DATED 2006: “Brokeback Mountain” Is Broken
“Brokeback Mountain” is receiving much widespread acclaim because everyone is acclaiming its’ widespread acclaim and, in my opinion, that’s appalling. It is being called a “gay cowboy love story” over and over again, in press, on the streets, as though it were true. Except there are a few little minor problems to address -- the film isn’t any of those things in any way shape or form, barring that, yes, they wear western costumes and ride horses occasionally. I am deeply saddened if “this is the most influential film of the decade” and “Best Film Of The Year” as stated in the press – gay press at that -- and that the film is up for many prestigious awards. I am disappointed for numerous reasons:
1. They’re not gay.
The two main characters themselves say they’re straight in the movie itself – and I believe them. What I saw was two straight married men with children, playing on the “down-low”. One of the actors, Jake, is quoted publicly saying, he “played a straight man in love with another man”. Being that they are “real” men, not just “stereotypical” gays, it makes the two characters being “gay-like” easier to accept by the general public and by gays alike.
This exemplifies internalized self-hatred in the gay community where having sex with a straight man makes the sex seem less homosexual and any straight man having any kind of homosexual activities is a tortured soul and the straight world reacting to the ultra-liberal stance (in their highly intolerant view) of “at least they’re not nelly”.
I have never seen a woman, black, or gay in mainstream media that resembles anything like real life and “Brokeback Mountain” is dismal in showing a real-life “gay experience” (or even “closeted gays” or fantasy, especially in light of being made by surely well-intended but-still-straight people speaking of subjects without first-hand knowledge, just like “The Bird Cage” and countless other films). If this film is the current representation of gays, how they see themselves, and how other non-gay people see them – to be pitied at best – we have got a long way to go for true acceptance.
Not once was “love” shown -- between men, men and women, or parents and children. There is a difference between “love” (a behavior of concern, caring, acceptance, support and understanding) or even being “in love” and “desire and lust” (a behavior of being overtly sexual, fantasizing, and self-concerned with one’s own needs and wants). But of course, this difference was never addressed in the film. Everyone seems to be confusing one behavior for the other – especially the film-makers. What I saw was “a longing to share aggressive physical sexuality between two people who have made strong intimate commitments to other people” – but all this in a very limited way – and, by far, I grant it, they did emotionalize over that…endlessly.
There is an out-of-nowhere drunken, animalistic doggy-style sex scene, a scene where the two hungrily greet after four years of absence (where more alcohol was involved), and two scenes of frolic (i.e. wrestling and swimming). These scenes are a mere brief few minutes (if not seconds) – especially in contrast to the hours devoted to denial, anger, acting out and negative consequences. They seem to hit each other more than kiss. Why doesn’t anyone see that?
We saw no nudity, no overt sexuality, not even holding hands. Just talk – and not much of that. It’s the IDEA of sex – not anything presented visually. One character, who does tricks in Mexico because he states he can’t wait between sex camp trysts (and tries to play house with another man on his parents’ property), says, “I think the only thing we have in common is Brokeback Mountain…” There’s love for ya. If these people are lonely, they have brought it on themselves.
3. Deviants must be punished.
At least five times, the film concretely points out how “bad” it is to be gay. From “Boys Don’t Cry” to “The Boys In The Band”, gays get what they deserve in films, or so film-makers would have you believe – dating back to the “Hayes Office” censorship. Even today on TV’s “Will And Grace”, “Will”, a gay “Rhoda”, is unable to be fulfilled as a person – someone they now show as jobless, non-romantic, with a dysfunctional family who can not seem to accept his gayness. Laughing on the outside -- period.
Gays have no emotional depth in media. A scene in “Brokeback”, when the blonde cowboy speaks on the telephone to the dark-haired cowboy’s wife, a scene in which the dark-haired cowboy is beaten appears, seems to be tacked on. Who’s point of view is it? Is it the blonde’s thoughts? The wife’s thoughts? Was it a film-maker’s after-thoughts? Why was it necessary in a “gay love story” to show THREE dead gay people? In a bio-pic of Hugh Hefner, I hope they splice in references to herpes and crabs and women getting raped. Huh?
“Brokeback Mountain” is not to be confused with “Romeo And Juliet”. This is closer to the Mathew Sheppard story, plain and simple, or “Angles In America” or whatever tear-jerker dead-queer story. Yet, these two men should be punished in my opinion. Where are the consequences of cheating on their spouses or having indiscriminate anonymous sex or laziness or being afraid to look at one’s self? If this were about two people – a man and a woman – who worked together and ran off together every so often to “party” (“Same Time Next Year”), would there be this positive reaction?
4. There are no mentions of positive gay reinforcements in ANY scene.
Many opportunities were missed to counter the negativity presented in the movie. When the dark-haired cowboy is confronted by the boss who tells him there is no job for him, that was an opportunity to say, in essence, “I don’t care what you think of me…I am not ashamed…” Yet, the boss didn’t fire them because they were gay. They were fired for fucking off while on duty and on his dime.
When the blonde cowboy is confronted by his ex-wife in the kitchen about him never having caught fish on his trips, this was a time when he could have said something to the effect of, “We went there to be with each other…not fish”.
When the blonde cowboy visits the dark-haired cowboy’s parents, the mother should have given him what he needed to fulfill the wishes of her son. Instead, the blonde leaves with a reminder of their bloody fight and never insists the parents do right by the man he loves. He accepts the parents’ coldness and, apparently, so are we.
When the blonde’s daughter announces her plans of marriage, she could have said, “I’m happy now…You only seemed happy on trips with what’s-his-name? Let’s go fulfill his last wishes...” Or she says, “I hope you find happiness again, like I have…” This would have been “the audiences’ point of view”, teaching acceptance, showing love to someone who couldn’t love themselves, even enough to love someone else the way they wanted and needed to be loved.
