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    Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    A review and commentary of Brokeback Mountain (Spoiler Alert!)

    By Jon Pressick

    Much of the movie-going world has been waiting anxiously for the simply-described "gay cowboy movie" to come out. And with its release, Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain has certainly generated a buzz that is usually reserved for blockbuster epics. Many are expecting the film to receive much consideration come Academy Award season. It has also been an effective vehicle for pushing the careers of its starts, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, to the leading-man level. Sounds like a real-life cinderella story, for that film about "gay cowboys"...but is it?

    What is almost being lost in all the hype is the "gay" part of this story, or rather the implications of what is presented as "gay." Brokeback Mountain, which is adapted from a short story by E. Annie Proulx, is a very simple story of two men who fall in love. Which, it should seem, must be the story of two gay men. Which, also, is how the film is being marketed, the "gay cowboy" movie. From these, many are considering this a watershed film for the gay community. It is certainly going to get a huge domestic release in the United States and Canada and should draw tremendous numbers, with a good number of people then leaving the theatre with a lump in their throats because of the injustice of two men not being able to follow their true feelings in rural America.

    Well, that is one level on which this film operates, and perhaps that will be a justified commendation of Brokeback Mountain. However, that is the simplified version. That is the Hollywood interpretation. A true examination of this film must consider the impact of the sexuality of the two characters before painting the story as a sad tale of societal restrictions.

    The two gay cowboys are Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) and Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal). Thrown together to work guarding sheep in remote Wyoming, the two grow close in their confined company. First a friendship and commerarderie develops, two good ol' boys protectin' sheep from coyotes and drinkin' whisky 'round the fire. Ennis, tight-lipped and reticent eventually begins to open up to Jack, the more outgoing character. Eventually they do talk a bit about sex (which is a bit odd, because most other guys left out in the wilderness with another guy would be talking sex frequently), but not much.

    Fate would see to it that Ennis, who is supposed to leave base camp and be with the sheep at night, can't go and so the two men must spend the night together. At first he tries to sleep outside, as the only have one small tent. But he's too cold, so Jack calls him into the tent. Once inside the two men snuggle a bit..until they realize what is happening and the threat of violence is palpable. However, instead of breaking into a "I ain't queer" fist fight, the two embrace the moment and Jack bends himself over for Ennis. The scene is rough and dangerous. But from there, the film portrays this new dynamic between the boys as a joyful romp in the mountains. They play together, laugh together, wrestle together. They create an intimacy.

    But this connection is strained and then lost when their tenure on the
    mountain draws to a close, ending with that fist fight that looked as if it would break out before their first sexual encounter. Then the boys go their separate ways, each gaining a wife and family and all the appearances of a normal life. There is little hint of either feeling unfulfilled until they meet again, some four years later. After they reconnect, they begin taking "fishing trips" away from their respective families in order to be with each other. These trips continue through the years, through Ennis' divorce after his wife eventually leaves him after seeing the two men embrace, through Jack's trips from his Texas home to Mexico for some rough trade. The bond between the two is strong.

    So, again, this sounds like "gay cowboys in love"?

    It is more like "gay cowboy in love with another cowboy."

    From their first encounter, because so little has been given about the characters, their relationship seems very much to be an instance of "situational homosexuality," in much the same way that prisoners engage in homosexual acts because they have no other sexual outlet. This is not to deny the plain and simple love that grows between the two men. That portrayal is real and stunning for what will be a major Hollywood picture. However, in the early going, this relationship would have existed regardless of whether the two characters were two men, two women or a man and a woman. They grow close because of their feelings for each other.

    It is through the rest of the film that their individual dentifications become troubling. Both characters end up married. Ennis meets a woman and falls in love, has children and becomes the model of heterosexual male. Jack moves through life, has some rough patches, but eventually settles with a woman and also has a kid. And when they eventually get back together, it becomes incrimentally clear that Jack is, indeed, a gay man who is very much closeted. His clandestine trips to Mexico, his affair with the rancher's "wife" and his personal questioning of his "manliness" in dealing with his father-in-law are all classic sitations of a man struggling with his sexuality at that period of time in a generally homophobic society.

