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Brokeback Mountain : making a molehill out of a mountain

The outraged attack by some people on Brokeback Mountain for being a ‘gay Western’ is based on blind ignorance, reducing a complex relationship mountain to a gay molehill. Not surprising, since most of the bigots haven’t even seen the film. Andrew L. Urban puts them straight (as it were).

In Australia, famous Fred Nile, leader of the narrow minded, is agitating for some way of blocking screenings of Brokeback Mountain because he’s heard it’s a gay Western. In Wyoming, USA, some theatres have refused to show the film because it dishonours the memory of what cowboys are really like; good ole John Wayne.

For people like this it isn’t even necessary to be blinded by their own bigotry and ignorance, since they have not seen the film, nor intend to. They just jerk their sightless knees at the sound of a film that contains sexuality they cannot comprehend.

The Sydney Morning Herald (13/1/2006) reported that the film wouldn’t be seen in some Queensland cinemas, and that Federal MP Bob Katter, whose Kennedy electorate in north Queensland takes in industries such as sugar cane, cattle, sheep and dairy farming, remarked: "Maybe there are some (gay cowboys) out there but I've never heard of 'em," he said. "I mean, it's not a profession that attracts those sort of people." Katter wouldn’t be wise to put money on his prejudiced view that there can’t be cowboys (or jackaroos, etc) who have had homosexual encounters and/or affairs. (The SMH story, with the unfortunate headline “Gay cowboy film blackout up north”, turns out to be wrong and the film will in fact be released ‘up north’.)

"a complex relationship"

The fact is, folks, Brokeback Mountain does not have any gay cowboys in it. Yes, I have seen the film (read my review). It’s attackers have reduced a complex relationship mountain to a gay molehill. The central characters are two young country boys in midwest USA who share a lonely casual job in the mountain one summer and unexpectedly find themselves in a complex friendship which involves sexuality, much to their surprise. And shame. They go their own ways and eventually marry and have kids. They may be technically bi-sexual, but they are not gay.

I make this point to underline how simplistic and misleading the ‘gay Western’ label is. It attracts the kind of dumb, immature anger that drives homophobes (“destroy the different”); exactly the kind portrayed in the film, when their employer runs them off after getting an inkling that the two guys are emotionally close.

Brokeback Mountain certainly can’t be accused of glorifying gay lifestyles, either; the two men do not lead especially happy lives, for a start, and their relationship has to be surreptitious. Together with its sombre riff on love itself – in a parallel universe of marriage and homosexual relationships – the film is a mature and eloquent work that springs from a short story informed by acute observation in the very Wyoming where it’s set.

People offended by the subject matter should just stay the hell away from the film.
Andrew Urban


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