The protagonist of the moviePhiladelphiais Tom Hanks, who plays main character Andrew Beckett: a young, charming and extremely gifted lawyer who makes partner at the top-of-the-line law firm Wyant Wheeler Hellerman Tetlow & Brown.
When it is found out that Andrew has contracted AIDS and, moreover, contracted it from a gay lover, the otherwise uber-conservative company sabotages Andrew's blooming career by misplacing a very important complaint on purpose, by making the complaint show up hours later after Andrew almost loses it, by blaming Andrew for misplacing such an important document and, as a result, by firing him.
Although, like Andrew's defense attorney Miller claims, it is understandable that people panic when they hear of someone having AIDS, the testimony of the different partners from the firm point that, aside from that, they were truly disgusted by the homosexual orientation of Andrew and viewed AIDS as the punishment for what their statement read to be
his lifestyle...(and) reckless behavior
This being said, the fact that Andrew was gay drew anger among his colleagues. First, because his colleagues were already prejudiced and were homophobes. This is evident in the direct examination of Mr. Collins, who described one of his former peers in the Navy, a gay man, the following way:
He, uh, strutted around quarters naked trying to get everybody to notice him. Made everyone sick. It was destroying our morale. So we let him know this kind of behavior was not acceptable.
Second, when you achieve partnership in a firm you are either there for a long time, have built a strong bond, or are incredible at what you do. Andrew had two of those qualities: he was actively recruited by Charles Wheeler himself, and he built a strong bond with the partners. The fact that he hid his truth from them, although it is his right as a man and as a citizen, draws in the social issue of "esprit the corps", especially in the Ol'Boy big money groups: if you are in a team, you are all in, or you are out.
Third, social ignorance, stereotyping, urban legends, myths, and lies create a long line of connotations that grow out of an erroneous belief. The lack of knowledge about the AIDS virus in the 1980's led to a pandemonium where people ran from one another in fear of becoming infected. AIDS also became attached to the gay culture, first becoming known as "gay cancer". As a result, people began to attach false connotations to the homosexual or lesbian lifestyles, all indicating that AIDS was inevitable, and that they were debauched. InPhiladelphiathis is evident when Denzel Washington's character (Andrew's attorney Miller) tells the judge this very thing: that society, rather than educate itself more about the disease, feasts upon making assumptions, believing myths, and drawing wrong conclusions.
everybody in this courtroom is thinking about sexual orientation... Who does what to whom and how they do it...they're looking at Andrew Beckett [et.al]. They're wondering about it... they are looking at me and thinking about it...this case is not just about AIDS
This is the real social issue in Philadelphia:
...[it's] about the... public's hatred, our loathing, our fear of homosexuals, and how that climate of hatred and fear translated into the firing of this particular homosexual, my client, Andrew Beckett.
Therefore, ignorance, stereotyping and prejudice are the main issues.