    Ennis' story is far more troubling. He embraces his situation. After he and Jack separate, he moves on to a clear heterosexual life. Even after his divorce, he may not be out picking up women--but he's also not out picking up men. He simply turns off, unable to develop any sort of relationship. His daughter even tells an interested woman that she doesn't have a chance with her father. The implication there is that Ennis' daughter knows he is gay, but this doesn't seem accurate. Rather, the woman doesn't have a chance with him because be isn't capable of a relationship with anyone beyond Jack. Not because he is gay and has no interest in women, but because he has no interest in anyone.

    Does this perhaps open the door for Ennis to be considered a bisexual character? Sadly, no. Instead of portraying him as someone who could fall in love with someone of either sex, he is depicted as someone who fell in love with Jack. Jack and his ex-wife--these two specific people. That they are of the two different sexes is incidental.

    This may seem like bisexuality, but I don't think it is. Sure, it is possible for him to be bi without knowing it--many people have discovered themselves to be bi after many years of not knowing. But it becomes abundantly clear throughout the film that Ennis can only love Jack, and for a lesser time, his ex-wife. And in order for him to be bisexual, he would need to harbour some other feelings of sexuality beyond these two other characters. In that scene where his daughter tells a potential female suitor that she, basically, has no chance with her father it would seem that the filmmakers were attempting to insinuate that the daughter knows of Ennis' homosexuality and that is what she is telling this new woman. But really, this woman has no chance because she isn't Jack.

    Ultimately, Brokeback Mountain is disappointing. It is disappointing for all the reasons that it is being lauded in the mainstream press. It is not the landmark gay film. Sure, it is presenting the story of the love that dare not speak its name in the time and place where gay men could definitely not be open without fear of harm. It is the sad story of unrequited love and eventual death by gaybashing. These were and still are realities in many places the world over. However, the story could have stayed true to this intent without making the character of Ennis so ambiguous. He could have been a gay man who fell in love. He could have been a straight man who fell in love. He could have been a bisexual man who feel in love. But instead he was none of the above. Were they attempting to paint him as the "everyman"? Not likely. Instead, it seems they were attempting to place a sexual identity that is just emerging in our times on a character of decades ago. Ennis del Mar is simply a man. And in a story based in 2005, he could have been a valid and strong character. This film wants a character that struggles with his identity. Just having Jack Twist be the stereotypical closet case was not enough. The character of Ennis should have struggled with the implications of his identity for himself, for his growing children, for himself in society. This would have been more relevant to the time and place portrayed in Brokeback Mountain.

    (c) Copryight 2005 Jon Pressick

    Jon Pressick is the feature article editor for Bisexual.com. He is also the publisher of TRADE: Queer Things and a past contributor to Xtra!, Gaiety, Broken Pencil, Women’s Post and Quill and Quire.
    Last edited by Drew; Dec 31, 2005 at 2:31 AM.

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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    Well said, and a very good perspective on the movie.
    I'm sure you'll get many more comments from those with differing views, as I have them myself. But I'm content just enjoying seeing another's opinions.

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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    Jon,

    Firstly, I must say that your article is very well written. I would be interested in reading other essays, short stories or novels you have penned.
    Secondly, I find your parsing of the characters very interesting. I reserve my opinion until I have seen the movie and read the book. However it brings to mind the question of sexuality that was also discussed in a thread on this website regarding the movie. I am a bisexual man, I am neither heterosexual not homosexual. I embody apsects of both and in that embodiment I am rendered neither. Does being bisexual mean that I can only love a woman and my realationship with a man is purely sexual? I think not. Since I believe that we have the capacity to love more than one person I do not find myself limited by quantity or chromosome alignment. Remember that I am focusing on love not sex. These are my opinions about me and no one else. I'm growing tired of the need to classify.
    I quote the great philospher, Popeye the Sailor,"I am what I am and that's all that I am..." and the song from the Broadway musical Les Cage Aux Folles, 'I am what I am'.

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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    I haven't seen the film yet because my town is allergic to progress. But I look forward to seeing it and finding out if my sense of it is the same as yours. I predict it will be.

    The only thing I can say is that it is the best you can expect from Hollywood -- and with that in mind, it's a huge step forward. As someone who's married and has had romps with men in the past, I like the fact that Heath Ledger's character is ambiguous.

    J
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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    Well said Johnny V,

    It is the ambiguity that makes the film interesting. It demonstrates the fluid nature of love and sexuality that will perhaps stretch the comfort zone of anyone who watches it.

