December 18, 2005

How political is that "gay cowboy movie"?

"Brokeback Mountain," the high-class film everyone thinks must be called the "gay cowboy movie," is doing extremely well in the few theaters where it has opened -- in NYC, LA, and San Francisco. The question is whether Middle America is in the mood for this sort of thing. Here's how Frank Rich analyzes it (TimesSelect link):
The culture is seeking out this movie not just because it is a powerful, four-hankie account of a doomed love affair and is beautifully acted by everyone, starting with the riveting Heath Ledger. The X factor is that the film delivers a story previously untold by A-list Hollywood. It's a story America may be more than ready to hear a year after its president cynically flogged a legally superfluous (and unpassable) constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage for the sole purpose of whipping up the basest hostilities of his electoral base.
Got that? We're sick of this damned President, so we want to see cowboys make love. I don't like the constitutional amendment and related political pandering, but I can't imagine how being tired of all that would make me more likely to go see a big outdoorsy melodrama with the selling point that the lovers are both men. In fact, the notion that to go to this movie is a political statement makes me less likely to go see it. The movie purports to be high art, not some tedious demonstration of good politics.

A serious movie about a gay love relationship may very well make a more effective political argument than a movie that presents itself as political argument. But writers must write, and they will spell out the political argument that the movie only implies, thus making it harder for the film's unarticulated, inherent argument to influence people. But the political baggage is not accumulating as fast as it might have. Rich notes:
As far as I can tell, the only blowhard in the country to turn up on television to declare culture war on "Brokeback Mountain" also has an affiliation with the American Family Association. By contrast, as Salon reported last week, other family-values ayatollahs have made a conscious decision to ignore the movie, lest they drum up ticket sales by turning it into a SpongeBob SquarePants cause célèbre. Robert Knight of Concerned Women for America imagined that the film might just go away if he and his peers stayed mum. Audiences "don't want to see two guys going at it," he told Salon. "It's that simple."

Oh, no! Those social conservatives are supposed to be backward louts! Have they learned the elite technique of restraint? Damn! They were supposed to be ayatollahs. How am I going to crank out these columns now?

Only now am I realizing that I'm writing about a TimesSelect article. Too bad it will be hard for you to read the whole thing. Well, elsewhere in the freely accessible parts of today's NYT there are other insights into the "gay cowboy movie." (Really, the guys are shepherds, but there's no shepherd movie genre, no iconic character The Shepherd to play off of by changing some key element.)

First, there's Manola Darhgas:
Less than two weeks after its release, "Brokeback Mountain" is already on the verge of being embalmed in importance. A lightning rod for attention even before it opened, the film has earned plaudits from critics' groups along with predictable sneers, and provoked argument over its gay bona fides. That "Brokeback" is a landmark is a matter of empiricism; its merits as a work of art are a matter of taste. What has gone missing is that this is also that rare American film that seamlessly breaches the divide between the political and the personal, the past and the present. Here, against the backdrop of the great American West, that mythic territory of rugged individualism and the Marlboro Man, is a quietly devastating look at masculinity and its discontents.

Then, there's this piece by Guy Trebay in the Styles section:
But to gay men trying to forge lives in a world where the shape of masculinity is narrow, and where the "liberated" antics of the homosexual minstrels so often depicted on television can seem far off, the emotional privation and brutal violence of "Brokeback Mountain" seems like documentary.

"That could have been my life," Derrick Glover said one bitter cold afternoon last week, referring to the film, which he had seen at a special screening a week before in Jackson, Wyo. A 33-year-old rancher, Mr. Glover comes from a family that has worked the land around Lusk for generations. His father still runs 300 head of cattle....

"They always define it as coming out of the closet, but I don't consider myself to be out of the closet," Mr. Glover explained. There is a reason for that, he said. "Where I live, you can't really go out and be yourself. You couldn't go out together, two guys, as a couple and ever be accepted. It wasn't accepted in the past, it's still not, and I don't think it ever will be."
This is really the most interesting of the three articles I'm linking in this post. Trebay goes to Wyoming, where the story in the movie takes place and where Matthew Shepard was murdered in 1998, and interviews some gay men about what life is like for them:
The experience was "extremely, extremely lonely," [rancher Ben] Clark said, leaving him feeling so isolated that he more than once contemplated suicide. "I could not accept being gay because of the stereotypes that were drilled into me," he explained. "Gay men are emotionally weak. They are not real men. They are like women."

Like Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist in the film, Mr. Clark dated women for a time, bowing to the pressure to be "normal" although, unlike them, he never married and led a double life. There's a joke out here about how one goes about finding a gay man on the frontier. The punch line is deadpan: "Look for the wife and kids."

Fortunately, Mr. Clark said, "I never did get married, because I never wanted to hurt a woman like that."

