The first paragraph of my article is intended to be the ignorant and reactionary argument, please don’t stop there, I have a purpose. I thought I’d start with one perspective and try to inform it, without judgment or spite. Ultimately, we are all trying to be happy in our own way and I present one of my favorite pieces in the hopes that it can encourage conversation rather than argument. Thank you for being whoever you are.
Brokeback Mountain is about two gay cowboys who just want to bang out in the mountains and offend every masculine stereotype of the idealized Old West, to say nothing of the fact that it’s directed by a goddamn Communist Chinese man named Ang Lee. It undermines the values of the Christian faith at every opportunity; the marriages of the two main characters to women become hollow, meaningless shambles of the traditional family unit because of their irresponsible and immoral infatuation with each other. They are doomed to fail because of the perverse behavior that they succumb to, initiated in a moment of drunken compulsion.
The Godfather is about a war hero who turns to a life of petty crime. Fight Club is an endorsement of anarchy and socialism, subscribing violence as the only answer to society’s ills. Also, American Beauty is about pedophilia and the destruction of the modern American family. That being said, the rest of this review is going to be heavily influenced by a really scary thing called Reality. All reductionist arguments can forthwith jump off a bridge.
In Reality this film flies in the face of everything described in my opening statement. More critically, it epitomizes everything that we are afraid of, and not because we are all Christian or homophobic or too masculine to appreciate a story about two men who are in love with each other. It is, in Reality, a haunting and terrible story about the simple fact that life is a lonely thing. Brutally lonely. That the one person in life that you may need to function is the one person you cannot be with and that life expects you to carry on anyway. The people who you spend your life with may be destroyed by that need and they will probably never know why or understand what happened to them, further, why you are who you are. In Reality, this is not a film about homosexuality, but it plays a part.
I could go on at length about the performances, I’d love to go back and be a fly on the wall in order to figure out how this spectacular cast was so well directed by a non-English speaking director in such a specifically American themed setting. I could try and fail at describing how beautiful the cinematography is; words fail. I could also harp about the soundtrack by Gustavo Santaolalla, who is a genius. I could try to explain this story but it wouldn’t be fair to try. And if you’re put off by the premise, I’m not going to talk it into you and if you are interested, I own it and will be glad to loan the DVD. But in Reality, I’d be surprised if anyone asked.
In Reality, this movie is seven years old and lost Best Picture to a flick called Crash, which has no social relevance to speak of. I won’t argue that Crash is not well directed and acted, but I will argue that it’s trite, cliche garbage that rode the tide of White Guilt into its nomination. And that Paul Haggis is a tone-deaf hack who peddles treacle with all the expositional tact of a James Patterson novel. In Reality, if you are reading this you know who I am and my position on homosexuality, and hopefully, you know me pretty well. If not, I hope you do by now. A MacGuffin is a plot device that drives a story forward, its the motivation of the lead characters and doesn’t necessarily need to be identified (see the suitcase full of gold light in Pulp Fiction, or any Indiana Jones film). I bring this up because homosexuality is the MacGuffin in this film but not exclusively. If these two characters, Jack and Enis, were only interested in having gay sex, this is film would be pretty and meaningless. In Reality this is a film about flawed people living in a flawed environment, trying to be happy in spite of it.
If you cannot relate to these characters and this story because, at one point, we encounter two men having sex in a cold tent in the middle of the cold Wyoming wilderness, I don’t blame you. If you are uncomfortable with seeing two men kissing each other with all the ferocity of their pent up and repressed desire, anxiously afraid of being exposed and subsequently beaten to death at worst, ostracized at best, I get that this doesn’t inspire or ring home. If you are unable to sympathize with these two fictional characters, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with you at all.
In Reality, however, I have recommended this film to several of my closest friends and I’m fed up with this answer, “I’m just not interested in it.” I get mad about this response, not because I’m surprised but because I have endorsed the film and I know what I am talking about. It’s as much a period piece as a love story and it is an exceptional love story. Brokeback Mountain is film craft at it’s finest, where cast, direction, cinematography, and soundtrack spin together like a finely tuned machine and I am improved for having experienced it. I am more familiar with the human experience; my soul is tuned finer.
And in Reality, I’m not changing the minds that I want to, which is all right. Life gives everyone a lot to experience, and maybe it’s too much to ask some people to take on another type of sympathy. Being gay is not something that I fully understand or relate to. Being unhappy because the person I love is out of reach, unfortunately, is. That’s life. That is the tragic Reality, with no consideration for sexual preference.
Brokeback Mountain is about two people who just want to be together and have to meet in the mountains for fear of offending every masculine stereotype and accepted norm, to say nothing of the fact that it’s directed by a brilliant Chinese auteur named Ang Lee. It exposes the fact that the organized Christian church fails to comprehend its own basic tenets of acceptance and tolerance without ever having to identify anyone as explicitly Christian; the marriages of the two main characters to women become hollow, meaningless shambles of the traditional family unit because of their inability to accept who they are (I say ‘who’ and not ‘what’ because they are not Gays, they are people not things). They are doomed to fail because…..love, real love, is goddamn hard. It’s hard enough in the best of circumstances.
In Reality, a middle school mentality took over the American pop culture environment when this film came out. All the easy one-liners and gay jokes spammed the internet and the air-waves and it killed me a little inside, I’d really thought we were a little above it but I was wrong. That’s okay, if you can’t laugh about something, you are taking it too seriously. And in Reality, if you can’t fix something, you have to stand it.