    Here the watershed is exposure, a film that people will go and see whether they are gay, bi or straight. In watching this, they can feel compassion for the situation, not only for the lovers, but the wives and families that are impacted. Hopefully this will broaden the understanding that indeed... love is love.

    If you are a closeted bi-person in a heterosexual relationship, I think this film may spark some questions by your partner. Go with them if you want to open that door, otherwise I would humbly suggest attending on your own.

    Enjoy!
    'The mind is open, the body is willing, and the heart is free to love all beings equally.'
    Bi-ten

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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    Haven't seen it yet, but looking forward to it at my first opportunity. Thank you, Jon P. for your insight, and thank you, Usedbear, for the cogent quote from my colleague. sailorashore

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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    The movie has not yet opened in my town, so I have not seen anything other than the trailers--those short segments are insufficient to make a decision about the quality of the movie and to help form an opinion about the content.

    I do plan to see the film at the first opportunity.

    I found the article to be well written and deals with the kinds of issues most media would never consider covering.

    It is interesting--I read an article on AOL about the reaction to the film by both the Catholic Church and several prominent fundamentalist Christian organizations.

    The film was given high marks for it technical elements such as cinematography, acting, story telling, directing, etc, for being of very high quality. The organizations did recommend that members of their respective religious groups should not see the film because of its content dealing with homosexuality.

    It is also interesting to note, the evangelical groups said they will not mount any kind of public campaign against the film because in the past, such efforts only lead to the film in question having a bigger audience thanks to the publicity.

    They also expressed concerns, that since the film is so good in the technical aspects and has already garnered nominations for awards sauch as The Golden Globes and others and may also win Oscar nominations, this might lead to greater acceptance of homosexuality by the general public.

    As far as the major media manner of dealing with this film---it is being called a "gay" film.

    Pretty hard to win against the great media promotion machine on that score.
    "Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere..." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    Great article on the movie. I was very moved as I watched it. My own bisexuality took over as I, too, questioned the ambiguity in the character portrayed by Heath Ledger. I identified with his struggle to commit to one gender or the other. And I was saddened when it was depicted in the movie that he ended up alone, as if unnable to commit. It was quite frightening to think that the same could happen to me or someone else who identifies as bisexual. I really enjoyed the movie. Hopefully this opens the door to more progressive films dealing with sexual as well as ethnic or cultural identities.
    Morenito

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    Red face Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    Good review.
    I personally wasn't too into the flick. To me, it was predictable. And the fact that the "B" word was absent was typical.
    Of course awful things happen in these movies to queer folks, thus supporting the Christian Rights theory. I mean, how many movies where awful things happen to gay folks are there now?
    How about the popular media tries showing positive roles and bringing up the idea of Bisexuality would be nice too.
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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    Ratchick, I love you but I totally disagree with you (and Jon Pressick, too) about Brokeback Mountain.

    I loved this movie. Maybe my expectations were lower, having learned that Hollywood generally takes a shallow approach to all things queer: either playing it for laughs (e.g., The Birdcage, To Wong Foo) or as a comical case of mistaken identity (e.g., In and Out). I agree that it would have been good to see a positive portrayal of a happy and well-adjusted bisexual man (for once).

    But to my mind, this movie wasn't about bisexuals, or even about homosexual love. It was about homophobia, and how it twists and deforms lives.

    It was easy to see Ennis as a man robbed of his identity by homophobia (society's and also his own). He could not embrace his straight identity which was too much about duty and obligation and brought with it little of the joy and aliveness that he felt with Jack Twist. Neither could he embrace his gay identity, since he had internalized the lesson that it was disgusting and deadly. His environment was such that he was never presented with the choice to assume a bisexual identity. And had he even perceived that he had that choice, he would probably have rejected it since there was no place for bisexuals in Wyoming of the 1960s (and many would argue there is no place for us today in rural America). So he goes through his life with little love and no identity, numbing himself with alcohol to avoid experiencing the terrible pain that results.

    In a time in history when proposing a law restricting the right to marry a same-sex partner is seen as a good political strategy rather than hatemongering, I am all for any film that emphasizes two things: (1) the huge difference between the number of people who feel love and lust for same-sex partners (and ACT on their feelings) and those who are willing to label themselves as queer. All of us have known at least one person who cannot muster the courage to wear the label that best fits who they are inside (not even when it comes to their own private labels for themselves). And (2) the misery that results. The lost opportunities for love and happiness, the diversity that's rejected in favor of miserable conformity, the lives worn like a tight shoe that rubs us raw. And the perpetuation of the mistaken and narrow (but understandable) belief that "everyone we know is straight."

