Written by: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer
Or, Why I have not seen Brokeback Mountain
A few short months ago, I had never even heard of Brokeback Mountain. The first reference I ever heard to it was at the very end of a joint article I wrote for Cin City with Karl Mueller. I didn’t get his joke, but since his knowledge of film so greatly outshines mine, I thought nothing of this, and went on with my life.
It wasn’t long after that when the word hit the street that "a gay cowboy movie" was coming out, and the buzz was everywhere. Certainly, the controversy of it kept it in the news for weeks before its release, to several months afterwards.
When I first heard about it, I decided that I had no interest in seeing it. It had nothing to do with the fact that the two main characters were gay, but rather that they were cowboys, and in love. You see, if I were to name my least favorite genres of film, I guarantee you that Romance and Westerns would be right at the top of the list. The former typically appeals to women with stories where the boorish male character learns a valuable lesson that allows him to make himself worthy of the long-suffering female, while the latter typically appeals to alpha males with the sort of chest-thumping swagger that I have always gone out of my way to avoid (in case you haven’t guessed: no, I never lettered in varsity football.) The idea that I would go see a movie that (from what I had heard at the time) would deal with BOTH those things was completely laughable.
So that’s why I chose not to see Brokeback Mountain. Then.
When the movie opened, the media (and the public) went absolutely crazy for it. Its per-screen average box office sales were through the roof, and every media outlet in the land had to talk about it. We learned how the film was being received in Wyoming, and we heard from E. Annie Proulx, the other of the story on which the film is based, who told us how she saw her characters at the time, and how these movie iteratins held up. And let’s not forget the raves. Critics found themselves in an all-out footrace to be the first to find the next great superlative to describe the phenomenon that was Brokeback Mountain.
But even upon its first release, people everywhere (mostly men, I admit) still insisted that they didn’t want to see "the gay cowboy movie," and this was seen as acceptable. Soon, the movie became a sort of shorthand to define manliness: you were either a real red-blooded, breast-loving man, or you saw Brokeback Mountain. Asking a guy if he had seen it was akin to asking if he had ever worn a dress, or dreamed about his gym teacher. When THIS happened, I found myself lumped in with a group with which I did not associate; the "Guys who Boycotted Brokeback Mountain as a way to Assert their Heterosexuality." I found this far more irksome than the thought of watching the movie, and so this was enough to make me want to go see it after all.
But THEN, the first reports from my friends, family, and co-workers about it came in. If I thought the media coverage was bad, I had no idea what kind of full-court press I was in for. Suddenly, and without warning, I was beseiged by people from all sides telling me how unendingly brilliant everything about this movie was, how superb the acting performances are, how sublime the directing, and how superlative the writing. It went on and on. Now, I’m the sort of guy who, when told that I have to do something, will typically go out of my way NOT to do it. (I once convinced my then girlfriend to call a co-worker and convince her to stop harassing me about proposing, since she did want to marry me one day, and she knew that the more I was goaded to do it, the less likely it would be to actually happen.) In addition, elitist though this may sound, I tend to like something less once everyone else around likes it too. I have discarded bands from my repertoire once they have become too popular, and I have picked up runaway best-sellers convinced that I will hate them simply because they’re best-sellers. All this to say that, the more I hear about how Brokeback Mountain is the best movie of the past X years, and how wonderful and unique and special it is, and how much I’ll surely love it…the less I want to see it. And I didn’t want to see it to begin with!
And that’s where I stand for right now.
However, even now I see that the backlash has started. Michelle Williams’ alma mater just condemned her for her role in the film, and we all know that it’s only a matter of time before some Falwell/Robertson/O’Reilly character says something that stirs up a fresh debate. When that day comes, be sure to go see it, either again, or for the first time. Either way, I’ll be there.