On Oscar Eve, We Throw a Brokeback Party!By Nightcharm / Thursday, March 2nd, 2006
The tension is mounting, as they say on Oscar eve. And there’s one movie everybody keeps talking about. Brokeback Mountain has become a tourist trap for gay writers: Everyone goes there, everyone says the same thing. Itâ€™s like a ride in Disneyland: all the dolls nod at the same time and in the same place.
So Nightcharm asked some of our favorite writers, artists and Charmed Life subjects to tell us something we haven’t heard about the film.
And dammit, they did!
My favorite irony of Brokeback Mountain was the doomsday predictions by various Hollywood bigwigs that Jake Gyllenhaal would commit career suicide by playing a man in love with a man — that his core teenage-girl audience would desert him.
As a mother who lives with a hardcore 15-year-old girl, I can testify to the fact that she and her friends are more aroused than ever by Jake’s “gay turn.” Sexually ambiguous young men are catnip to teenage kitty cats.
The naysaying Hollywood producers quoted in Newsweek had obviously never come face-to-face with a pajama party of adolescent femmes. Teenage girls love handsome young gay lovers — perhaps more than even handsome young gay lovers do! James Dean … Sal Mineo … Sigh. The Heath and Jake sandwich fantasy is already a TigerBeat swoonfest for the ages!
Many critics suggest that straight women will be sympathetic to BBM because they’re a bunch of old softies with tender hearts. These critics don’t seem to understand that while tender is fine, for female fans, this movie is arousing. It’s not charity, it’s lust — and romance with a bullet.
There are just as many straight woman hot for gay men in a tight embrace, as there are men mooning over lesbian fantasies. And teenage girls are least likely to keep that a secret!
Sex Therapist, Pleasure Activist, New York Times Writer, New York, NY
As a sex therapist, I see lots of what sociologists call MSMs — men who have sex with men and who donâ€™t identify as gay. I’ve been wondering what they talk about after seeing Brokeback Mountain. Apparently, they discuss the cinematography.
As much as the movie has given straight guys license to tongue-kiss as a joke (everyoneâ€™s seen the Mad TV sketch about the football fans who find themselves inexplicably sucking face), thereâ€™s a looming silence in the land between the “bi-curious” guys who haunt Craigslist and the women who must know in their heart of hearts that they married fags. I’m waiting for the meta-media event where Brokeback Mountain as a cultural phenomenon becomes a plot point in some TV show that catalyzes a discussion of the dick-sucking suburban daddies.
Some gay friends have complained about the lack of hot sex in Brokeback Mountain, as if they expected a Titan Media extravaganza. Since when do closet cases make for ideal sex partners? They may be pent-up and ardent, but they’re usually lacking in the proficiency department, accustomed to seconds-long furtive encounters colored by visions of exposure and ruin.
One of the distinctions between out gay guys and MSMs that the movie makes crystal-clear is that MSMs never question the assumption that they will marry women, with whom most of their partnered sex takes place, no matter how much they fantasize about doing it with men. (Among the many cinematic portrayals of nightmarish compulsory heterosexuality, my gold standard is the scene in Last Exit to Brooklyn where the closet case played by Stephen Lang, disturbed to find himself in love with a drag queen, gives his wife a brief, brutal fuck and immediately pitches over onto his side so we can see the look on his face of stark, raving terror.)
I love the way Brokeback Mountain sketches with haiku succinctness tiny pockets of shame-drenched sexuality: the role of Mexican border towns as a refuge for MSMs â€¦ the semaphore with which married ranchers signal their availability to one another â€¦ the austere body habitus that religious households cultivate.
Just imagine what kind of sex life Jackâ€™s parents had. Ennisâ€™s visit with them is the great under-remarked scene of the movie. While the dried-up stick of a father speaks volumes in his terse interrogation of Ennis, I’m haunted by everything that Jack’s pre-PFLAG mom conveys with her eyes alone: vast acres of warmth, compassion, grief, encouragement, and sexual starvation.
