I Just Wanted to Be Somebody

I Just Wanted to Be Somebody

The title of this film is a line uttered by Anita Bryant. The film is about her role as a spokesperson in passing an anti-gay ordinance in Dade County in the 1970s.

The style of I Just Wanted to Be Somebody is mostly clips of her, with a few text insertions to provide context and explanation, but otherwise little other material.

Probably focusing on one specific figure like this makes the film more watchable for the average person (just as the anti-gay forces felt that having her out front as the face of their movement was effective for their message), but really the issues are a lot more important than her. And insofar as it invites speculation about her motives, and the way other figures may have exploited her, and the consequences it had for her life and her career, etc., it’s taking viewers away from the merits of the issues and into irrelevancies and ad hominem attacks.

It’s interesting material though, mostly just to reflect on the rhetoric, which was maybe a little cruder then than now, but not drastically different. Seeing her rant about “normal people” and “protecting children” (and seeing her husband kiss her and smugly remark “That’s what heterosexuals do, guys!”) is ugly stuff. “Mean people suck” is an understatement.

There’s really no commentary about any of it most of the way; we’re just left to listen to her and draw our own conclusions. But then the film closes with a voiceover reading of an “open letter” type thing to her. I don’t know that that really needed to be articulated; it didn’t appeal to me at a gut level.

The letter’s a little snotty in fact, kind of a “Maybe now that you yourself are broke and have lost your career, you’ll be a little more sympathetic about the suffering of the people you helped to deprive of their rights” message, when in fact, if she suffered for standing up for something she believed in, that’s hardly to her discredit or something that would likely give her second thoughts.

But more importantly, again it keeps the focus on her, and not on the merits of the issues.


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