No gender, sexual orientation, sexual preferences, hate crimes, relationship dynamics, not even the suggestion of reasoning or why a person would be so repressed – nothing. Where’s Kinsey at this time with his world-wide shocking scientific data? Where’s the sexual revolution? Where is the voice of one other gay character? These characters seem to live in a vacuum. The argument they live in the middle of nowhere doesn’t cut it when one of them travels to Mexico (How did he know to go there? Did the openly gay men there have nothing to teach him?), lives in a town big enough to sell large farm equipment (Stories abound of boys and the back of the barn…), and have televisions (What did he think of Liberace?). They seem to be the only gay people in the world -- ever. There is no context other than “it’s bad – and that’s that”. But…why? Why was it so bad to be a woman a hundred years ago? Why was it so bad to be black two hundred years ago? You have to make sense of something senseless when that’s what the presented theme is in a film. The ONLY thing the blonde’s father said to him growing up was about dead gay people – apparently missing “don’t drink and drive”, “be good to your woman”, or “get an education so you can get a good job to feed your babies”? Why was it necessary to reference a little child’s reaction to a dead gay man whose penis was severed? This was shown but countless other relative things go by without addressing whatsoever.
Diane Sawyer (who is married to an Oscar-winning, history-making film-maker of the “Graduate” and “The Birds Cage”) asked Heath Ledger on ABC, “So here it is, two straight men, playing in love scenes…I mean, how was it done? Did you have to choreograph it?” -- as though the idea of actors acting was foreign to her and thereby reinforcing how difficult is must be to be perceived as gay and do gay things when you are so obviously not.
By ravishing praise on “Brokeback Mountain” and then rebuffing with how the actors must have anguished over acting “gay”, the media itself is subtly reinforcing negative gay stereotypes while trying to sound “with it”. Gays, even in Hollywood, are so desperate for positive role models, they grab on to ones that truly aren’t. If the movie was about a black man “in love with a white woman” and the black man was killed at the end for his sexual interests in white women, there would be riots in the street over the film – even if the film was set in a time when that seemed like appropriate behavior.
In the ‘60’s movie, “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner”, a “white-ish” Sidney Poitier and the rest wait around, pondering if they will be accepted by “the great white father”, Spencer Tracy. You are to leave the film rooting for the two to be joined when in fact you should be angry over such white butt kissing.
Why make the movie at all? Why would anyone sympathize with ignorant liars, selfish cheaters, and blatant manipulators as they are presented in “Brokeback Mountain”? At best, these men are terrible husbands, horrible fathers, crappy lovers and irresponsible employees. That’s entertainment? That’s making a social statement?
Anyone saying anything bad against this movie comes off as “disloyal” to the gay community or “anti-gay” and that’s a sad comment as well. I don’t need Hollywood or anyone else to tell me it’s ok to be gay – that’s condescending. And I am certainly old enough to remember every struggle of every minority before me and recognize being patronized by powers-that-be.
“Brokeback Mountain” is not ground-breaking or progressive. It puts all of us right back where the characters are – in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s and gives no hints for possible change. Theatergoers who find themselves weeping at “Brokeback Mountain” should take a long, hard look at where their sympathies lie… and why.
The film contains a “who” and a “when” and a “where”. What’s lacking is the “how” and the “why”. The cowboy theme is overwhelmingly dull. What’s with all the sheep-wrangling? The original writer of the short story in which the film is based can’t believe it was ever published, let alone a film. I can see her point.
The film-makers do not tell us anything new in any new way about cowboys or gays or even people who struggle emotionally. The cowboys have dedicated their lives doing something we have no clue as to why. There’s no money, no glory, no sense to it all.
Acting? What acting? Heath Leger’s mumbling imitation of Gary Cooper is passé. Perhaps limiting dialogue and slurring was a way of hiding his accent. Even the mustaches seem to be a macho contrivances.
The first twenty minutes of the film was tragically boring. If I hear one more time about “beautiful vistas”, I’ll puke. The director has said, “The mountain is the third character.” And that character is what? Mean? Happy? “Rustic” is not plot, character, or dialogue.
Here, the main character doesn’t speak much and others make many references to that fact. Therefore, we are left unaware of any motivations he or anyone else has. Why would the wives stay married to these kinds of men? Who knows? Love stories must establish the characters’ strong bond but too much “kissy-face mooning” and you are turned off by the sappiness. Here, we do not see any structure for their relationship or anyone elses’. We know very, very little and on that comes this outpouring of praise and admiration?
Naive boy meets horny boy. Boys meet every once in while and screw. Boy looses boy. The end. What is the message? What’s the conclusion? A better movie would have been about the blonde’s wife with two kids who sees her husband kissing a man out of nowhere and her decision to stay with him and her ultimate decision to leave him. She rang as the only true thing in the whole film.
To see in my lifetime not only gays refused basic legal rights, but to witness whole industries supporting something so obviously hurtful makes me wonder why hate crimes aren’t more prevalent. I can only hope the future brings about true acceptance and understanding and this film is seen in the same light as earlier films about sexism and racism – well-meaning but still repressive and even openly hostile.
Even still, having said all that, I would be fine, in my opinion, if, for one, the Hollywood bastards hadn’t cheated me out of nine damned dollars once again. Secondly, the film was presented truthfully in the manner in which it was created: “Ladies and gentleman, introducing a wistful little non-sense film about two sex-starved, up-tight straight dudes who find themselves in a homosexual version of ‘Same Time Next Year’ that ends in a painful tragedy of senseless hate-crimes…” But what’s the sense in being real like that? Calling it a “gay cowboy love story” sells better. The makers of “Brokeback Mountain” should be ashamed of themselves and so should anyone who liked it.