Erotic Illustrator, Kink Explorer, Food Snob, San Diego, CA
Frankly, all the hooting and hollering puts me off this movie. I hear it’s full of wide-open vistas, sweeping cinematography and throughly heart-wrenching performances. All in all, I think I’ll wait for it to come on HBO. I prefer to do my crying in private.
Richard from Sturtle.com
Writer, Homosexualist, New Orleans, LA
I could lie. I could pretend that I’m a total film buff and that I own every title in the Criterion Collection and that I’ve papered the walls of my bedroom with articles from Cahiers du CinÃ©ma. But the fact is I went to see Brokeback Mountain for the same reason every other faggotini did — to glimpse some hot cock action between Jake Gyllenwhatever and Heath Ledger.
And like the majority of those faggotinis, I was seriously disappointed — not by the movie itself, which was mostly lovely, nor by the dearth of cowboy boot-knocking (though the pickings were admittedly slim). I was disappointed by the convoluted logistics of the one on-screen cornholing.
For both of you who haven’t seen the film yet, I’m talking about the butt sex during Jack and Ennis’ initial fistfight-cum-tryst (a great title for a Titan Media project, IMHO). Allow me to set the scene:
It’s a cold night up on Brokeback, so the fellas share some gut-warming whiskey. Then Jack invites Ennis into his tent, then they start pummeling each other, then they’re kissing for, like, 10 seconds. Suddenly, Jack is presenting his backside to Ennis like a whorish panda. As the camera pans up Jack’s prone body, Ennis dabs some spit on his dick. Cut to closeup of Jack’s face as Ennis presumably penetrates his personal bubble (if we can believe Jake G.’s campy hurts so good grimace).
I know it sounds kinda hot, but sitting there watching it, you can’t help but wonder:
1. Are we really supposed to believe that Ennis is a first-time fudgepacker? He goes after Jack’s ass without batting an eye, like plugging manholes were as natural to him as castrating sheep. In reality, straight men get queasy about straight butt sex, so you’d think that a conservative cowboy like Ennis might hesitate a tad longer before riding his first gay ass, n’est-ce pas?
2. Was I getting popcorn when Ennis revealed that his salivary glands produce Astroglide? Ennis’ implicitly throbbing manhood slides into Jack’s man-oven effortlessly — somehow bypassing the cowboy’s undoubtedly hairy, matted, unshaven hole and the inevitable clumps of waste that must’ve accumulated there after months of shitting in the woods and little-to-no bathing.
3. Did they make Beano back in 1963? Ennis and Jack forge merrily ahead with their butt-burglary despite the fact that the gross-out factor must’ve been unbelievably high — especially for neophyte sodomites. I mean, I think they were on an all-bean diet for weeks.
So as far as plausibility goes, Brokeback‘s one sex scene falls somewhere between that A-ha video (there was only the one, right?) and Chi Chi La Rue‘s Caesar’s Hard Hat Gang Bang. Which leads me to believe that Ang Lee meant to create a porn-esque sexual narrative untroubled by the realities of either biology or psychology. Either that or the half-conscious cockgobbler he hired as a homosex consultant totally fell asleep at the wheel.
Brokeback Mountain is a beautiful movie — but I felt I had lived it 10 or 15 years ago. I have to admit I looked at my watch a few times near the end when it seemed to drag. But that’s because the story wasn’t new to me. In fact, the movie really wasn’t for me. Whom, then, was if for?
Straight people? Certainly, many progressive-minded straight people will be shocked by Brokeback Mountain — shocked to realize just how deadly the effect of our casually homophobic society can be on men and women who live in smalltown America. But, no. Brokeback Mountain really isn’t for these straight people either.
