In plain sight
an exploration of gay rights, lgbtq women, and rural place
Dallas Buyers Club
When Dallas Buyers Club was released in 2013, it was an instant hit. With box office sales of over $27 million, nearly 5.5 times its production budget, the film was incredibly successful according to industry standards. It received six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, and members of its rock star cast walked away with Oscars for Best Performance in a Leading Role (Matthew McConaughey) and Best Performance in a Supporting Role (Jared Leto). Here, we consider how the film, set in the rural outskirts of Dallas, Texas, (re)produces metronormative and stereotypical ideas about LGBTQ people in rural areas.
The film tells the true story of Ron Woodroof, an electrician who gets diagnosed with HIV in 1985. After realizing how difficult it is to receive necessary treatment, Ron devotes himself to helping HIV/AIDS patients get medicine they need by opening a Buyers Club for otherwise inaccessible HIV medication. That Ron, a heterosexual rodeo-going cowboy, is the film’s protagonist complicates narratives of the 1980s AIDS crisis as a predominantly urban and gay problem. It does so, unfortunately, through stereotypical ideas about rural place. Here’s how:
Portrayal of the Rural
This clip is of one of the first scenes in the film. Ron is wearing his blue-collar electrician suit sitting outside on his lunch break with his friends. In the background, the viewer can see an oil rig pumping. The first thing Ron does in this scene is sell drugs to his friend calling it “cleaner than a preacher daughter’s pussy.” He then rejects his friend’s inquiry about getting relocated to Saudi Arabia by using racist language. Immediately, the film paints a certain type of picture of the rural: a backwards place of drugs, sex, racism, and bigotry.