September 2009


Brokeback Mountain Redux

I’ll be the first to admit that I rewatched Brokeback Mountain last week because of my impending trip to Wyoming, but to say that the film is Wyoming related would be like saying that the best way to prepare for visiting Pittsburgh is to watch the Queer as Folk.

All of that aside, Brokeback Mountain is worth thinking about: Why is the story so compelling? Is the story plausible? If it is, could it happen today, or is it relegated to historic Wyoming?

I’d argue that the story is compelling precisely because the story is so plausible, particularly since we have vivid evidence in the form of Matthew Shepard. I don’t want to open the entire Matthew Shepard can of worms here (give me a month), but some salient facts are worth distilling: his in your face homosexuality was a significant contributing factor to his murder. In this process, I answer my third question: it could happen today.

Of course I haven’t physically been to Laramie and Wyoming for a long time (save for a December 2004 day trip to Cheyenne), so I can’t speak to the specific conditions that exist 11 years after the fact, but given that a significant cultural east-west divide remains in Germany 20 years after the end of the Cold War, I think it’s reasonable to say that the collective social mores of Wyoming citizens has probably not altered completely to embrace all people of all races and all configurations.

For me watching the film is bittersweet and painful. The story makes the strong case that, in certain settings and situations, ignorance is bliss. I’ll admit that there are times that I can’t help but wonder if I’ve made mistakes in my past travel to Armenia. I’ve met multiple wonderful people in Armenia—on the one hand my tourism brought positive significant economic impact through my cash purchases; and on the other, people who I met were exposed to American and European notions of the world that make living in Armenia seem limiting.

What if Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar had never had that first occasion? Living in ignorance might have made their respective marriages stronger and better—or at least Ennis’ marriage. Jack Twist seemed more aware, earlier on, about his queer interests.

But is ignorance really bliss? There’s something to be said for pricking façades and making people think about their situations. Arguably it is the awareness of other gays that allows closeted gays to explore their feelings and coming out, and the earlier that they explore these feelings the less likely they are to get married to somebody of the wrong gender.

3 comments to Brokeback Mountain Redux

  • Brokeback Mountain wasn’t depicted as being that far in the past, so I’m certain that similar events could be (and probably are) happening right now. If gays are ever accepted in some rural parts of the US, it won’t be for a very long time. And that presents a problem because too many will marry because “it’s the thing to do”. Then, years later, they’ll decide they “can’t live a lie any more” and screw up everyone’s lives.

  • ed

    To say that Matthew Shepard was asking for it by the way he acted is the same as saying a woman who was raped was asking for it by the way she was dressed or acted. Here in Podunk Indiana, men are beaten and killed on a regular bases for being Gay. There are no hate crime laws here. One fellow in Jackson county was beaten after being lured to a city councilman’s house. He was dragged down the stairs and thrown into the back of a pick-up truck where he was kicked repeatedly until they arrived at a corn field where he was thrown into a ditch and shot three times. Blood was everywhere in the house but the punks where never accused with anything more than assualt. The Gay man had been hidden in the garage for a month before he was found rolled up in an old rug. I guess he was just asking for it.

  • starman1695 – I suspect that the events portrayed in Brokeback Mountain can be replayed for years into the future in a number of societies around the world. Gay love isn’t ever going to go away, nor are repressed individuals.

    ed – I hope I don’t imply that Matthew Shepard was asking for it by the way that he was acting–for anybody to be murder is bad and I readily admit that Matt’s sexuality was a significant contributing factor to his murder–but I suspect it is only part of the reason he was murdered. I’ll even go so far as to say it was probably the primary reason. My feelings about this are incredibly complex and muddied–and its hard for me to explain my thoughts here. More thoughts will dribble out over the next month.