Brokeback Mountain is for the 14 or 15-year old young man who may be struggling with himself, who will sit in a safe movie theater and see that his emerging desires aren’t so abnormal after all. Even if he lives on a remote Wyoming mountaintop, he will know that the love that dare not speak its name is silent no more. Our love is everywhere. All we need to do is make ourselves vulnerable enough to accept it, cherish it and keep it. (Read Rich’s full BBM article here)
Model, Writer, Tantra Expert, Las Vegas, NV
What nobody is talking about is the sly political subtext in Brokeback Mountain. Dick Cheney (from Wyoming, like Ennis) and George Bush (from Texas, like Jack) are basically in bed with each other — hiding, lying, and doing un-Godly things — in a Red State (the movie is set in Dick’s Wyoming.) They, or their proxies in the film, are breaking the back of the sanctimonious, right-wing (therefore righteous, therefore sexless) posture (bend over!) It made me laugh.
Apart from that, Brokeback Mountain was haunting. The anguish of impossible love resonates with everyone. None of us really get to have what we long for — an idealized love that lasts. Odd as it sounds, such a love may have a better chance of hanging around when it’s not allowed!
Senior Editor, Seattle Metropolitan, Small World columnist, Seattle, WA
Like any red-blooded queer with a pulse in his pants, I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life to see Jake Gyllenhaal turn buns up for Heath Ledger. And nothing has made me want to sing God Bless America more than the thousands of movie screens across this country filling up with the image of two men so hungry for each other’s kiss that they don’t have the time to worry if they’ll be caught in the act by someone from Dawson’s Creek.
I have no argument with all the clamoring that Brokeback Mountain is a landmark moment in the treatment of gays in popular cinema — it may well be the first quality mainstream film in which the homosexual protagonists are sad not because they’re gay, but because they aren’t allowed to be as gay as they want.
What’s missing from all the talk, however, is the audience that apparently thinks it has nothing to learn from Brokeback‘s honesty — gays themselves. For all the germane conversation about the oppressive bigotry that so tragically suffocates the homosexual community, we seem to ignore that some of that tragedy is our own. There is a real fear of male intimacy, and it’s not just straight society’s oppression, it’s our own oppression.
Let’s be honest: For every Adam and Steve giddily calling caterers for a June wedding, there are scores of Jacks and Ennises incapable of solidifying the union they both crave. It matters little that they roam within the expansive freedoms of West Hollywood in the new century. They might as well be living amid the intolerant vistas of Wyoming, circa 1962.
What Brokeback knows so well is that gay men are men — stupid, childish, and unready when it comes to the world of emotions. Men that are frequently unwilling to grasp love freely given. Men unwilling to walk away from affection stolidly withheld.
The movie’s heartbreak lies in its ability to quietly capture the melancholy of men – a melancholy so primal that it is rarely discussed. Brokeback Mountain‘s greatness is not simply that it has the bravery to bid goodnight to ancient stereotypes of male-male love, but that it has the wisdom to acknowledge the mourning we feel at love’s going.
Porn Video Critic, Writer, Chicago, IL
I think we have to talk about the goddamn hair in this movie. It was awful. Part of it, I know, was simply the horrible styles of the time. And, yes, I realize that Ang Lee was making a visual statement: as Jack grew less interested in his wife, she became more artificial looking.
But can we talk about the men for a moment? These guys couldn’t grow decent sideburns and mustaches if you paid them — which the producers did. Not since Frodo’s feet have we seen such fake hair appliquÃ©s!
Moving along, a whole American Gothic novel could be written about Anne Hathaway‘s wigs, which seem to fly in from some totally different and extremely tacky movie, staggering everybody else in the cast, who then try to ignore whatever has just landed on her head. And to top it off, the producers got her hairstyles wrong! If you’re going to be tacky, at least be historically tacky! There’s a reason for the phrase the higher the hair, the closer to God. Sunbelt women of her time would have been ballooning out into exploding beehives.
Here in Canada, we wonder if Brokeback Mountain will be just a flash in the pan for you, or the real thing — the start of a Cinema of Gay Romance. In such a world, with thousands of gay love stories crowding the screen, Brokeback will be just a drop in the ocean. One that’s remarkable only because of its strange, very sad, unhappy ending.
