I wonder if it’s a reaction to the overabundance of manufactured sentimentality that comes with this time of year, or if I’m just naturally this jaded, but my cynicism seems to be nearer and nearer the surface. Perhaps it can’t be helped when your country is in the midst of a federal election; it’s an automatic defence mechanism that kicks in whenever a politician opens his or her mouth telling you they care.
Or maybe it comes from reading the newspapers. Politicians trying to make a connection between exploiting wildlife preserve and providing financial relief to people devastated by Hurricane Katrina does nothing to improve my opinion of the human race. The President of the United States supporting illegal wiretapping of American residents on the grounds of national security without revealing who the subjects were (shades of Richard Nixon’s enemies list) leaves you thinking about all the ways that can misused. (If I were Michael Moore I would make damn sure I have a really good accountant for the audits he’ll be undergoing for the next ten years)
Wherever it comes from it seems to be making me cast a jaundiced eye over just about everything that I see. Perhaps this goes a long way to explaining my reaction to all the hype surrounding Brokeback Mountain, or as I’m calling it in my head, Guys in Chaps. I know it’s supposed to be this big breakthrough movie with two mainstream actors having gay love scenes and all that, but still something about it sticks in my craw.
A lot of it could be a reaction to Hollywood and its inability to accept that something has to be grandiose to appeal to people. Instead of a tale of unrequited love between two gay accountants in the early sixties it has to be two rugged he-men cowboys for them. They seem to forget that even today it takes a certain amount of courage to go public in mainstream society about your love for a person of the same sex.
Forget about all the hoopla surrounding celebrity unions like Sir Elton’s and think for a second about life in the Midwestern United States or the Bible Belt. How many men and women live lives of quiet misery unable to ever admit their feelings for fear of shunning and potential injury to this very day?
Perhaps that’s what actually makes this movie so acceptable to a conservative world. Like Sir Elton these two cowboys occupy a world that is a waya ways removed from our typical day-to-day existence. They are not like us, so their behaviour can be different.
In some ways this movie reminds me of the old Lenny Bruce routine about gays, when he talks about man being basically a carnal animal. At one point he says “put a guy in prison for any length of time and he’ll shtup anything, even mud” Although their relationship grows beyond that stage, that rationale can be used to explain away their initial attraction.
Of course they also have to suffer for their love. Marriages go to hell and they end up alone. How difficult is it to take that and turn it into an argument against homosexual love? Look at the damage they cause to nice decent women and children through their perverted desires. Look at how they are forced to suffer by God for giving in to those nasty urges. If only they had had the strength to resist that first time they would have gone on to be decent husbands and fathers.
Yet I’m sure everyone associated with the movie and the press are all going on about what a brave picture this is, depicting homosexual love without any of the poufter stereotypes and making the gays the central characters. Have none of these idiots ever seen Kevin Smith’s movie Chasing Amy?
That movie accepts homosexuality as a fact of life, nothing special. There’s a great scene where a lesbian and a straight man compare war injuries sustained while having oral sex. Now that scene is not going to play well in Peoria.
I remember somebody questioning Kevin Smith about that movie and him replying that he made it after his gay brother commented how tired he was of not seeing gay people up on screen just being people like other characters. Brokeback Mountain doesn’t do anything to address that deficiency.
There’s nothing normal about this movie at all. If they wanted to be brave they’d do some stupid Hollywood movie about two divorced parents getting together with their children and trying to form one happy family, but having both parents gay.
Or a nice romantic comedy a la Two Weeks Notice but instead of Sandra Bullock playing the radical lawyer who falls in love with the corporate honcho have that character be played by Heath Ledger. Make Hugh Grant’s character a sleaze that sleeps with everything in trousers who’s just waiting for the right guy to come along and save him from himself.
Those would be radical movies; ones that would take a great deal of bravery to make. Movies like Brokeback Mountain do as much disservice to gays as any movie full of drag queens and limp wrested stereotypes. In fact a movie like Priscilla: Queen of The Desert where the drag queens are presented as human beings, has more integrity in one of its high heels than any earnest movie’s attempt to talk about the issue of homosexuality.
That’s the problem right there in a nutshell. Gay love is still being treated as an issue not life. We don’t need any more issue films about people’s sexual orientation. Sure there are segments of the population who want to make an issue out of it, but the best response is not to play that game.
Integration will only happen when sexual orientation is no longer an issue. As long as films like Brokeback Mountain continue to be made homosexuality will continue to be marginalized. I’m sure people will say I’m making a lot of fuss over just a movie, but it’s not just the movie I’m reacting too.
The fact that everyone seems to think that it’s such a step forward in Hollywood’s depiction of homosexuals is what I’m reacting to. Like I said earlier maybe I’m overly cynical, but I would not categorize any movie that continues to marginalize homosexuality as progressive. Sure it takes place in the near past with characters that are the antithesis of the gay stereotype, but those traits do nothing to hasten the acceptance of gays on screen for who and what they are.
Like the middle of the road mainstream society Hollywood reflects, homosexuality still has a long way to go before it is openly accepted in the suburbs. For all the right wing’s complaints about the lax morality and impiety of Hollywood, they are actually just as conservative as any Republican. They’re just better actors.