I've made fun of the Oscar ads for the movie, because of the way they emphasize the relationship between the men and their wives. This ad campaign is laughable for intentionally hiding the nature of the central love story. Nevertheless, the story of the wives interests me greatly. And the political argument inherent in this part of the story is, I think, especially strong. Those who would try to prevent or inhibit men from forming lifetime bonds with each other ought to give more thought to what happens to the women they marry. Those who think a man should struggle against his sexual orientation and find a way to form the classic marriage relationship with a woman ought to think about what they are advocating for the woman: a lifetime relationship with a man who has only feigned sexual attraction to her.

IN THE COMMENTS: Lots of interesting discussion. I especially like the part where Palladian says: "Geez, all you straight people can think about is sex, sex, sex. Here we are having a conversation about love and art and all you can think to add is some base, puerile and off-putting remarks about genitalia 'fitting' together, as if it were some sort of dirty Lego set."

117 comments:

Joel Falk said...

I'm surprised you spent so much time on a gay cowboy movie when it was disclosed in the last few days that our President committed arguably an impeachable offense by authorizing wiretaps of American citizens without (again, arguably) the required court supervision. Sounds like the famous "Huston" plan of the late 60's Nixon White House.

Ann Althouse said...

Joel: I'm not going to delete your comment, but I don't want this thread hijacked. I'll write about what I choose, in whatever order I please, not the order someone else thinks is the order of importance. But in fact, I do happen to think the cultural and political issues surrounding sexual orientation are more important than the silly allegation that the President deserves to be impeached for approving the emergency monitoring of incoming phone calls from al Qaeda members overseas without first getting a warrant.

Meade said...

Right.

If feigning sexual attraction in order to secure the benefits of marriage is wrong, there have been plenty of wives guilty of the same offense you ascribe to some gay cowboys.

Dave said...

I do happen to think the cultural and political issues surrounding sexual orientation are more important than the silly allegation that the President deserves to be impeached for approving the emergency monitoring of incoming phone calls from al Qaeda members overseas without first getting a warrant.

Well said.

Ron said...

Sadly, I think the reason the wives don't get discussed is that there may be an unspoken assumption that a woman who is unable (unwilling?) to tell the true sexual orientation of her husband deserves the relationship she gets. It's an ugly thought, but I suspect it's in the mind of the repressive forces you mention.

me said...

I've seen the previews in the theater two times. It just seems like a Saturday Night Live skit. Clearly, it is getting a great buzz from inside Hollywood. Even if it was a good movie, I think the movie will be swallowed by outside forces. In other words, it will be hard to take seriously.

As for Bush's wiretapping, I don't think anyone is going to get bent out of shape about it. The war on terror is a joke, simply because it is very ineffective. However, this one aspect is not going to raise any ground swell of opposition from Americans. We don't care what our government does, so long as it doesn't impact us.

knoxgirl said...

Why are there so many finger-waggers who come to this site telling Ann what she *should* be talking about? Get. your. own. blog.

Anyway, I am only interested in this movie if it's not overtly political (like "My own Private Idaho," for example). Otherwise, it's just predictable, and who wants to go to a movie knowing what's going to happpen? Not to mention when you're afraid you're going to be preached to.

John Jenkins said...

". . . a lifetime relationship with [X] who has only feigned sexual attraction to [Y]." Wait, I thought that was the definition of marriage.

Jonathan said...

I can't tell if that first comment is intentional or unintentional parody, but it's clearly parody.

Ann Althouse said...

Ron: "the reason the wives don't get discussed is that there may be an unspoken assumption that a woman who is unable (unwilling?) to tell the true sexual orientation of her husband deserves the relationship she gets."

This is an incredibly sad phenomenon, and I think it happens a lot, especially to naive or sexually inexperienced women. Anyone who thinks these women deserve it is not a social conservative, because the women in question will be the very ones who don't test out a number of men before making a choice, that is, the ones who don't have a standard of comparison and don't know enough about what male sexual appetite feels like.

Meade: Yes, that's true too. Marrying someone you're not strongly sexually attracted to may not always be wrong, but it's a big problem. Maybe if people were more honest and aware of this (obvious) reality, there wouldn't be so many breakups.

miklos rosza said...

me,

there is a "me" who recently wrote something for vice magazine (online). are you that me?

or are you me 2?

meanwhile, my sister, who is gay, says that she and her lover can't wait to see the gay cowboy movie. they find the notion "tremendously sexy."

in french films recently there has been a new kind of special effects: sex scenes which do not look away from the pornographic visuals one might see if present as a voyeur. see "romance" or any of the films by catherine breillat, or what has been called "the french thelma and louise," virginie desplantes' lurid and riveting "baise-moi."

Elliott said...

