At the close of “Bad News,” Chapter One of HBO’s Angels in America, Roy Cohn (Al Pacino) is diagnosed with AIDS. It is October 1985 and Roy employs the same AIDS lexicon as the mainstream media. Despite the visibility of the virus on his body after the removal of several Kaposi sarcoma lesions, Roy rejects the diagnosis, because as he and the wider community understand it, AIDS afﬂicts mostly homosexuals and intravenous drug users. Like the real Roy Cohn on whom this dramatized version is based, Angels in America’s Roy Cohn remains closeted until his death, perpetuating the ﬁction that he has liver cancer (a more heterosexual and manly illness). Roy insists that he cannot possibly have AIDS because, as he deﬁnes it, he cannot possibly be a homosexual. He tells his doctor, Henry (James Cromwell), that unlike a homosexual,
Roy Cohn is a citizen with social and political power. He explains that being gay doesn’t deﬁne who you sleep with but rather:
Like all labels they tell you one thing and one thing only: where does an individual, so identiﬁed, ﬁt in the food chain, in the pecking order. Not ideology, or sexual taste, but something much simpler: clout. Not who I fuck or who fucks me, but who will pick up the phone when I call, who owes me favors.