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Brokeback Mountain

“I wish I knew how to quit you!” Jack Twist

In 2005, I was 13 years old. A time when boys had cooties, Paul Frank was the only acceptable fashion choice, and AIM was the most popular form of communication. The release of Brokeback Mountain had little importance to me, however, I distinctly remember my mom talking about it. I knew Anne Hathaway was in it, and being my idol from Princess Diaries, I asked to go see Brokeback Mountain. I was answered with a stern, “No.” Then, I didn’t really get why. Now, I understand. When it first came out, I had no idea it contained any sort of homosexuality…I barely knew what that was.

Now, as a reader of Proulx’s story, and viewer of Lee’s movie, I understand.

Brokeback Mountain won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and was also honored with Best Picture and Best Director praises from the “British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Golden Globe Awards, Producers Guild of America, Critics Choice Awards, and Independent Spirit Awards among many other organizations and festivals” (movies.amctv). The film was also nominated for eight Academy Awards, which the most nominations at the 78th Academy Awards, where it won three: Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score” (movies.amctv). Fun fact: Brokeback Mountain still ranks 10th amongst the highest-grossing romance films of all time.

First impressions of this film are extremely varied. What did you guys think? First impressions. Loved it? Hated it? Why? Now lets take a look at those answers, unpack them, and try to understand the characters a little better.

In a study of 113 reviews of Brokeback Mountain, researchers found that while critics applauded the work, the conversation underlying the reviews outlined three main points that take away from the film’s core themes of “destructive rural homophobia” (Cooper, 249). While we’re not focusing on the rural setting aspect of Brokeback Mountain, it is important to point out that one of the three frames focuses on the disagreements between whether the story can be considered a “universal love story” or rather a “gay cowboy story.” This is the idea we need to unpack.

When beginning to look at this major difference and confusion amongst critics, it’s crucial to examine both sides of the argument. Just like when we hear arguments between our friends, we demand to hear both sides of the story. So I did a little research. I wanted to know the option of both extremes: LGBT activists and real life cowboys.

According to an article by Brenda Cooper and Edward Pease, “Brokeback Mountain was an affront and an insult to cowboys” (Cooper, 250).

‘‘They’ve gone and killed John Wayne with this movie. I’ve been doing this job all my life and I ain’t never met no gay cowboy,’’ complained Jim-Bob Zimmerschield, a cowboy from Sheridan, Wyoming. ‘‘There ain’t no queer in cowboy and I don’t care for anyone suggesting there is” (Cooper, 250).

Other cowboys have agreed, stating that the movie turned Wyoming into a “gay state” (Cooper, 251). The vice president and managing editor of World Net Daily, David Kupelian, was said, “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” (Cooper, 251).

cowboy

Do you agree with this? Did Brokeback Mountain ruin a classic American symbol? Now, personally, I feel this is a complete over exaggeration, but again, personal option. Now we have to see what the other side said. I think their thoughts may match mine a little better.

Some LGBT critics have said that maybe a piece of reviewers’ lack of language to articulate the queer issues privileged in the film’s narratives beyond a heterosexual/homosexual opposition results in disagreement about the ‘‘proper’’ interpretation of the film (Cooper, 249). Some critics have gone far enough to say that an individual’s decision to see the film as  “universal” is an invisible decision and representation of homophobia (Cooper, 249). We’ve gone from one serious extreme to the exact opposite!

What has happened is that critics are to busy misappropriating Proulx’s story rather than focusing and celebrating it, basically diluting her intended attack against ruthless and damaging homophobia (Cooper, 264). Do you agree? Disagree? I want to hear both opinions! I feel that the fact that this movie was released just one year after 13 states passed laws to ban same-sex marriage says a lot! It was also just one year after President George W. Bush “proposed a constitutional amendment to reserve this ‘‘most enduring human institution’’ exclusively for the ‘‘union of a man and a woman’’ (Copper, 250).  While many people still oppose homosexuality and the portrayal of it in motion pictures, it has become one of the most respected and highly acclaimed films in years. Personally, I feel this says something about a growing acceptance towards the LGBT community and their incorporation in modern films.

I’m going to leave you all with one final thought. In an article by Justin Vicari, he says “this film does not comfortably wear the label “gay” any more than its protagonists, who shun the idea that they could ever be “queer.” In fact, the utter gravity of the film, its solemn insistence on tragedy, sets it apart from the relatively flashy, sunny way that Hollywood has come to include gay identity in its repertory. Jack and Ennis are not glamorous gay men standing toe to toe with straight characters, trading wisecracks and innuendoes; not upscale types hosting sophisticated parties.” What do you think about this. It’s true that Brokeback Mountain introduces audiences to a new kind of gay character, not following the stereotype we see in Glee and Modern Family. There is no flamboyant character. No one collects antique fountain pens, or sings in a glee club. Proulx introduces us to a new kind of couple. One who breaks all our previous assumptions and misconceptions. For that, I thank her.

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