I agree with Joel. This is truly hacktacular of you Ann. You have always claimed not to be one and yet you always prove by your actions that you are.

PatCA said...

"...a quietly devastating look at masculinity and its discontents."

This is one of more tempered reviews by Dargis I've read, but I question her implication that gayness is somehow a reaction to masculinity and its discontents. As if one chooses to be gay after experiencing the inevitable imperfections of heterosexuality! This is the political sermon that turns viewers off.

Wade_Garrett said...

Ann - I think it depends on what you mean by political. As for partisan politics, well, I think Brokeback Mountain just provides pundits on both sides with a reason to rehash topics they've already covered.

But . . . remember the feminist slogan about how the personal is the political? This movie reminds me of that. The short story on which it is based is entirely apolitical, and all of the accounts of the movie I've read say that its earnest, straight-up, and follows the short story almost to the letter. One the other hand, considering the nature of our times, making an apolitical movie about 'gay cowboys' is in and of itself a political statement, perhaps moreso than an openly political movie about gay cowboys. Here are these two men, they share a special bond that society won't let them explore without shame, and this sort of thing happens more often than middle America expects. In so many ways, that strikes me as more political than "we're here, we're queer, deal with it."

AlaskaJack said...

Here's a mind experiment. Suppose a tall, dark-haired hetrosexual boy spends a summer working with a tall, blond nordic-featured hetro-sexual girl--both summer interns at some national park. They both form a romantic relationship. After that single summer, they lose touch with each other and go on with their lives: foriegn study, graduate school, marriage and children. He marries a brunette, somewhat shorter than the blond girl. She marries a blond fellow, somewhat shorter than the dark-haired boy. Then, after some time, they meet, quite by chance, and resume their relationship, in secret and unknown by their spouses.

Isn't this new relationship a cause for celebration? If not, why not? After all, can't he claim that by nature (or by a roll of the genetic dice) that he is inherently attracted only to tall, nordic looking women? And she,of course, can make the same argument about tall, dark-haired men.

Ann Althouse said...

Patca: "...a quietly devastating look at masculinity and its discontents."

"This is one of more tempered reviews by Dargis I've read, but I question her implication that gayness is somehow a reaction to masculinity and its discontents."

Dargis's piece struck me as the sort of gender studies musing that is promoted in colleges classes. There's a lot of feminist film theory out there, and by now it tends to sound like we've heard it all before. But I like the idea that persons with a strong homosexual orientation can help us all transcend the limits of stereotypes.

Alaska Jack: I think the difference is that the gay man would have felt that he didn't have the option to pursue his real love, that he caved to social pressure and tried to be what people wanted him to be. You can say he still owed a moral commitment to his wife and should have paid the price for his bad decision, but the difference is that society unfairly constrained him when he made the initial choice.

Palladian said...

"I've seen the previews in the theater two times. It just seems like a Saturday Night Live skit."

I've seen many versions of this same statement from people commenting on this movie. While it may be the melodrama implied in the ads that made you think the movie was laughable, I suspect the real laughable thing for people who make this statement is the idea that two men could ever form such a bond, that they could ever express these emotions to and for each other. It's whistling past the graveyard, laughing in order to banish (or hide) the extreme discomfort that still fills people when faced with the unspeakable image of two men embracing or worse. I admit to feeling this discomfort myself, though in my case it stems from the prospect of sitting in a theater and listening to several hundred people laugh at one of the first honest, dramatic and non-political depictions of the most intense human emotions and experiences from a perspective that is familiar to those of us who grew up in a world not that dissimilar from Brokeback Mountain.

One of the reasons this movie is so compelling is precisely because it is so resolutely non-political. "The personal is the political" has to be one of my least favorite phrases; I don't want every aspect of my life to be consumed and defined by political perspectives or political arguments. "Brokeback Mountain" succeeds because it treats its subject not as an opportunity for a political polemic, or a camp joke, or a moralistic cautionary tale, but as an intensely dramatic subject worthy of a serious filmic treatment. What a joy it is to see a serious, quiet film with two high profile heartthrobs playing characters who aren't clowns, or victims of the week, or twisted psychotics, but humans.

Though I haven't read Frank Rich's piece, I don't need to because it sounds like every other Frank Rich piece of the last 4 years. When I read things like this I want to wring the writer's neck. He obviously sees the emotions and experiences depicted in "Brokeback Mountain" as just more ammo to shoot at Bush and his army of empty-eyed religious zealots, like a kid opening his food-filled mouth to gross out his sister. Well, that's not what this movie is, Mr Rich, and our lives are more than just a chance for you to score some points against your white whale. Take your pathetic agenda elsewhere.

alaskajack, your little story is supposed to illustrate, what? Are you arguing that sexual orientation is just another aesthetic choice, like preference for a particular hair color? That's almost as sad and laughable as the people who say "gay people are already free to marry- people of the opposite gender". Maybe I just misunderstand what you're getting at.