You see, in this alternate universe, happy endings will be the rule! And my own Class Comics will no longer be hidden behind counters or kept on top shelves. Marvel will snap us up, and I’ll be drawing my own Brokeback numbers featuring Naked Justice in the arms of Superman!
The success of Brokeback Mountain says to me that maybe that other world isn’t so “other.” The 20-something crowd in the US and Canada seem cool with it. And teenage girls in Japan are going ga-ga over comics about sensitive-looking gay boys in love. Gay romance is finding a home in the marketplace.
Tom Judson ("Gus Mattox")
Porn Star, Big Rig, Hudson Valley, NY
The most discussed virtue of Brokeback Mountain is that the film shows how a love story can be universal and speak to people of all sexual orientations. We gay folks knew that going into the theater. In fact, I found Brokeback a near remake of an earlier film — The Remains of the Day.
In The Remains of the Day, Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson play characters whose relationship is almost identical to that of Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. Unexpectedly finding themselves as co-workers — two servants in an English mansion — the pathologically reserved Hopkins at first resents the ebullient and spirited Thompson who, in turn, is at a loss to understand her very private colleague.
The demands of their job bring them closer together. A distant sort of intimacy develops between the butler and the housekeeper, though neither is willing to breech the wall of formality that stands between them. As the decades pass, they slip into the comfortable rhythms of couple-hood without truly being a couple. Always they maintain a tacit agreement that things can progress only so far.
Finally admitting to herself that she wants more from the relationship, Thompson forces the issue with Hopkins. She informs him that she has just received a marriage proposal from another man. Hopkins — crippled by insecurity and unable to express his true desires — allows her to leave. Years later, when he finally realizes the happiness he has lost, Hopkins reaches out to Thompson only to find it is too late for them both. He returns home, fully aware that he has wasted his life by denying himself love.
The Remains of the Day is s a luxurious tapestry to Brokeback‘s cross-stitch sampler. It has a richer, more complex plot. The essential similarities are there, however. The crossed lovers of Brokeback Mountain is a theme so universal that it will take more than butt sex in a pup tent to make the movie exclusively gay.
Jop van Bennekom
Editor, Butt Magazine, Amsterdam, NL
One thing puzzles me about Brokeback Mountain: the first sex scene in the tent. Was it anal rape? Consensual harassment? Or just rough sex? I think that aggression charges up the sexual energy in men. And in just a split second every man has the potential to go from intimacy into a nasty butt-fuck. I mean, haven’t we all been in that pup tent on Brokeback Mountain at some point or another?
Brokeback Mountain has so much to like. Touching love story… great acting … beautifully shot … unimpeachably gay-positive. But the casting bugs the hell out of me:
Yes, Heath and Jake Gyllenhaal are great-looking guys with advanced chemistry. Their frantic first hump is so enthusiastic, no wonder that dang mountain was called Brokeback!
Still, there is something about Jake Gyllenhaal as a cowboy that doesn’t work for me. The moony eyes are perfect, but overall his pretty-boy looks — the suspiciously button nose, the teeth as tall and white as the HOLLYWOOD sign — could not exist in the middle of nowhere after a life of hard work. At least he has chest hair — point to Gyllenhaal.
Other casting elements took me out of the world of the film, as well. Randy Quaid as the ornery boss, was cartoonishly cantankerous. A lesser-known face would have done the trick nicely and invisibly. I admire Anne Hathaway, the star of The Princess Diaries, for taking a role in such a controversial movie — especially one that called for her to bare her breasts unnecessarily. But when she first rode up as a rodeo queen I turned to my partner and mouthed, “I had no idea Anne Hathaway was in this too!” For a grouchy cinephile like me, it was like watching And The Band Played On — famous faces paraded a mile a minute across the screen. Actually, maybe Brokeback was more like a gay Cannonball Run — except, you know, good.
I will give the movie this. Socio-politically, it was both pro-gay and non-preachy. That’s hard to do at the same time!