    As nice as it is to see people living alternatives to the mainstream, het-couple lifestyle and being happy and free, change can also come from exposing the ugly and corrosive nature of homophobia. The fact that it was done with the subtlety and grace of Ang Lee is even better. If he wins an Oscar for this film, maybe someone in Red State America will see it and think twice about voting for the latest "Defense of Marriage" bill.

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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    Bi-Femme, You and I saw two different films.
    How is that possible if we were both in the same theatre?

    Seriously, I disagree that this film did anything for the average veiwer to enlighten them to homophobia anymore then the other "Gay" films that have been made in the past.

    Hugs,
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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    hey, ladies, i've heard that exclamation before regarding a film.. two different people saw the same film but came away with totally different ideas and interpretations of it.. which means it's probably as complex as the subjects it's attempting to grapple with?

    if i went on the review John R. laid out for us, i'd probably identify heavily with Ennis.. in person i'm very taciturn, and usually internalize a huge amount of my emotions.. totally opposite of what you see of me here, where i can actually express both myself and my ideas without inhibition or derision.

    meantime,. i've got to make a hole in my heavy schedule to see this movie..
    "To each monkey, it's own swing.." - old Latino Provberb

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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    I liked this film. I worked in film for over 30 years. I was on the road for months at a time. Inevitably, on a long shoot being away from loved ones people tend to become involved just as the guys did. No big thing. A need to hold and be held is a very natural feeling. I am bisexual but many of the guys I slept with on the road were not. Ironically, years later we always keep in touch at the Holidays and if someone is in town on a film we always meet for dinner and relive old times.
    One comment I do have about the film is this. I never felt Ennis' character was heterosexual, bisexual, metrosexual or homosexual. I really saw Ennis as asexual frankly. Ennis' the more difficult character to play, (and done beautifully by Heath) was a young boy traumtized by seeing the beaten to death gay rancher, being brought up by his brother and sister, never learned how to love. Jack was the first and only person Ennis ever learned to love. It was very sacred to him.
    It is sad how men grow up threatened, groomed to show no emotion never really LEARN HOW TO LOVE, or how to express love. But in my experience, bring them there and show them and it is an awakening in them that is quite profound, and reshapes their thinking albeit scarey, they do learn. We all know an Ennis in our lives. I would like to have seen move character development of the boys. Jack was obvious as a closeted bisexual, but Ennis would make a very intesting character analysis. I liked this film and will see it again this weekend. The cinema photography was mavelous, but in that environment, how could it not be. Peace out--

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    more Brokeback

    This is a great series of comments.
    I have to agree with Bi femme; homophobia was at least one major subject of this fim. And by extension - hatred, oh and of course, bad parenting.
    I loved this movie - though it was really slow. I understand the debate about the labels, and I am not sure whether or not it is fair or misleading to call this a 'gay cowboy movie'. But that's the problem with labels, not with the movie. The fact the labels aren't a perfect fit is a testament to the truth that is embedded in this story. And for me, much of this tale rang true.

    I thought that we were given a lot of insight into Ennis' struggle, and it went well beyond his sexuality. Of course, that might just be reading my own thoughts into Ennis' silence. But this performance encourages you to do that.

    I think this is also about lost opportunities, for whatever reason we miss them. And sadly, I wonder if the director and/or writer is saying there is no way to avoid that. When Jack tries to move on with and make a better life, he is stopped. Just as Ennis predicted. That really sucks.

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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    Hi folks,

    Well, I went to see this film with my wife (she knows that I am bisexual) and we had a long talk afterwards. I was so affected by the film that I had to be alone for a few hours. I wept uncontrollably. This has never happened at a film before.

    Because I am married and expecting a child, I was not as interested in the question of the two main characters' sexuality. I was more interested in the difference between the two marriages. Ironically, it was Jack Twist, the more flamboyant and daring character, who treated his wife much more respectfully. He enforced reverence toward her in his son Bobby, and gave her the room to be professional independent. They seemed to accept Jack's bisexuality but their marriage didn't seem cynical. It was practical and generous, and basically kind-hearted.