Meade said...

Ann: If you're saying that people should be honest about who and what they are and that the time for sexual experimentation is before entering into a legal union in which the two parties essentially hand over to the state the power to arbitrate any eventual dissolution, I am in agreement with you. This should be equally true for men as well as women, for gays as well as non gays.

One fact of life that is routinely ignored by couples who are in love and wanting to marry is that sexual interest waxes, wanes, and changes throughout an individual's lifetime. But being true to oneself and to others, as challenging as that can be, consistently leads to friendships and relationships which endure and inspire.

When the need to create a safe secure environment for rearing children is removed from the equation, two people marrying their fortunes together should be about as compelling as bicycles are to fish.

Brian O'Connell said...

AlaskaJack: I haven't seen the movie or read the story, but I think the effect on the wives is dealt with (hence the ads featuring them), and I expect that it isn't done in a celebratory manner.

I have to say that your blond and brunette metaphor is somewhat insulting and suggests that you have no idea what you're talking about. Unless, that is, you can show me where those having an attraction to people of the inappropriate hair color have been vilified, persecuted, and murdered, presently and historically.

Joel Falk said...

You are right. I was presumptuous to tell you what to write about. Please accept my apology.

me said...

My line about the Saturday Night Live skit had nothing to do with thinking that there is anything wrong with being gay. I think there are plenty of gay men that are simply TOO macho to be straight.

Maybe the movie is much better than the trailer, but the trailer just sets the story up for me in an overly-melodramatic way that borders on silliness.

Ann Althouse said...

Me: I just watched the trailer on line, and I agree. It's ridiculous. Cornball. With the syrupy music and the gritty voiceover guy, it does missignal: spoof. I think the trailer is a huge problem, because I'll bet people seeing it have felt like laughing and then felt guilty about it. You're being told: You'd better take this seriously and appreciate the profound love and tragedy. How dare you laugh! How dare you think the love between two men is just a joke? That's the guilt-trip vibe I get from the trailer. Who needs it? Terrible trailer, geared to people who aren't very bright and are very sentimental about gay people, that is, I'm thinking, middle class women, as imagined by Hollywood nitwits.

Pooh said...

2 things - Re: The trailer, it's worth noting that the filmmakers don't put together the promos, the marketing fools do. They have about 5 notes they can hit, and when a film doesn't fall neatly into a category, they try to jam it into one anyway. In this case, the trailers are very "Merchant-Ivory Serious Theatre for Serious People", and only the very best M-I films can survive under the weight of that much pomposity.

Re the political, this is why so few people make movies about anything these days - they're so laden with meaning before the film is even released the substance of the movie inevitably gets swallowed.

My Story said...

I love your blog, Ann. And I was hoping you'd put up a post on this movie. (I even created a Blogger account just so I could respond)

I heard about this movie about a month ago on NPR. Bob Mondello mentioned it in passing in a story about "all the gay themes" in movies from then until the end of the year.

I got home from work and watched the trailer. (BTW, not sure what voiceover you're talking about, the one I watched on the website only has interspersed words on the screen, is it different in the theatres? Do you have a link to the one with a voiceover?)

I can see, even from the trailer I saw, why you'd say "syrupy", etc. Not sure it's any worse in that regard than other movie trailers. Unless it just seems that way to those who don't identify with this particular story.

Anyway, as I said I watched the trailer that night and read the story immediately after. (At that time the short story was still posted as an excerpt on Amazon from the original book of short stories).
Then I think I played the trailer like 10 more times at least.

It really is a great story that I imagine speaks to some people, like me, in a way that nothing ever has.

So yes, I really identify with this story a great deal. I'm 30, single, and a Christian. I met someone about 3 years ago and fell in love. We had the same sort of initial easy bonding and a stumbling initial encounter. Periodic "special visits" in the subsequent years. We have a good outward frienship as well, and as far as our other friends know that's that. We speak less than Enis, (if that's possible), about our private feelings and actions. Given our friends and family, we have the same societal concern about ever really being together. I get the added "bonus" of having to try and reconcile my Christianity with my inner feelings. Thankfully one difference is that neither of us has made the mistake of marrying a woman.

Not sure what we're going to do in the long run but, as I'm sure you'll all agree from my brief summary, our current situation is ridiculous.

I plan on seeing the movie as soon as I'm in an area where it's showing, and I hope many of my other friends and family will also see it. (Yeah, never going to happen) I think,, though, if they did, it might, just maybe, help explain to them, (better than I have or would ever be able to), the feelings and substance of what's going on inside of me if and when my own words or actions force the issue.

It's for that reason that I hope as many people (of all types) see it. I hope the themes and images presented serve as a basis for discussion and understanding that maybe wouldn't happen otherwise.

