Saturday, January 21, 2006

Thou Shalt Not Love

Yesterday a group of us went downtown to see a mid-afternoon showing of Brokeback Mountain. As a devout Annie Proulx disciple I have been anxious to see this story come to life—although amidst the hoopla and broad-ranging attention, I admit I was worried. If a film is universally accepted, I am often suspicious that it might be pandering to (and I’m sorry for sounding like a stuffy academic here) the lowest common denominator. I hoped Brokeback would avoid sentimentalism or manipulation.

But the hoopla around this film is warranted. Brokeback Mountain is simply unforgettable—filmed with such sensitivity and insight, and of course written with a poignant, authentic voice and believable pathos. I loved it. I haven’t seen a film that placed me so close to the breath of its subject in a long time. I haven’t stopped thinking about it, or hearing Gustavo Santaolallo’s evocative soundtrack all day.

Why is this love story so compelling, even for an unexpected element of our social demography (the man buying his ticket in front of me painted an entirely conservative picture—I was so happy to see my stereotype shattered!)? Why do we ache for stories like Romeo and Juliet, Heloise and Abelard, Thelma and Louise? According to many classical philosophers, love is inherently suffering. On many levels, the love-as-heartache of Brokeback is familiar to us.


But in the case of Brokeback Mountain, love is socially restricted; an emotion monitored, compartmentalized, and moralized by an invisible, disciplining entity. The suffering is imposed, the result of dogma. A perceived order is imposed by restricting difference. Why, why on earth, do we care who people love? Why do we accept an 80-year old billionaire marrying an 18 year old, but two adult same-sex lovers are still stigmatized?

If you might think (as I tend to) that society has accepted the presence and rights of same-sex partners, take a look at these vitriolic reviews from customers of Netflix.com. I’ll mention that these are quite the exception to an amazing number of positive responses, but still are a sample of a good number of nasty responses:


“These days you turn on the TV and it seems like every station has a couple gay guys lisping and flitting around. One time I actually turned the channel and found six stations in a row featuring gay guys... hair dressers, decorators, etc. Gay Hollywood would have us believe that most of us are gay and this movie just goes along with that idea. This movie was sickening. The people raving about it hear are probably pole-smokers too.... not that there's anything wrong with that.”--notice the typos and logical fallacies.

“Hollywood keeps finding new ways to try and force homosexuality into mainstream acceptance. This time they do it by ramrodding the subject into the most heterosexual genre of all... the western film. The Duke is certainly turning over in his grave now. The Lone Ranger is behind a big rock on the prarie puking his guts out right now. Sickening. Seriously... what I find interesting is that the Hollywood top brass have been sitting around for the past few weeks trying to figure out why 2005 was such a down year. Well, here's a hint fellas. When the "best" movies you turn out in a given year are about a couple of sodomite cowboys, a third remake of King Kong, and yet another Star Wars prequel with the script apparently written by a third grader.... well, what do you expect?? You are not appealing to a broad audience with this crap. Go check out Rocky Horror Picture Show instead.”--again, incorrect spelling, and what is that end bit about RHPS?

“Crap like this is just what the whole michael moore relgion is forcing on everyone! And GOD forbid if someone is against it...oops, I said GOD!”--yup, you said it twice in one small sentence, and look at that, you misspelled religion!

Very sad, indeed. There always seems to be a direct correlation between poor articulation and paranoia, fallacious logic and this kind of small-minded prejudice, doesn’t there?


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