I believe that the protagonist’s name Beckett refers to the play Waiting for Godot (1948) by Samuel Beckett. This play is one of the most relevant and ambiguous plays of the past fifty years. Waiting for Godot is the story of Vladimir and Estragon, two tramps waiting for the arrival of a mysterious man named Godot. Vladimir and Estragon expect to receive some help from Godot. While they are waiting, Vladimir and Estragon talk about suicide and express the desire to change their condition but believe they are powerless and incapable to do so. The two tramps are losing their mind. It seems that everything depends on this man Godot, and Vladimir and Estragon are doomed to wait for him. Godot will never come.
Therefore, such as the movie Philadelphia, this play denounces the burden of existence, the miserable condition of human beings and the collapse of human civilization. Indeed, Philadelphia denounces the condition of homosexuals in the society. Gay people are victims of prejudice and discrimination. Andrew Beckett is subject to homophobia discrimination and is fired because he is HIV-positive and gay. Nevertheless, unlike the play, Andrew Beckett strives to change his condition and defend his rights.
Moreover, in some countries, people wanted to ban the play because Waiting for Godot was deemed homosexual because of some statements like when Estragon tells Vladimir “you see, you piss better when I am not there”.
Finally, I believe that in tribute to Samuel Beckett, for reporting the intolerable and gloomy condition of modern man, Jonathan Demme used symbolically the name Beckett for his main character. Jonathan Demme, by using this name, implies that he shares the same intention of public denunciation as Samuel Beckett. The historical significance of that name comes from a man named Becket Thomas. Thomas Becket was chancellor of England and Archbishop of Canterbury at the 12th Century, during the reign of King Henry II. Becket’s career was scarred by its argument with the King Henry II. Indeed, Becket decided to take a stand against the King. Becket was a defender of the Church while this was not the loyalty Henry has anticipated from Becket. Becket received the support of the Pope in Rome. Following his disagreements with the King, Becket exiled in France for several years. However, the King and Becket agreed to reconciliation and Becket returned to England. Nevertheless, Becket continued to support the rights of the Church. The King Henry II expressed his anger against Becket, leading supporters of the King to stab Thomas Becket. Promptly after his death, Becket was canonized.
If we could relate to the film, Thomas Becket is a man who maintained his beliefs despite the reluctance of others. In my point of view, I see two different raisons that could explain why the film is titled this way.
First of all, Philadelphia was partially inspired from the life of Clarence B. Cain. In 1990, Hyatt Legal Services, a firm located in Philadelphia, laid off one of its attorneys, Clarence B. Cain. Cain’s superiors fired him because they could not accept his sexual orientation. Cain contracted AIDS. Cain sued the Hyatt’s firm for discrimination and won. The case unfolded in Philadelphia City Hall, where the movie was filmed as well. Therefore, I believe that Jonathan Demma may have wanted to pay tribute to Cain by titling his film Philadelphia.
Second of all, the city Philadelphia was built on the principle of equality. In 1965, Philadelphia holds the first major Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights protest. Barbara Gittings, known as one of the gay civil rights pioneers and the mother of the LGBT right actions named Philadelphia her home. Philadelphia is the location of annual pride parades, shows and weekly parties to always welcome the LGBT community. Since the first LGBT rights manifestation 53 years ago, Philadelphia has continued to demonstrate that it is one of the best places for the LGBT community. Thus, in reference of the evolution of the gay community culture in Philadelphia, Jonathan Demma titled his film Philadelphia. The name Philadelphia arises from the Greek words phileo meaning “to love” and adelphos, meaning “brother”. The city of Philadelphia did not receive its name from the Greeks but was named after the town Philadelphia, located in Asia Minor and mentioned in the New Testament.
Because of the Greek roots of the name Philadelphia, nowadays, the city is called “the City of Brotherly Love”. Therefore, we could say that Philadelphia, “the City of Brotherly Love”, calls for peace between people, such as the song ending the movie does. Neil Young, the author of the ending song, was asked to write this song as if Andrew Beckett was singing the lyrics. The song denounces and highlights the terrible ways in which people with HIVS/AIDS are treated in the United States. The song echoes the loss of numerous people during the AIDS epidemic.
Thus, the song helps to increase HIVS/AIDS awareness and reduces stigmas from the disease. The song impacts the people watching the movie and makes them more comfortable and aware of the disease. We can notice that the ending song is sad, but characters seem to smile and laugh when the song is played, this is related to Andrew’s video as a child. I see here a message of hope with the desire that mentalities evolve as new generations are coming up. The morality of the song is that we need to accept and love each other, love always wins “love lasts forever”.
Philadelphia is the first movie to charge the political, medical and social issues of the AIDS. Indeed, Jonathan Demme shows how gay people have to constantly fight for their rights and be recognized for who they are. Therefore, freedom, equality, and solidarity are core values in this film. Beckett’s family seems to perfectly represent the values Jonathan Demme wants to spread.
Indeed, Beckett’s family appears to be a united family where love, respect and support reign endlessly. Andrew asks his siblings and parents for their approval regarding his trial. Andrew warns them about the cruel and malevolent public announcement that will be made during the trial. However, Andrew’s family supports his decision and encourages him to take the stand and sue his law firm Wyant Wheeler. One of his brothers reminds him that their brotherhood is what only matters, and his father recognizes his courage and expresses the pride they have for him.- Beckett’s mother tells his son to get into the court and fight for his rights. Indeed, according to American statutes, it is against the law to fire a person because this one his HIV-positive, unless the illness alters the man’s performance.
Andrew Beckett’s law firm illicitly accused him of misplacing crucial documents which led him to be fired for incompetence. Nevertheless, Beckett may be HIV-positive but his work as a lawyer remains brilliant. Therefore, it is unethical to unfairly fire a competent man because of his sexual orientation and HIV status. Beckett’s mother wants her son to set the record straight and to assert his rights.
Moreover, Beckett’s mother indicates that she did not raise children to sit in the back of the bus. Here, Beckett’s mother refers to Rosa Parks fight. Rosa Parks was an African American who refused to give up her seat to a white man. Black People, who were victims of segregation, were ordered to sit in back of the bus only. Black People were deprived of their rights and lost their freedom.
However, by refusing to give up her seat, Rosa Parks stood up for her rights and initiated the civil rights movement in the USA.
To conclude, Rosa Parks was victim of segregation but fought to claim her rights such as Beckett’s mother wants her child Andrew to stand up for his rights because he is victim of discrimination.