    Ennis' relationship to his wife was much worse, mostly because Ennis couldn't open enough to her to respect her. That disturbed me. I wonder if he could have saved his marriage by talking to his wife about his need to bond with Jack. Part of this seemed to be the result of her weakness. Compared to Jack's wife played by Ann Hathaway, Ennis' wife was sheltered, frail, and unimaginative.

    My wife and I spoke frankly for about three hours about where we are going to go in the future, and how we are going to manage our situation. We left knowing that we will not separate over sexuality questions. Both of us love us each other too much, and when we married, our wedding vows were too important to us to sacrifice to labels or repression. My wife, for instance, felt angry at Ann Hathaway's character for not seeking vengeance for the murder of her husband and her son's father. My wife said that if it were her, she would have murdered my assassins, even if it was the result of my philandering with men.

    I asked my wife, what if I can't hold out? What if I have to fulfill this need? She left it open for me. I can't believe my wife loves me so much. She said that whatever happens, we have to both agree on it, and it has to happen in such a way that doesn't hurt any of us. I told her, of course, that if she wanted to explore lesbian thoughts, I would support her.

    But the one relief for me is that my situation is so different from Jack and Ennis. They had already found a male object of affection. They shared a mutual attraction. Their sexuality quandaries flowed from that context.

    For me, I know I tried the gay scene for six long years, and came up empty-handed. I never had a single gay relationship; nothing but meaningless encounters. For me to consider "branching out," I would have to engage with that scene again. Some people prosper in it and find a partner; I didn't and never could. So I feel safer at home with my wife. I don't have the pressure of having that immediate possibility just at my grasp.

    Jack and Ennis had something to gain by taking risks with their marriages. I don't, really. What would it all be worth? A brief fuck with a stranger? An anxiety-ridden aftermath, when I worry about catching something or destabilizing my marriage? I don't think so.

    I came out of the theater wanting, desiring some gay sex, but then after a few hours, I realized that for me (not for everyone!) it would be a mirage. Yet my wife tells me to be open to anything in the future, to be flexible, and to be honest with her, above all.

    For everything the film did to me in one day, I will be eternally grateful to Ang Lee and think this movie should go down in history.

    J
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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    I just want to say...

    Your post was very inspiring to me JV! Wow.

    - Drew

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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    Wow. I just read JohnnyV's post. I guess it was very poignant for some people. It leaves my wandering what i missed. ??? ???

    It's really a story about when you realize your on the wrong road, and there's no exit. And homophobia was why they were on the wrong road.

    But, for me, it was missing something. My spouse felt the same way too. The movie didn't draw me in. It didn't evoke feeling. We knew that we should feel some sympathy for Jack and Ennis, but because the movie didn't feel real to us, we felt nothing. It was like he just glossing over the lives of these two men, and there was no deep character development.

    There was no suspense about Ennis's wife finding out because she saw the two of them right away! If you're so closeted, you don't do that in public. We don't know that Jack's wife really knew. I don't think Ennis daughter really knew; she just knew that he wouldn't get close to anyone.

    Now i may be totally way off base. Maybe Ang Lee was leaving it all open so we could read whatever story we wanted into it, but i didn't get enough story. My Spouse thought maybe he was making it too mainstream. Or maybe i just read too much about it, and watched too much about the making of it, before I went.

    I'm not bothered by the lack of labels; I would call Jack a gay and Ennis a bisexual, by that's just my opinion, and that doesn't count. At least it was a breakthrough movie.

    And at least it helps some people. So more power to it.
    Last edited by Lorcan; Jan 8, 2006 at 4:07 PM.
    I don't know of any heterosexual who would keep it a secret
    that they are attracted to, and date, the opposite sex
    .

    So why should I
    keep my orientation

    secret?

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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    well, with all the hype and knee jerk reactions by religious conservatives, it had to happen; it's been banned or refused to be run, in Utah, USA [ aka the Mormon Capitol of the Universe]
    you can read more here; i'll let you draw your own conclusions.
    Rich


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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    I'm with bi femme on this one. Guys, remember, Texas and Whyoming even TODAY have problems accepting any "non-traditional" sexuality. And even so, they have come a LONG way from 30 years ago!

