but I am curious to see what happens later on with them in the book.

  7. Jamie Rohr says:

    Harper seems to be the character that is most intriguing to me. Her foundational myth is that she is a drug addict who stays home all day, getting high. To me though, the brilliance behind her rants makes it so much more interesting than a mere hallucination. She is almost too smart to be having these hallucinations and calls herself out on it, noting that ” things get to me, Joe stays away and now…well, look. My dreams are talking back to me.” She is aware of what is real and what is not which makes her worth giving a second look because there is clearly more than meets the eye.

  8. All the characters in part 1 of the play are intriguing because of their real life problems. Joe battles with his sexual identity while his wife Harper is dosing herself to the point of hallucinations. Walter Prior is deteriorating physically due to AIDS and his boyfriend Louis is finding the worst time to explore his own demons and leaves Prior alone. I found Hannah very funny after her sons drunken epiphany call. These characters are easy to sympathize with because these are problems that most New Yorkers were privy too in the eighties. Homosexuals were tabooed and associated with sexually transmitted diseases and unprotected sex. I see that many characters in this play have issues with this type of stereotyping because it is affecting how they live and how they socialize. I also love how straightforward Belize is.

  9. khaff88 says:

    Joe and Harper Pitt fascinate me; probably the weirdest couple I have read about so far. Joe is a sexually confused mormon trying to pretend he is straight, while his wife is also a mormon living in this high fantasy most of the time. Her interaction with this figure “Mr. Lies” and how he only vanishes when Joe enters the room. Joe declares how devoted he is to being a mormon but he is breaking so many rules and so is Harper. They should not be together and that is clear from the very beginning of the play. Harper clearly needs therapy and rehab to get off the pill addiction; Joe needs serious therapy and I don’t think interacting with Louis is going to help him either.

  10. Erika says:

    The characters I was most interested in was Harper and Joe. Joe is trying to hide the fact that he is homosexual by marrying Harper. Harper, I believe, has an idea that he may be living an alternative lifestyle but doesn’t get confirmation until she meets with Prior and confirms everything she has ever felt.
    Although Harper is confronted by the truth of her husband’s lifestyle, she somehow still finds something to cling on to. But in Scene 9 ultimately it gets to be too much to bear so she hallucinates to get to an ideal destination, away from Joe.
    This part of the story is especially true to life. A famous one deals with a famous write named Terry McMillan ( How Stella got her groove back) who weds a gay man and discovers he is gay and ultimately divorces him.

  11. cbergmann says:

    While reading the play I found Louis and Prior’s relationship to be the most interesting. Louis seems to have a huge issue with witnessing death. Although it is not particularly easy for anyone to deal with death, most people do not run out and abandon their loved ones in their final hours like Louis did with his Grandmother and now Prior. Maybe Louis feels that he cannot help them so why bother staying around? In my opinion I think Louis is terrified of being helpless. As far as Prior goes, he seems to have bought into this myth that because he is in what seems to be the minority in this play (being openly gay), that he has to also be strong and never falter. In my own experience I have realized that people who are in the minority, whether it be because of gender, sexual orientation, religion, or race, they have a hard time showing their vulnerabilities to others. They think it gives others an opportunity to bring them down. Two specific examples come to mind: on pages 44-45 Prior points out that he must be the strong one in the relationship because Louis cannot hold his emotions together. Also on page 104 when Prior admits that usually he is a very level headed person. Honestly, throughout the entire play I just got that “I cannot show my vulnerabilities” vibe from Prior.

  12. I agree that Harper is a strange character always in another state of mind due to her Valium Addiction. I also believe that her husband Joe is in a tough situation from hiding his homo sexuality. Although all the characters seemed to be troubled by the events of life, Whether its Prior fighting his symptoms or Louis avoiding the pain of reality. Harper seems to be the most sensitive one.

  13. marissae17 says:

    The character(s) that interest me are both Joe and Harper. I’m not sure if it is their characters or their relationship that interest me more. Going from scene to scene, my idea of their “marriage” and them being “Mormons” is getting worse and worse. Mormons are supposed to stay away from alcohol, caffeine and other addictive drugs (such as Valium) which Harper does not. Also, they are supposed to stay loyal to their partners, which we all know Joe straddles the line here with Louis.

  14. GordonWTam says:

    This was obviously written in a time when there was a foundational myth of AIDS and how it relates to homosexuals. Many Americans were very confused about how it was spread and basically attributed it to homosexual relations = AIDS. The characters are all interesting I think, Mr. Lies especially. The play on his name is particularly ironic since he appears in drug induced hallucinations and is basically a big Lie. Yet he tells a surprising amount of truth. On a brighter note, since this play is pretty dark, the creators of south park made a movie called Team America (F**K YEA) and parody Angels in America briefly when the main character is acting on broadway and sings the giant hit musical number, “Everyone Has AIDS”. Satire about the times and the kinds of plays that were out at the time.

  15. gvelella says:

    I’ve both read and watched this book/movie so many times. It is one of my favorites books (and movie). To me, Joe and Harper are the most interesting, and troubled characters. Joe’s a sexually confused republican mormon married to a Harper, and they are such a strange couple. I always feel like Harper is in a constant dream, due to her addiction to pills, and perhaps she is most of the time when she has “dreams” of the the man. I think out of the two of them,Harper has the most problems because of her drug addiction, and she is dependent on Joe, more economically since she stays home all day and hallucinates.