Reply To: The Masque of the Red Death

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Angel Scialdone

Hi Joyanne, great response to Poe’s piece! I found this reading so interesting and full of symbolism, such as the colors of the room, the clock, etc. I also saw a connection between the Red Death and the AIDS epidemic in how it was publicly viewed. In addition to certain/more-privileged groups feeling like the could avoid contracting AIDS, they also feared the disease and those it infected first, the homosexual population. This fear translated into hate and discrimination of gay men. People did not want to touch or be near homosexuals, regardless or not if they had AIDS, due to stigmas surrounding the disease. In the film 5B, we see how misconceptions regarding how AIDS spread influenced how AIDS patients were treated in most hospitals. Staff and nurses did not want to clean patient’s beds, remove their trash, take their breakfast trays, etc. because they believed it placed themselves at risk. This caused AIDS patients to be completely neglected and their personhood ignored during their time of suffering.

In Poe’s piece, the party attendees feared entering the black room with red windows because it reminded them of the Red Death. Once the figure in the blood mask and costume became apparent, people did not want to get close to it either, similar to how people did not want to get close to AIDS patients. As the fear of people in the castle grew, they attacked the masked figure, which reminds me of how homosexuals were physically attacked and ridiculed during the AIDS epidemic, and how AIDS patients were attacked mentally and emotionally out of fear of contraction. Both scenarios highlight how disease outbreaks and their narratives heavily influence our treatment towards one another and how fear shapes our response to the outbreak, whether that be responding with sadness, hatred, isolation, etc. However, Pricilla Wald emphasizes the need for these responses to maintain compassion and fairness to avoid discriminating against a certain group, such as homosexuals, since we are all socially and globally connected. One group should not be discriminated against for disease outbreaks because we all play a unique role in the interconnected system in which we exist.