    I have seen the movie, thought it was terrific all the way around. As far as Ennis's character being enigmatic -- people are complex, conflicted, enigmatic creatures. The most compelling characters in literature are often the most enigmatic. Hell, people have been arguing about the motivations and actions of Hamlet for hundreds of years, but I don't think anyone here would argue that that's a "weakness" of Shakespear's play.

    The handle I take on Ennis' character is his line: "If you can't fix it, you gotta stand it." This is the world he was born into. He can't change it, but he's got to find a way to survive in it. What do people do in this world? They get married and have kids. He respects his wife ("...you leave her out of this, this ain't her fault...") I think he even has true affection for her. And he wanted and loves his kids. But the conflicts of his sexuality alienate him from her ("If you don't want to have my kids, I have no problem leaving you alone..."). Ultimately, due to many of the things in his life, he is a man who has a hard time making connections with anyone (other than the deep, hidden one w/ Jack), so much so, that it's a big growth step for him at the end of the movie when he agrees to leave his job so he can attend his daughter's wedding! He is not bi (that's another movie); and far from "easily" maintaining a heterosexual lifestyle, in all that time he is practically dragged into a relationship with only one other female, ending that relationship after a while because, as I read him, he doesn't want to repeat the pattern of what happened with his wife.

    Someone noted that Jack was respectful of his wife and supportive of her career and her handling of their child. That's true, but notice also that Jack only had one child.

    I disagree that this was "the best" that could be expected out of Hollywood. Looking at the complexity, respect, and love with witch these characters were created, while also looking at everything else that's been coming out of Hollywood for the past 20 years, I think Brokeback Mountain was better than anyone could have expected.
    Last edited by hudson9; Jan 9, 2006 at 12:51 AM.

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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    Hudson 9,

    It is fascinating to note the differences in people's reactions to the film. I wonder why you were more drawn to Ennis and I was more focused on Jack.

    Jack to me was engrossing as a character because he was so full of life, so expressive, so boundless in his affections. He was the imaginative one who has lots of good ideas but can't make them happen, because the world isn't ready for him. His sexuality seemed to fit his personality perfectly. He had a high libido because he had a high zest in life.

    I saw myself in Jack and that was what made me cry, because his death at the end drove home the fact that it's the dreamers with big ideas who attract other people's jealousy and scorn, and they die for it. Socrates, Jesus, Cicero, Malcolm X, King -- they were all martyrs, but they also had that charismatic restlessness, an energetic desire to break new ground, and the world couldn't understand it.

    Ennis to me was enigmatic, yes, but also entirely predictable, even dull. Others might say he was simply loyal to the values of his community; but to me, that's exactly what made him such an unlikable character. He didn't have the fire in him that Jack did. I couldn't relate to him because I can't relate to anyone so frightened of taking risks.

    Anyway, I'm enjoying following people's reactions to this film, not only here but on gay.com and on other discussion boards. Ang Lee truly gave us a masterpiece in character studies.

    J
    If sex is a pain in the ass, you're doing it wrong.

  21. #21

    Lightbulb Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    Point, Counter-point

    In the '60's, and even in our time, gay men shielded themselves from society and themselves by maintaining relationships with members of the opposite sex. This is the context of Brokeback Mountain. To imagine this film as a bi-sexual film in disguise is to take away from the genuine intent of the story.

    From the moment we meet Jack Twist we notice him giving Ennis Del Mar (in the words of Jerry Falwell) a homosexual look. The film makes it clear that of the two men Jack is most comfortable with his sexuality and is willing to break with social conventions to be with the man he falls in love with. Jack knows what he wants and goes out and gets it, whether with Ennis or traveling to Mexico or with other men he meets along the way who are inclined as he is. But he always returns to Ennis. Indeed, with Ennis' brooding and torn nature one does ask why. What is certain is that for Jack the encounter with Ennis on Brokeback Mountain was far more than simple "situational homosexuality."

    Ennis is a far more troubled and tragic character than Jack. His sad mix of "fear of success" and "martyr" syndromes lead him to live a life that is empty and meaningless. After the first encounter with Jack, Ennis starts the denial game by stating, "I ain't queer." Of course Jack agrees, but also counters that it's nobody's business what they do while alone on the Mountain. This moment was so lacking of power that it made one long to insert the scene from "My Own Private Idaho" when the River Phoenix character confesses his feelings for the Keanu Reeves character. Sadly this wouldn't be the only "what could have been a powerful moment of truth" missed by Brokeback Mountain.

