Know your meme (and your queer history):
1988, via Douglas Crimp’s AIDS DemoGraphics:
"Among Gran Fury’s most popular and durable images are the two posters produced for the same-sex kiss-in, in protest of homophobic responses to AIDS. One used a World War II photograph of kissing sailors, the other a lesbian couple from a 1920s Broadway play, and both carried the embedded text READ MY LIPS (Gran Fury beat George Bush to the punch in using the line). ACT UP women objected to the sexual difference marked by the two images — men aggressively kissing, women staring longingly into each other’s eyes — because it reinforced the stereotype of desexualized lesbian desire compared with sexy gay male desire. When Gran Fury made T-shirts of the kiss-in images, they righted the imbalance by using a historical image of lesbians kissing. The controversy over the degree of sexualization in the Gran Fury images was directly relevant to the event — a public demonstration and celebration of gay and lesbian sexuality in the face of homophobia."
Here’s what was on the back of the READ MY LIPS flyers.
Crimp describes Gran Fury as “ACT UP’s unofficial propaganda ministry and guerrilla graphic designers.” Much of their work has been archived by the New York Public Library. For more on the history of ACT UP—specifically its healthcare advocacy working groups—I highly recommend the documentary How to Survive a Plague.
1989, via NYU’s Artistic Activism project:
“Kissing Doesn’t Kill was a series of posters displayed on buses and accompanied by public service announcements designed to challenge the widespread assumption in the 1980s that HIV could be transmitted by kissing. Gran Fury manipulated media and the widely recognizable language of advertising in much of their work; Kissing Doesn’t Kill was designed to mirror a popular clothing ad campaign [by Benetton].”
2013, via OUT’s Popnography blog:
"We had a long debate in our offices about this week’s cover images of two same-sex couples," said Time managing editor Rick Stengel in a statement. “Some thought they were sensationalist and too in-your-face. Others felt the images were beautiful and symbolized the love that is at the heart of the idea of marriage. I agree with the latter, and I hope you do too.”
What do you think? Are TIME’s covers too sexual, not sexual enough, or missing the point entirely? (Also CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE that bus driving past you on a city street?)