I’ve been avoiding writing about this movie for a while, mostly because all the right-wing op/eds I read about it were just so stupid that it would have been a waste of all of our time to take a look at them. They all tend to fall back on the basic themes of propaganda and the unravelling of morality, with a healthy dose of homophobia tossed in (usually in the form of, “I don’t want to see two cowboys kissing!”). I finally found one today that’s actually literate, and even though it falls back on all these same ideas, it presents them in a better way than most.
I saw Brokeback Mountain and loved it. I thought it was brilliant. I read the story a few years back, and re-read it before I saw the movie. Visually, it’s stunning. The acting is incredible. And the story is heartbreaking. When the film ended, I sat in silent shock for a few minutes, despite having known the conclusion going in — and minutes after it was over, I finally burst into tears. It’s an unbelievable film, and go see it if you haven’t already.
Now, onto the editorial. Warning: Spoiler is included.
“Brokeback Mountain,” the controversial “gay cowboy” film that has garnered seven Golden Globe nominations and breathless media reviews – and has now emerged as a front-runner for the Oscars – is a brilliant propaganda film, reportedly causing viewers to change the way they feel about homosexual relationships and same-sex marriage.
And how do the movie-makers pull off such a dazzling feat? Simple. They do it by raping the “Marlboro Man,” that revered American symbol of rugged individualism and masculinity.
Talk about propaganda. Note the word choice here: “raping” the Marlboro man. Here, we see the connection that the right wing makes between gay men and women. Gay men are problematic because they’re woman-like, and women are problematic because they’re women. Homosexuality in and of itself isn’t really the issue. The problem is with men choosing to be, in this view, “feminized.” I’ve long believed that homosexuality wouldn’t be an issue if we lived in a sexually egalitarian society — if men and women have equal rights, equal value and equal standing in society, why would it be better for a man to be with a woman and a woman to be with a man? This piece confirms the homophobic notion that queerness is bad because it makes men less “manly” and women less “womanly.” If you’ve seen Brokeback Mountain, you know that there’s nothing stereotypically feminine about Jack or Ennis. But they’re feminized — their masculinity is taken away — simply by virtue of being atracted to another man. And its this relinquishment of proper gender roles that so disturbs our author.
Yes, the talents of Hollywood’s finest are brought together in a successful attempt at making us experience Ennis’s suffering, supposedly inflicted by a homophobic society. Heath Ledger’s performance is brilliant and devastating. We do indeed leave the theater feeling Ennis’s pain. Mission accomplished.
Lost in all of this, however, are towering, life-and-death realities concerning sex and morality and the sanctity of marriage and the preciousness of children and the direction of our civilization itself. So please, you moviemakers, how about easing off that tight camera shot of Ennis’s suffering and doing a slow pan over the massive wreckage all around him? What about the years of silent anguish and loneliness Alma stoically endures for the sake of keeping her family together, or the terrible betrayal, suffering and tears of the children, bereft of a father? None of this merits more than a brief acknowledgment in “Brokeback Mountain.”
The author is right: Ennis and Jack’s situation does leave an incredible path of destruction. Despite being in love with eachother, Jack and Ennis marry women and have children. They create families, and those families (particularly Ennis’s) end up devastated. The movie makes that clear, and it’s tragic.
So what is our author’s answer? The erosion of Judeo-Christian values caused this mess. See, in his perfect world, Ennis and Jack would have stayed married to their wives (Ennis’s wife divorced him; Jack’s stayed married, but distant) and repressed their actual sexuality. There’s a part in the short story that wasn’t as explicit in the movie, where it details Ennis and his wife having sex, and makes clear that Ennis is only sexually aroused when he has anal sex with her and doesn’t look at her — in essence, pretending that she’s a man. It makes her feel terrible, and she resents him. Is that an ideal marriage? Is it good for anyone that these two men choked down their actual feelings and simply powered through?
Of course not. The better answer would be, “If we lived in a more accepting and open society, these two men could have been together openly and honestly from the get-go, and they would have never put their wives and children through all of this.” They could have been together. Their wives could have married men who were sexually interesting and in love with them. Their children could have been born to fathers who weren’t resentful of their situation. And everyone would have been better off.
But the author here ignores that, chosing instead to assert that these men should have done what gays and lesbians have done for centuries — repress it, hide it, stifle it and push through a life that makes you miserable. Nevermind that that’s exactly what Jack and Ennis did do, with devastating consequences — the author simply posits that they should have done it better.
Film is, by its very nature, highly propagandistic. That is, when you read a book, if you detect you’re being lied to or manipulated, you can always stop reading, close the book momentarily and say, “Wait just a minute, there’s something wrong here!” You can’t do that in a film: You’re bombarded with sound and images, all expertly crafted to give you selected information and to stimulate certain feelings, and you can’t stop the barrage, not in a theater anyway. The visuals and sound and music – and along with them, the underlying agenda of the filmmakers – pursue you relentlessly, overwhelming your emotions and senses.
Um… what? You can close a book as easily as you can walk out of a movie theater or turn off the TV.
Do we understand that Hollywood could easily produce a similar movie to “Brokeback Mountain,” only this time glorifying an incest relationship, or even an adult-child sexual relationship? Like “Brokeback,” it too would serve to desensitize us to the immoral and destructive reality of what we’re seeing, while fervently coaxing us into embracing that which we once rightly shunned.