    We learn that Ennis as a young boy knew of two older men that lived on a ranch together. One of the men is brutally murdered. In Ennis' retelling of the story, he states his father made sure that his two young sons viewed the body, and that it may have been his father that killed the man. Hold on a minute. Is this why Ennis is in such denial about his feelings toward other males? Did Ennis, even as a child, have feelings towards members of his own sex? Did his father recognize that Ennis might be gay, and use the murder as a potent warning? Like a stone that has skipped too many times over the surface of a pond, this topic sinks below the waves of more predictable storytelling.

    Of course, Ennis marries his hometown girlfriend even after his affair with Jack. Of course, in their lovemaking Ennis flips his wife on her belly and enters her in reminisce of his lovemaking on Brokeback Mountain. All this is predictable gay male trapped by societal norms storytelling, and it's where Brokeback Mountain falls short.

    Ennis' reaction to Jack's return is disturbingly reckless for the denial we are asked to believe Ennis is in. The revelation that Ennis’ wife tied a note to his fishing line that Ennis never found lacks any significance, since we know she witnessed Jack and Ennis kissing the day of their reunion. The fact that Ennis never found the note only confirmed what she and the audience already knew -- Ennis was having an affair with Jack.

    The sadness of this film is that it could have been so much better. The exploration of the barrenness of Jack's childhood bed room, the bitterness of Jack's father, and the revelation that both Jack's mother and father knew of Jack's desire to bring a man home to live with on the family ranch would have made this a much richer movie. Instead the movie focuses on Ennis' denial and emptiness.

    Despite all of this, the film begs you to like it. The best scene in this movie is the "I wish I knew how to quit you” scene – it should be a song. There is breath-taking scenery, and the performances of Heath Ledger (A Knight’s Tale) and Jacob Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, The Day After Tomorrow) certainly deserve recognition. Brokeback Mountain shows glimpses of what could have been a great movie. Instead, it turns out to be a simply OK film, which I wish I knew how to quit.



  22. #22
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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    Well-I wondered if the movie was going to play here in my part of the "heartland of America" and increasingly--one more notch in the Bible Belt.

    There is one theater complex--one of the most distant from me in my area where "Brokeback" opens on Friday. That is a pisser, for within three miles of my front door, there are two megaplexes run by the same company that have a combined number of screens totallying nearly 30. (National Amusements)

    I have to drive 20 miles to get to the megaplex "Brokeback" will be playing, which is owned by Regal Theaters. Oh well--I have never gone to see a film there because of the distance but always have wanted to so here is my chance.

    I hope to go see it this weekend.

    I am curious to see what my reaction to the film will be.
    "Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere..." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    I thought this (see link below) was a very interesting article that discusses many of the same issues that Jon and other members on bisexual.com have brought up about the movie:

    http://www.southernvoice.com/2006/1-...re/feature.cfm

    I think it compliments much of what has been said in this thread and the other thread on bisexual.com on this topic: http://main.bisexual.com/forum/showthread.php?t=382

    I think the discussion that is happening out there about the nature of the relationship of those two characters is great.

    - Drew
    Last edited by Drew; Jan 13, 2006 at 8:57 PM.

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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    I posted yesterday on Michael623's thread in the forum, before I read these later entries here, and I wish I'd come here first. Thank you, Drew, for the links--most informative. Thank you, Hudson9, for the keen insights. Thank you, JohnnyV, for your clear and perceptive reactions to the film, and thank you, Bi-femme, for hitting the nail on the head. Sorry, Ratchick, but this film is most DEFINITELY about homophobia.
    If this were just a love story about a summer romance high on the mountain, it would make for very pretty pictures but not much drama. If these men could go home and be candid with their respective communities about their feelings for each other, their lives would be enriched and much happier. But in the 1960's west, and yet today, for the most part, there was and is no such spirit of tolerance. (see Hillary Swank in "Boys Don't Cry" or "The Laramie Project" about the murder of Matthew Shepard).
    For me, this movie was about the tension between a startling love between two very different men and the culture that could not allow it. What is it that frightens men so much about their feelings for other men? Vulnerability, perhaps? Questions about their masculinity? And what more classic example of the masculine, stoic, invulnerable male in American culture than the cowboy! What a helluva bind to be in. These are a couple of unsophisticated and not very educated guys--they don't have the luxury of being able to examine their situation in light of Kinsey's research, or post- Stonewall public awareness. All they know is a) they're in love, and b) it's wrong. So wrong that it's dangerously risky. They struggle to make their lives work, independently of each other, because to do otherwise is to invite disaster. NOT because they want to, but because they haven't a choice.
    Like JohnnyV, I was powerfully moved by this film, and wept long after, but I came away with a glimmer of hope. Heath Ledger will almost certainly be nominated for Best Actor, and Rodrigo Prieto's incredible cinematography will win an Oscar for sure, with all the attendant publicity. A huge audience of straight Americans will see this film (even if it doesn't show in Utah) and will be reminded that the threat of homophobic violence is still a potent force in our world, and is yet another form of hate to be expunged from popular culture. Just as it is no longer fashionable to be a bigot, a la Archie Bunker, so too shall the homophobes be relegated to the fringes of society, not to be allowed in polite company. One can always hope.
    sailorashore
    Last edited by sailorashore; Jan 14, 2006 at 3:23 PM.