Ron said...

Anyone who thinks these women deserve it is not a social conservative, because the women in question will be the very ones who don't test out a number of men before making a choice, that is, the ones who don't have a standard of comparison and don't know enough about what male sexual appetite feels like.

Yes, I totally agree with you, but isn't it still true that 'social conservatives' may still believe a woman (even one without a range of sexual experience) should be able to detect if her partner is really gay? I realize this belief is irrational and terribly, unfairly and sexist, but perhaps true.

Finn Kristiansen said...

As one of my favorite directors (based on "Eat, Drink, Man, Woman" and "Crouching Tiger" and "Sense and Sensibility") and one of broad range, I am sure Ang Lee deserves the praise he is receiving for creating a well acted film with emotional depth.

Is it a political film? Indeed. Anything that says, "Look at this suffering/situation", and for something that is not widely endorsed, becomes political. If it works on the mind of viewers, it's political.

All of this brings to mind two side issues:

1) Is it possible for an actor (especially male) to "play gay", or might we be reading about the two leads coming out (despite having girlfriends/wives)? In Hollywood, actors almost notoriously end up shanking or falling in love with persons they have acted in a film or romantic scene with. My general theory is that men are far less fluid in their sexuality, and that acting is not mere acting, and that more will come out on these actors.

2)Autobiographies by gay authors have pointed out that gay men have much more sex than the average hetero relationship. I've always thought that was a function of not "gayness", but rather, that men, generally, are always up for sex, so if two are together, by nature it will be a cornucopia of activity without women there to say no or to make you take out the garbage instead.

That said, and given possible dissimilarities between gay and staight love stories, can the average viewer really get behind this story?

(Side point: Joel, a blog is a car and the owner drives it where they wish to).

Freeman Hunt said...

In fact, the notion that to go to this movie is a political statement makes me less likely to go see it.

Could not agree more. "Look, Middle America, these cowboys are GAY! Can you take it?! CAN YOU?! Or are you raging, knuckle-dragging homophobes?! ARE YOU?!" Sheesh.

I was really excited about this movie because I'd heard that it was so good. Now I may wait for it to come out on DVD.

Also agree on the concern for pressing gay men to feign interest in women. The most homophobic person I've ever met was a woman whose father came out of the closet and abandoned his family when the woman was a teenager. When a person lives a lie things seem to turn out badly for everyone and a lot of bitterness is left in the wake.

PatCA said...

"There's a lot of feminist film theory out there, and by now it tends to sound like we've heard it all before."

That's so true, and we have also heard the misconstructions of psychoanalytic theory applied to film before. That's my point. Film has a certain set of conventions that denotes "romance," like the syrupy music, the clinches, the soulful eyes, the forbidden love narrative itself. I don't think people are necessarily homophobic when they laugh at the use of these conventions in non-traditional settings. That's exactly what SNL and other parodists do all the time! I think it would be interesting to hear how people, gay or straight, do or don't enjoy "romance" in the movies. I say that because a gay friend actually does enjoy romantic movies just for the feeling of romance. After all, doesn't identification happen when he imagine ourselves as a lover or as a beloved when we respond to these films? I mean, not all of us believe we will actually someday date Heath Ledger. :)

Wade_Garrett said...

Freeman - I don't think anybody is taking it to quite that extreme. Certainly, the producers of the film are not -- I haven't seen any of the actors on the talk-show circuit trying to provoke controversy or even talking up the gay side of the story.

Furthermore, isn't it somewhat contradictory to make a political statement about how you refuse to go to a movie because its too political? If you were planning to see it before all of this controversy arose, why would that discourage you from seeing it? Doesn't that give these harping pundits the satisfaction of knowing they've changed the behavior of rational adults?

Kathy said...

Yes, I totally agree with you, but isn't it still true that 'social conservatives' may still believe a woman (even one without a range of sexual experience) should be able to detect if her partner is really gay? I realize this belief is irrational and terribly, unfairly and sexist, but perhaps true.

On what basis is this assumption being made? As a social conservative who knows lots of social conservatives, I would say that general run-of-the-mill social conservatives (not kooky haters, who really are a small minority--I'm not aware that I've ever even met one) would not cast blame on a woman in that situation at all. In fact, I've seen prominent evangelical authors address this problem in books about relationships, without blaming the woman.

Joe Hogan said...

Leaving aside the merits of the film, or its subject matter, Frank Rich's statement that, "The culture is seeking out this movie..." is nonsense on its face. It is yet more proof that Rich is almost always wrong about everything he sees when he peers darkly through his anti-Bush lenses.

The movie has only opened "wide" this past Friday and as of Rich's writing had only made $547,425 last weekend in 5 theaters nationally according to Rotten Tomatoes.