Massage Therapist, Hana, HI
I woke up crying the morning after I saw Brokeback Mountain. The night before gay men were hugging each other in the lobby of the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, tears in their eyes. It was opening night, and I could feel the sweep of history all around me:
When my grandmother was born, women couldn’t vote. When my parents were born, African-Americans couldn’t vote. When my oldest sister was born, interracial marriage was illegal in every state of the Union. People couldn’t imagine the progress that would happen in their lifetime.
And so that next morning, I felt, even as I cried a bit, peace and relief. Truth was on the march once again. Brokeback Mountain had been made with an A-list crew, it was up for Academy Awards — most of all, it had captured the imagination of my nation unlike any other gay romance before it, and many people were seeing it. I began to believe in my little heart that gay marriage (once so unimaginable) would become a reality in my country and in my lifetime.
I refuse to see Brokeback Mountain — but I hate it anyway. Mules wearing atomic roller skates couldn’t drag me screaming into the theater. Why? I had the singular misfortune of finding my big gay self born, and subsequently reared, in that hellish cowboy country called Montana — equaled only in its cowboyness by the likes of Wyoming and one or more of the Dakotas. So please don’t tell me about the virtues of gay cowboys.
The first half of my existence was spent running — literally — from rednecks in shitkickers and 4x4s. The kind that would nervously cram their rugged, leathery, SKOAL-smelling man-parts down your throat, beat you up afterwards and then haul their goaty asses back to misguided girlfriend/wife creatures.
I simply cannot abide big gay fads marketed to big non-gay America. I like to think that my sexuality has a larger role in the universe than to play dancing monkey for the sniffling entertainment of breeders. Fuck breeders. I refuse to be their entertainment, especially in this rabidly conservative political climate, with gale warnings of a neo-fascist cold front rolling in.
Furthermore, there’s the outrageous fact that these fags are played, as usual, by breeders. America can sleep tight in the self-righteous knowledge that Heath and Jake aren’t real fags — heck no! It’s all just movie-actin’. Believe me, if this film had been cast with two out homosexuals, it might have picked up a handful of Glammys, but nary an Oscar would it have seen. Not even an Oscar nod.
I have this nightmare. Fags are all caught up in the glowing romantic wake of this fucking phony film. I see them in droves. Ten-gallon hats … ripped Wranglers … pointy-toed snakeskin boots: Tarted out like fucking gun-toting, Republican-voting, chew-lipped, wife-beating breeders. Wait, isn’t it suppose to work the other way. The straights copy us.
Aren’t all those breeders trying to steal our style under the banner of Metrosexualism? Waxing their eyebrows, accessorizing, bathing in cologne — hell, just that they fucking bathe! Isn’t that the way it’s suppose to be. So please, gay America wake up. Fuck Brokeback Mountain.
KZ from NakedMetalMan.com
Writer, Nightcharm Commenter, Gays Mills, WI
The night we saw the film, my partner said it brought back his years as an activist in the Twin Cities, pushing for gay rights and acceptance. A whole generation of men like Jack and Ennis lived their lives untouched by the gay movement he fought so hard to help start. He could not shake the period feel of the film or a sense of the inadequacy of his work. The gay movement had never been able to rescue those lone men.
I look at Brokeback Mountain and see two heroes who have stumbled onto an impossible love they can neither explain nor ignore. Everything they know in their little world tells them there’s something not right about the only thing that is right. Their willingness to pursue, rather than ignore, their gut feelings makes their romance as heroic as it is clumsy and inept.
By the time it’s done — and done for good — we are left with a handful of haunting images. A figure getting into a beat-up truck and pointing it down a dust-choked road to go someplace he doesn’t want to go. The melancholy comfort of a postcard of a mountain tacked to a closet door. And something one of them once said: If you can’t fix it, you’ve got to stand it.