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    saw it

    ok, i finally saw it last night with another member of this group and her hubby.

    this was definitely worth the price of admission. i'm not one for tear jerkers, but i truly enjoyed this one.. yes, go see it.. yes it is dealing with very complex issues that are still relevant to this day..

    ignore all the b.s. and hype you've read or heard.. see it, and draw your own conclusions... me? i'm still grappling with my emotional response to the last 10 minutes.
    "To each monkey, it's own swing.." - old Latino Provberb

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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    Something most people don't mention when considering this film is how romanticized their relationship is. It is really easy to love someone while vacationing in the mountains a couple times a year. I can't help but wonder how closely their relationship would have mirrored Ennis's marriage if it included the financial struggles and day to day worries those characters had to deal with.

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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    HEAR, HEAR.
    I LIKE this guy.
    Quote Originally Posted by usedbear1950
    Jon,

    Firstly, I must say that your article is very well written. I would be interested in reading other essays, short stories or novels you have penned.
    Secondly, I find your parsing of the characters very interesting. I reserve my opinion until I have seen the movie and read the book. However it brings to mind the question of sexuality that was also discussed in a thread on this website regarding the movie. I am a bisexual man, I am neither heterosexual not homosexual. I embody apsects of both and in that embodiment I am rendered neither. Does being bisexual mean that I can only love a woman and my realationship with a man is purely sexual? I think not. Since I believe that we have the capacity to love more than one person I do not find myself limited by quantity or chromosome alignment. Remember that I am focusing on love not sex. These are my opinions about me and no one else. I'm growing tired of the need to classify.
    I quote the great philospher, Popeye the Sailor,"I am what I am and that's all that I am..." and the song from the Broadway musical Les Cage Aux Folles, 'I am what I am'.

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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    First thank you to everyone for your comments It has given me much more points of view to think about. I have one question to anyone who has watched the movie and read the book, Does the book give more insight on the characters and does their relationship have any added depth that is not in the movie.

    Next, now sorry to be the one to bring this up, and am only doing so after I find to be enough other comments to be brought up first to be able to take a moment aside. I was disapointed in the love/sex scenes. Any other story about sex made today would have shown a lot more skin, and it seams that the movie still portrayed equally or maybe more sex that is hetero than homosexual. In a similar movie with another couple mf or maybe even ff they would have shown a longer sex scene. People were expecting a gay movie so to show them more gay than hetero i think would have been anticipated but this I dont think was the case.

    Now I am NOT saying I wanted to see porn, but why is it that Ennis' wife was shown more naked than he was or Jack. We do see JAck naked but in out of focus. Well I could go on but I think you get the point that Im trying to get at.

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    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    Very interesting article - you should check out 'metrodaddy' Mark Simpson's review of the film; it seems he has a similar take:

    Lonesome metro-cowboys

    'Brokeback Mountain', front-runner in the Oscar nomination race and big winner at the recent Golden Globes has been dubbed the ‘gay cowboy movie’. Mark Simpson the ‘father’ of the metrosexual argues it’s more metro than homo and explains why its unconvincing nature is probably the reason for its success

    http://www.marksimpson.com/pages/jou...o-cowboys.html

  30. #30

    Re: Brokeback Mountain: The Sorta Gay Cowboy Movie

    ....... cried like a baby for 4 hours straight – good film! ............

 

 

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