Supose the film's wide release closes in a week or two after doing miserable business outside the large cities. Rich's claim that "The Culture" is seeking out this movie is all hope and has no basis in fact yet. It is purely a prediction and prognostication is not Rich's strong suit.

By the way, I love Ang Lee's work, except for The Hulk, and I think the trailer and reviews I've read make it seem like a very interesting movie. But I don't delude myself that my feelings represent the views of the entire country, which is what the term "the culture" implies.

Note to Mr. Rich: New York, LA and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, all 94 of them, are not America or its "culture".

Freeman Hunt said...

Doesn't that give these harping pundits the satisfaction of knowing they've changed the behavior of rational adults?

Terrance, it's not the pundits who are against this movie who have changed my mind. It's the pundits who want me to see this movie. All of these comments along the lines of "is Middle America ready for this?" have really gotten on my nerves.

Palladian said...

"My Story", thanks for telling your story. I hope things work out for you and that seeing this film will help you avoid making the mistakes its characters make. Don't see your situation as a choice between your spiritual life and your feelings for another human, because it doesn't have to be. No matter what is said, the two aren't mutually exclusive.

freeman hunt: "Terrance, it's not the pundits who are against this movie who have changed my mind. It's the pundits who want me to see this movie."

I can see how that would be annoying, though I personally haven't seen the movie characterized as a "good for you" movie as much "slap in the face". Both are inaccurate and unfair, and I hope people aren't avoiding things because of what journos say about them.

joe hogan: "Note to Mr. Rich: New York, LA and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, all 94 of them, are not America or its "culture".

You're right about that, though I also don't think America and its cultural decisions are always necessarily correct or are models to be followed; on everything from segregation to the popularity of Paris Hilton the culture has been in the wrong. But it is off-putting to have a movie promoted as a medicine for whatever ails us. Just put it out there and those who want to see it will see it.

"The movie has only opened "wide" this past Friday and as of Rich's writing had only made $547,425 last weekend in 5 theaters nationally according to Rotten Tomatoes."

And its opening weekend, though certainly small compared to something like big budget (bomb) "Syriana", was a actually very strong, especially compared to its small (under 15 million) budget. We'll see how well it does in wider release.

Wade_Garrett said...

All I'm saying is that, if these people annoy you, then ignore what they have to say. For example, I can't stand Tom DeLay. But if I'm planning on watching the Super Bowl, and I hear Tom DeLay say that the super bowl is great, I'm not going to change my viewing habits to spite him.

I agree that the "is America ready for this?" question is getting old fast, but, remember, Frank Rich's column is about the media. He's going to write about what conservatives have to say about this movie - for instance, how the Catholic News Service initially gave it a favorable review, then changed its review under fierce political pressure. I haven't heard Frank Rich or anybody else for that matter pre-emptive accuse people of being homophobic for not wanting to see Brokeback Mountain.

MD said...

I wanted to see this movie when I first saw the ad, a quiet trailer in a quiet 'indie' theater. I wanted to see this story about two particular people and to know how the story started and how it would end. As a woman there was a part of me that felt a twinge: I felt sorry for the women that would end up with these men. I also felt sort of mean thinking that way; that my first thought would be for the women, but there you go. That is honestly how I felt.

I don't like to be lectured to. I think I'll see this movie later, when everyone else has moved on. I'm such a contrarian. I don't want to see something because I am supposed to see it, I just don't. That goes for any topic.

Townleybomb said...

I don't have Time Select, so I'll have to ignore Frank Rich (although I tended to do that even when I could read his columns, come to think of it), but it's pretty clear that this film is going to have some kind of political impact, in the diffuse way that good works of art do. I've always been struck by how much of gay identity has absolutely nothing to do with the basic fact of man-man sexual and emotional attraction-- both in straight culture (Queer Eye, La Cage, ad nauseum), and in gay culture itself (just go to any gay bar and see how long it takes for them to play a song sung by a man). Quite apart from the fact that it looks like this is just going to be an excellent film, it's pretty exciting to know that the the real core of gay life is going to be dealt with here in a way that places it squarely in the context of square-jawed American masculinity.

(I will admit by way of a disclaimer here that my judgement is perhaps somewhat clouded here by the idea of Bubble Boy batting on my side of the plate, so don't rub it in my face if this all proves to be just a footnote to a South Park joke in the end.)

richard mcenroe said...

You're overlooking the really important question here:

Why doesn't Pajama Media have any gay-cowboy blogs?

Elizabeth said...

Just a little sidenote re: "Robert Knight of Concerned Women for America." It seems more times than not, whenever I see that group cited in an article, it's a man being quoted. I believe their executive director is male. Creepy.

brylin said...

With all the comments on this movie, I'm surprised that there are no comparisons to the movie "The Boys in the Band" (1970).

