In Ryan Murphy and Larry Kramer‘s The Normal Heart (HBO, now airing), a wrenching drama about the dawn of the AIDS crisis in the ’80s, Mark Ruffalo‘s Ned Weeks, a stand-in for Kramer, angrily pushes an initially resistant gay community and the political establishment to face up to the epidemic and stop hiding their heads in the sand. In the view of N.Y. Times critic Neil Genzlinger, Ruffalo/Weeks “is incredibly irritating (as he’s supposed to be)…all annoyance, all the time; no empathy for him allowed, even though, at this point, we know he is on the right side of history.”

Time‘s James Poniewozik, Hitfix critic Alan Sepinwall and Variety‘s Brian Lowry have taken similar swipes at the film. The general beef seems to be that Murphy and Kramer feel that the reality of what was happening back then doesn’t allow for any kind of rounded soft-sell approach. Their view, apparently, is that a pushy, strident tone is the only honest way to go, take it or leave it.

I’m currently struggling with Tunnel Bear, the service that will presumably allow me to bypass overseas restrictions on HBO Go, but until that mystery is solved reactions to the film and the criticisms thus far are hereby solicited.