Writer, New York Post, Genre, New York, NY
A friend has seen Brokeback Mountain three times. He has pre-ordered the upcoming DVD and will not tolerate any discussion of the film not filled with hosannas. â€œOne day you will understand,â€ he says to me in a voice full of pity — and just a tinge of scorn. You see, this friend finds the Brokeback Kool-Aid rather tasty. I’m not really into the flavor.
Something about Brokeback seems so false to me. Ennis is an uncommunicative fuck (although his love for his daughters is pure and golden.) He resists Jackâ€™s attempts to move beyond their 3-times-a-year excursions. I kept wondering why Jack kept trying or even cared.
Now I know what’s being said out there, and the hype is coming fast and furious. Slate columnist Mickey Kaus has convinced himself that Brokeback is a position paper on same-sex marriage. I doubt the movie will translate into either policies or politics. It will command the stage for a week or two, then be forgotten. All the breathless words will be given a break until the roll-out of the next big gay topic.
Here’s what troubles me about all this: A little over a year ago a 19-year-old kid here in NYC was killed. Rashawn Brazellâ€™s body parts were strewn all over the city; to this day his head has not been found. The boy was gay and there are neither suspects nor viable leads. His story is tragic, but we all know more about two film cowboys than a young gay kid who walked among us.
This says more about our culture, and us, than I care to admit. Brokeback Mountain is a movie; Iâ€™m glad people enjoyed it. But I wish we gave as much attention to the harsh tragedies of the real world as we do to the ups and downs of a mountain-side love — that’s really not all that.
Artist, London, England
As a British man who knows nothing of cowboy culture except by way of Hollywood, the concept of gay cowboys seemed kind of cute and ridiculous. Straight-spined, taciturn cowboys like the young Clint Eastwood were already one of the biggest gay fantasy cliches, so I entered the theater not expecting much. But all my misgivings were swept away when I began to watch what turned out to be a universal story.
Brokeback Mountain is about the choices we have to make in life, and how we, as gay men, have to trust our instincts and at some point fight for our right to love. I suppose in America the cowboy aspect of the film has great resonance. I saw that it quickly fell away, and that the fear of persecution that hovers over Ennis and Jack is something that could be — and is — experienced in any culture.
The film left me with a sadness that did not leave for many days. Yet I found something wonderful about Brokeback Mountain as well. At least, the two cowboys did find each other, did realize their love — how many people have ever gone that far? There was an intensity to the short time they could be together — and I imagine great passion in the love-making.
There was also a meaningfulness to the relationship, a true intimacy. Ennis, who rarely spoke, opened up to Jack, the way you do with someone you trust and love. Now, that is something to celebrate.
Again as an English person who has a love of wild, natural countrysides bred into my bones, I was wowed by the beautiful scenery. The cowboys were playing out their love against the most beautiful landscape in the world, rugged snow-covered mountain ranges, big sturdy forests of fir. What a relief to see a gay romance presented in such a majestic natural world, rather than the usual locale of a grimy big city, with its cliches of urbanity, club culture and brittle gay cynicism.
I am pleased that the film seems to be breaking down taboos in America. It’s also having an impact on a wider international audience. Slowly, inch by inch, beauty and tolerance will invade Middle America and all the sad little pockets of ignorance around the world! After all, we are not the demons of popular rhetoric. We’re simply human beings, who search for love like everyone else.
Executive Editor, Nightcharm, North Bergen, NJ
I read that Brokeback was banned in parts of West Virginia and Utah — jeez Louise, you’d think these Bible-bangers would have learned by now. Ban something and it will start whizzing and fizzing with all sorts of dark allure.
Utah, I’ve learned, has a comic history of banning gay films. In an interview with the screenwriter of Making Love, an 80′s film that was Brokeback‘s Hollywood precursor, Barry Sandler, the screenwriter and only out gay man on the 1982 production, was asked if his film had run into similar roadblocks.
“No,” he told interviewer Brent Hartinger of The Big Gay Picture. “The right wasn’t really formed yet. It was the early Reagan years. But here’s a funny aside. Salt Lake City. The highest grossing shows there were during the lunch hour. They were always filled — all these single guys with wedding rings! The night shows, forget it. But the lunch shows, watch out!”