But this guy saw Brokeback Mountain, and he doesn’t seem to have been fervently coaxed into believing the evil lie that gay men are human beings who sometimes fall in love. Movies have been made about incest and adult-child relationships. Books have been written about them for centuries. They haven’t caused the decline of civilization.
And nevermind his idea that homosexuality should be “rightly shunned.” So many of the people arguing against same-sex marriage and equal rights for gays and lesbians assert that it’s not about homophobia or trying to push gays back in the closet, it’s about… something else (I’m not sure they’ve ever figured out what that is). So at least this guy is straightforward: It’s about homo-hating, pure and simple.
All the filmmakers would need to do is skillfully make viewers experience the actors’ powerful emotions of loneliness and emptiness – juxtaposed with feelings of joy and fulfillment when the two “lovers” are together – to bring us to a new level of “understanding” for any forbidden “love.” Alongside this, of course, they would necessarily portray those opposed to this unorthodox “love” as Nazis or thugs. Thus, many of us would let go of our “old-fashioned” biblical ideas of morality in light of what seems like the more imminent and undeniable reality of human love in all its diverse forms.
Now this makes me wonder if he’s actually seen the movie. If he has, it means that he’s banking on the idea that his reader’s haven’t — because if they have, they’re reading this and going, What? There aren’t any Nazis in Brokeback Mountain (at least not in my memory, but perhaps I was homo-brainwashed into forgetting them). Everyone in the movie is opposed to this unorthodox love, and there aren’t any “thugs” portrayed. Thugs do something bad at the end, but you don’t see them as characters. The characters are narrow: It’s Jack, Ennis, and their families. Jack’s parents (his father in particular) disapprove deeply of the relationship. But he’s hardly a thug or a Nazi. Quite the opposite: All the characters, despite their disapproval, are human, and are portrayed as complex and multi-dimensional. Including Jack and Ennis, who are more complicated than abused victims.
OK, I’ll bite. Let’s talk about love. The critics call “Brokeback Mountain” a “pure” and “magnificent” love story. Do we really want to call such an obsession – especially one that destroys marriages and is based on constant lies, deceit and neglect of one’s children – “love”?
Well, it can still be love. Think of many of the major love stories of our time — a lot of them involve destroyed marriages, lies, deceit and neglect. Read some Shakespeare, or pick up a crappy romance novel. It might have a whole lot of negative consequences, and it’s certainly valid to criticize actions that lead to these consequences, but that doesn’t make it “not love.”
And again, he misses the point that if society were different, there wouldn’t have to be the lies, deceit and neglect.
What if I were a heroin addict and told you I loved my drug dealer? What if I told you he always makes me feel good, and that I have a hard time living without him, and that I think about him all the time with warm feelings of anticipation and inner completion? And that whenever we get together, it’s the only time I feel truly happy and at peace with myself?
Oh, you don’t approve of my “love”? You dare to criticize it, telling me my relationship with my drug dealer is not real love, but just an unhealthy addiction? What if I respond to you by saying, “Oh shut up, you hater. How dare you impose your sick, narrow-minded, oppressive values on me? Who are you, you pinch-faced, moralistic hypocrite, to define for me what real love is?”
Well, no. But we wouldn’t advocate for a law preventing you from marrying her.
As I said at the outset, Hollywood has now raped the Marlboro Man. It has taken a revered symbol of America – the cowboy – with all the powerful emotions and associations that are rooted deep down in the pioneering American soul, and grafted onto it a self-destructive lifestyle it wants to force down Americans’ throats. The result is a brazen propaganda vehicle designed to replace the reservations most Americans still have toward homosexuality with powerful feelings of sympathy, guilt over past “homophobia” – and ultimately the complete and utter acceptance of homosexuality as equivalent in every way to heterosexuality.
Except, you know, it wasn’t “Hollywood” who wrote this story. It was Annie Proulx. So Annie Proulx raped the Marlboro man, apparently, by suggesting that some men are gay. And I’m not sure how “Hollywood” wants a self-destructive lifestyle forced down peoples’ throats. Hollywood doesn’t want anything; it doesn’t have emotions or needs. Gays and lesbians aren’t trying to force homosexuality on anyone, either. When was the last time you saw a conference sponsored by an LGBT group with the explicit purpose of convincing heterosexuals that their lifestyle was “wrong” and they could be turned gay, because look, these people used to be straight and now they’re gay and you can do it too? Who’s forcing what down who’s throat?
And then let’s take that last sentence, and pretend that it’s 1955. “The result is a brazen propaganda vehicle designed to replace the reservations most Americans still have toward desegregation with powerful feelings of sympathy, guilt over past “racism” – and ultimately the complete and utter acceptance of blacks as equivalent in every way to whites.”
See the problem?
If and when that day comes, America will have totally abandoned its core biblical principles – as well as the Author of those principles. The radical secularists will have gotten their wish, and this nation – like the traditional cowboy characters corrupted in “Brokeback Mountain” – will have stumbled down a sad, self-destructive and ultimately disastrous road.
Luckily, we aren’t a theocracy, and so we can abandon Biblical principles all we want, because our country is run according to a set of other ideals, enshrined in the Constitution. Values and morals aren’t created by one guy writing a list of them in a holy book, and generations of other guys interpreting that book to suit their personal and political aims. Religion and the Bible have been used to justify a staggering aray of injustices. That doesn’t make them bad, and the same thing could certainly be said about the Constitution. But it does mean that they’re imperfect, and that there’s a danger in using them to justify abuse and discrimination.
Now go see the movie.
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