It also received a Golden Globe nomination. I remember there was quite a buzz when it came out. Most of you are too young to remember it, I bet.

Ann Althouse said...

Elizabeth: "Just a little sidenote re: "Robert Knight of Concerned Women for America." It seems more times than not, whenever I see that group cited in an article, it's a man being quoted. I believe their executive director is male. Creepy."

I find it amusingly gender-bendy.

37383938393839383938383 said...

As if one chooses to be gay after experiencing the inevitable imperfections of heterosexuality! This is the political sermon that turns viewers off.

Actually, there are a plenty of lesbians who claim that is exactly why they are lesbians. I don't like hearing that sermon, either.

I dispute that the McGreevey phenomenon is commonplace for American women, simply because there aren't very many gay people in the populace.

What offends me about Brokeback Mountain, other than its tacky name -- the mountain where Jack 'broke John's back' -- is that it was not written by a gay person relying on his firsthand experience or someone relying on anecdotes by gay people or statistics about the behavior of gay cowboys. It was something a straight female radical feminist poet made up. This is just some liberal fantasy. Worse, the screenplay was once-overed by Larry McMurty to give it true cowboy credibility. The movie is literally propaganda.

If liberals are going to make pie-in-the-sky liberal propaganda, I wish they would stick to Palestinians and Jews singing and dancing in the Gaza or promoting interracial sex amongst teenagers.

John in Nashville said...

AlaskaJack: Refresh my memory-- how long ago was "Same Time Next Year" with Alan Alda and Carol Burnett? If I remember correctly, that was just a few years after a president who had expressly directed his subordinates to break the law resigned rather than face an impeachment vote.

Ann: Regarding the President's cold contempt for both the Fourth Amendment and separation of powers (the FISA statutes enacted by Congress), the abject silence of the Bushophiles itself speaks loudly and ineloquently. Silence can serve as an admission in contexts other than teaching about hearsay exceptions.

Palladian said...

Finn Kristiansen: "In Hollywood, actors almost notoriously end up shanking or falling in love with persons they have acted in a film or romantic scene with. My general theory is that men are far less fluid in their sexuality, and that acting is not mere acting, and that more will come out on these actors."

This already happened with this film: Heath Ledger knocked up co-star Michelle Williams, and she gave birth to their child this October. I'd be lying, though, if I said I didn't imagine the two young men doing "research" for their parts.

CriticalObserver: "What offends me about Brokeback Mountain, other than its tacky name -- the mountain where Jack 'broke John's back' -- is that it was not written by a gay person relying on his firsthand experience or someone relying on anecdotes by gay people or statistics about the behavior of gay cowboys."

So now someone has to have first-hand credentials in order to write (or make movies) about a topic. In other words, only blacks can make movies about blacks, only women can write books about women, etc. Using this criteria would basically invalidate almost the entirety of the Western canon in all the arts. How dreadful. How PC.

Finn Kristiansen said...

Critical Observer:

Is it because interracial sex is bad? Or because sex among teenagers is bad? Or because...?

HaloJonesFan said...

John: There are ten zillon blogs discussing that topic.

Gay Cowboy Movie: It might not be political in and of itself, but you can be damn sure that it's going to be used as a political statement. It's going to be "Alexander", only more so--"the commercial failure of 'Brokeback Mountain' only goes to show that non-Progressive, Bible-bound America refuses to bend over and take it up the arse like the rest of the world!"

37383938393839383938383 said...
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37383938393839383938383 said...
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37383938393839383938383 said...

So now someone has to have first-hand credentials in order to write (or make movies) about a topic. In other words, only blacks can make movies about blacks, only women can write books about women, etc.


You do not read carefully. I never said that. Look above. I use the disjunctive "or". The "someone" could be straight and simply rely on anecdotes by gay people (i.e., interviews, news stories, magazine articles, books) or refer to statistics about the behavior of gays, i.e., the problem is that the film is utter fantasy purporting to be realism.

My claim is that the process behind the making of film suggests it is inauthentic hackwork and propaganda, not art.

Finn: I never said interracial sex was bad or that peace in the Middle East was bad. I literally said that Hollywood should promote those two things rather than make up lies about nonexistent gay cowboys.

You people might try responding to what I actually said.

wildaboutharrie said...

Brylin, what a heartbreaking movie Boys in the Band is. But such a wonderful use of Burt Bacharach.

Re: Gay Cowboy Movie, I'll rent it one day. I've heard it's depressing, and I can't eat popcorn during a sad movie, and if I can't eat popcorn, I won't go to a movie theater. Re: melodramatic preview, Sense and Sensibility and Crouching were both fairly melodramatic, so perhaps it's Lee's style and not a sappy sales job per se.

Mark said...