Brokeback, we know, sells out its night shows. As satisfyingly good as the film is, though, it’s not Brokeback that’s changed things; Brokeback is merely taking the temperature of the times. The same way that black leading men were once a hard sell but now are no big deal, gay people have become acceptable, accessible vehicles for people’s fantasies.
And we have reality television to thank. Reality shows were the true pioneer of gay visibility. Not the minstrels shows like Queer Eye or Project Runway. Oh, they’re tons of fun, but minstrel shows nonetheless, exploiting — rather than exploding — flashy misconceptions and colorful half-truths.
What paved the way were less frantic exercises like MTV’s Real World, with its sincere out kids, and The Amazing Race, with its in-shape boyfriend teams that often won the contest.
David K. tells me he sat next to a guy and his girlfriend at a Brokeback showing in Seattle, and when the lights came up, the guy was sobbing. This is not an isolated incident. I’ve read reports on gay blogs that straight couples look wiped out after the film and immediately need to talk with the first gay person they can snag. Compare this to the visceral disgust that Sandler reports at test screenings of Making Love:
“When we [test-marketed the film] with straight audiences, it was the same thing every time the guys kissed. People didn’t walk out, but there were groans, a real audible reaction. So we knew that people were uncomfortable with that.
“The fourth screening was an all-gay audience. And at the moment of the kiss, the place just broke out into applause and cheering. Totally contradictory reactions.”
We have yet to hear a groan during the much more literal butt-fuck that pops up abruptly a half-hour into Brokeback. Because of the emotional investment of straight audiences in the characters of this film, we hear vacuous statements like Brokeback isn’t really a gay film. It is, instead, simply a romance. What a preposterous assertion!
What else is this movie about if not the enduring sexual passion of two men? On what pivot point does the plot turn if not the torment of the star-crossed cowboys, who, like Romeo and Juliet, are held apart, not by warring families, but by the deadly male code of the West.
Here’s the deal: Brokeback is a gay film and a universal love story. The terms are not mutually exclusive. The sold-out audiences know that, if fatuous critics do not.
Publisher, Nightcharm, Seattle, WA
Brokeback Mountain made me miss my father in a way that hurt deep. The father I longed for, in a passionate way, when I was a kid. Watching Jack and Ennis try to make their connection work was like reliving all the torment I felt, especially as a gay adolescent, trying to understand the frightening mix of love and fear that I came to associate with my father.
Mothers are usually solid, in place for their children. They’re driven by elemental forces to bond with their creations. But fathers? Most fathers have the lure to seed and flee. To roam. And if they’re not roaming, they secretly feel conflicted about their domestic confinement. Brokeback Mountain, in true tragic form, shows what happens when the masculine impulse is confronted with the riddles of love, surrender and commitment.
I wonder if Annie Proulx was channeling her story? It has a pristine quality about it that makes it feel plucked whole from the same mystical garden where Dickens and Shakespeare found their inspiration. Not to say Proulx has a similar style — she doesn’t. But her short story has the same truth-telling quality — the same poetic potency that infuses really terrific art.
Amazingly, Ang Lee found a way to translate this truth-telling quality into cinema. And this is why all kinds of people take a seat for Brokeback Mountain: to see the truth. Truth is always more interesting than titillation.
The strongest truth in Brokeback is that when the object of love is irreversibly gone, love really starts to bloom. Death hurts, but in the end, loss gives us a bigger capacity to love.
In the sequel in my mind, I see Ennis eventually learning to love deeply, to give himself to another man. He has nothing left to lose. At the very least he shows signs of becoming a better father at the end of the film when he promises his oldest daughter that he won’t disappoint her, that he will, after all, attend her wedding. Finally, one of the characters is going to get what she longs for: a husband and a dad.
Brokeback: American Gothic
is by Curtis, the newest member of our
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