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Literature / And the Band Played On

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And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic was a chronicle of the early history of the AIDS virus, written in 1987 by gay American journalist and author Randy Shilts. It is better known for the 1993 HBO film adaptation.

This book contains examples of:

  • Anachronic Order: The book starts with the death of the actor Rock Hudson, before jumping back to the beginning of the AIDS Crisis 5 years earlier.
  • A Million is a Statistic: Shilts tries to avert this, pointing out there are actual people behind the AIDS mortality statistics.
  • Body Horror: The hideous sores known as Kaposi's Sarcoma are one of the most visible symptoms of AIDS. It's no coincidence that The Fly (1986) came out in this era.
  • Bury Your Gays: Invoked. Shilts mainly focused on the impact of AIDS on the LGBT community (especially those of San Francisco and New York City). He was criticized for his coverage by critics for neglecting to delve into the effect of AIDS on other risk groups who were also heavily impacted (the poor, the hemophiliacs, drug users, Haitians, etc).
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  • Deadpan Snarker: The people with AIDS in San Francisco exchange sick jokes at support meetings.
  • Gay Cruising: Cruising is described as a regular part of life for gay and bisexual men in 1970s and the early 1980s, especially in bathhouses. Kico, who is Buddhist, is portrayed as something of a sole exception for finding it distasteful.
  • Good Victims, Bad Victims: The book heavily condemns the mainstream newspapers for failing to cover AIDS until AIDS has spread outside the homosexual community into the wider heterosexual world.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: In the book (and subsequent film), flight attendant Gaetan Dugas is portrayed as a Depraved Homosexual who deliberately spread HIV around (although the book carefully refrains from accusing him of any malicious intent—mostly painting him as someone who was in a pathological state of denial). In recent years, Shilts's former editor has admitted that he had encouraged Shilts to find a "villain" for the story, and that since Dugas had been erroneously dubbed "Patient Zero" by the CDC in a 1984 study, had been known to be promiscuous even after being diagnosed with HIV, and was already dead when the book was being written, he was seen as the best candidate.
  • It Has Only Just Begun:
    Dr. Mervyn Silverman: I'm afraid we're not in the middle of an epidemic. This is the beginning.
  • Off the Record: Happens once when "a reporter" at the San Francisco Chronicle (heavily implied to be Shilts himself) hands his editor a study acquired this way from the San Francisco Department of Health. He then "accidentally" drops a feminine pronoun, which leads his editor to deduce (correctly) that the study came from Selma Dritz, who "in news circles, was considered only slightly less credible than God."
  • Oh, Crap!: Dr. Dale Lawrence calculates that the average incubation period for HIV is 5.5 years, far longer than expected.
  • Tragic AIDS Story: It is literally in the title, and especially well done with the statistics are people view given.
  • Wham Episode: When Rock Hudson is diagnosed with AIDS, 5 years into the epidemic.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The sections based on Gaetan Dugas' escapades were exaggerated; as mentioned above, Shilts was encouraged by his editor to play up Dugas's promiscuity.