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Dallas Buyers Club: What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

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Dallas Buyers Club is a film based-on-truth story of Ron Woodroof, a hustler in 1985 Dallas whose seemingly “regular life” suddenly crumbles when he finds that he is HIV-positive and only has 30 days left to live. Woodroof’s hopelessness to obtain the few available treatments at the time leads him to cross international borders and return with non-certified drugs to help fight the disease. Woodroof lived for six years following his diagnosis, founding a club through which victims of HIV/AIDs could receive treatment the FDA would not provide. This movie gives profound insight into the culture in 1985 Dallas, as well as the global medical structure at the onset of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Dallas Buyers Club highlights some of the main issues raised during the AIDS crisis during the 1980s. Ron undergoes character development in this movie in many ways, one of which is his transformation from a self-centered freak to an activist in his community. One of the most interesting aspect about the film is Woodroof’s actions transforming from being narcissistic to becoming a respectable and sympathetic person. Ron begins selling illegal drugs to other HIV carriers to benefit financially as an illegal business calling it the “Dallas Buyers Club”. Since the drugs he is selling are illegal, and he got raided by the FDA.The club stared as a product of Woodroof’s greed, yet it manages to be of benefit to not only himself but its numerous members. The film even implies that Woodroof was part of a larger tale concerning medical regulation reform in America. Through Ron’s character, we can see the difference between disease and illness: disease is the biological aspect, whereas illness is the human response and experience to the disease. The medical personnel rely on science to fight the disease by targeting the infected cells. Ron, however, becomes an activist targeting the illness in communities rather than the disease, as he says in the film, “you are married to your disease.”

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The movie addresses the prevalence of HIV within the gay community as well as sexually active individuals and drug users. The mid-eighties saw an explosion in the number of AIDS cases across the world, and also an explosion in its perception as a ‘gay’ disease. Before his diagnosis, Ron was like much of the population who believed the disease was largely irrelevant to him and gave it little to no thought, because it was something that only a segment of the population contracted, and he was not the demographic that made up that segment. Ron’s story shows that shift in perception as it became clear that this was not just a disease that affected the homosexual population. The film also shows the stigma that went along with both homosexuality and with having the HIV virus, especially in a rugged and down-to-earth environment like the one Ron came from and lived in.

The movie begins with a rodeo bull conquering its rider, which symbolizes the disease and Ron’s life. The movie ends with Ron himself riding the bull, with control and confidence. This shows how Ron, even though he will always be married to his disease, has finally conquered his illness and has taken charge of his own life. During this moment he is able to live a so-called ‘regular life.’ While HIV/AIDS is disproportionately prevalent in the gay community, the story challenges the stereotype that it’s a gay disease. Dallas Buyers Club attempts to bring attention to queer issues as well as a dangerous issue such as homophobia. By focusing on a straight man’s fight for his life and a remedy to manage his illness, it stands the chance of reaching a segment of the audience that wouldn’t normally open themselves up to a story as this.


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