The 1986 AIDS Comedy ‘A Virus Knows No Morals’ Resonates In Our Nasty Era

The 1986 AIDS Comedy ‘A Virus Knows No Morals’ Resonates In Our Nasty Era

Way back in the mid-1980s, you’d have needed a lot of fortitude to make a comedy about AIDS. Turns out that German filmmaker and activist Rosa von Praunheim (born 1942) had just what it took, having already released, in 1971, a clarion call for gay rights, It’s Not the Homosexual Who is Perverse, But the Society in Which He Lives. With his 1986 film A Virus Knows No Morals, von Praunheim crafted what the Brooklyn Academy of Music terms “an episodic, parodic, and offbeat Brechtian skewering of the greedy, vicious German response to a brand-new AIDS crisis.” 

The prejudice of all stripes currently roiling a divided America echoes the rampant homophobia that swept the country during the AIDS crisis. Von Praunheim’s progressive provocation is a reminder that the battle for basic human rights is always with us, and forever ongoing. 

Following the screening of A Virus Knows No Morals, at BAM on February 22, former Village Voice writer and editor Jeff Weinstein will lead a discussion on the continuing sad and infuriating story of queer-hating, money-only healthcare and the cultural response to AIDS.

Weinstein knows whereof he speaks, having led the push, in 1982, for spousal equivalent benefits at the Voice. As he writes in a current article in The Baffler, I proposed that same-gender partners be included in the Voice health plan — well before queer marriage or even domestic partnership was an option. Our owner at the time, Rupert Murdoch, didn’t object because the fat weekly was a cash cow — before Craigslist and the internet gradually destroyed the classifieds, a main source of the paper’s revenue — and the company didn’t want a costly disruption. In the article, titled Sex and Drugs,” Weinstein adds, The contract agreement was ‘the second union contract in the United States, the first by a private company, and the first to be widely reported on, to offer same-sex couples these protections,’ according to my own Wikipedia page, so I guess it’s true.

Well, you don’t have to believe Wikipedia — on Thursday, Weinstein will give it to you straight from the horse’s mouth.  ❖

A Virus Knows No Morals
Part of BAM Film 2024, co-presented with The Baffler
Thursday, February 22
Brooklyn Academy of Music
30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn


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