Anyone who thinks these women deserve it is not a social conservative, because the women in question will be the very ones who don't test out a number of men before making a choice, that is, the ones who don't have a standard of comparison and don't know enough about what male sexual appetite feels like.

I think, as a general rule, men and women should date each other for at least a year before they get married and during that year they should see each other nearly every day.

When I got married to my wife after five years of dating, she had to have known she was either (1) marrying a heterosexual man or (2) marrying someone who is very, very good at acting like one. If there had been another "person" in her life or mine, the other would have been able to figure it out.

People shouldn't marry someone if they don't know the person well.

So, a woman who marries a man who is a closet homosexual probably didn't allow her self enough time to get to know the man prior to entering into marriage.

But most people are amused by the fact that my wife and I dated exclusively for five years and saw each other nearly every day during that period. Most people whom I know who married and ended up getting divorced got married after only seeing their spouse to be a few days per week and only dated for six months.

Should gay men or lesbian women "fight their sexuality?" I think it depends.

I met a women in college who didn't think she was a lesbian until her best female friend made a pass at her. Later she said that she might try hetrosexuality because she felt "a need to fit it."

I guess the next question would be whether how soon she would be obligated to tell her boyfriend that she had been with women. Another tough question.

The movie?

Well, I prefer to see movies about people, events and stories that interest me.

Homosexuals don't really interest me too much. Oh, well. That said, I did see a movie about a Cuban gay man. It was a good movie, but I can't remember the title.

Palladian said...

"Homosexuals don't really interest me too much. Oh, well."

Well, your heartwarming story about your courtship with your wife didn't really interest me too much either. Oh, well.

wildaboutharrie said...

The Ice Storm - very depressing, not melodramatic...I could only see it once.

Townleybomb said...

The "someone" could be straight and simply rely on anecdotes by gay people (i.e., interviews, news stories, magazine articles, books) or refer to statistics about the behavior of gays, i.e., the problem is that the film is utter fantasy purporting to be realism.

My claim is that the process behind the making of film suggests it is inauthentic hackwork and propaganda, not art.


So in other words, it's not art because it's fiction?

chuck b. said...

"Those who think a man should struggle against his sexual orientation...ought to think about what they are advocating for the woman."

I certainly second that. I read Althouse because she makes me think outside my own box; maybe other people do too.

That said, I'm not sure that a woman's happiness interest outweighs antipathy toward homosexuality in the eyes of those opposed to same-sex relationships. I'm not sure that anyone's happiness does. Call me cynical, bitter, jaded, dumb-ass, whatever. If fidelity to a belief system requires overriding some woman's romantic and sexual happiness, so be it. We can't all be happy.

Other people whose happiness doesn't matter: parents who want their gay children to find someone special to settle down with.

***

Talk about SNL skits, I love this spoiler-containing review by "Christian film reviewer" Ted Baehr. I found it trying to learn how much money it cost to make Brokeback Mtn... Is $5M right? That seems insanely low. If it's true, it won't matter at all whether "middle America" goes to see Brokeback Mountain or not. It'll make tons of money. (Did "middle America" go see the Crying Game 13 years ago? Cuz that made $62M.)

Toooottallllyyy off-topic:
Before I readily came out to people, I got lots of attention from girls in high school and college. They either didn't have a clue I was gay, or didn't care. Sometimes it was hard to tell! I couldn't always read their intentions and I never wanted to hurt anyone's feelings so I invariably played clueless. (In fact, I was a little clueless, but I was never totally clueless.) Sometimes looking back, I wish I'd taken one or two of them up because there are some things I regret never having tried.

I deliberately waited until I kissed a guy before I started coming out. Otherwise, it was all rather abstract I thought. I imagine other men did something similar. Some men have to wait a lot longer than I did. If you don't have any men to kiss, and you don't know whether or not you'll like it, and there are women around ready to go, why wait?

lindsey said...

I read the gossip blogs alot and there have been, for more than a year at least, rumors that Gyllenhaal is gay. Gyllenhaal also seems to be absent quite a lot for publicity for this film.

I've also heard that audiences are laughing at the trailer.

lindsey said...

This NYTimes article says it had a budget of $13 million. Then you have to factor in the millions for publicity.

chuck b. said...

Well, it's getting a lot of free publicity, that's for sure.

I think it'll still make tons of money in blue states alone.

Mark said...

Was the Al Pacino movie "Cruising" a political movie about homosexuality? As I remember it, it wasn't too political.

I think the reason why movies about homosexuals don't sell well is because people like to see movies in which they can "identify" with the main characters.

Most heterosexuals have a hard time identifying with homosexuals and many don't really want to try.

Even in the musical industry, being a homosexual can be a disadvantage. I would bet that Elton John's record sales took a hit once he "came out."

Many male teenagers don't want to wear a T-Shirt of a male homosexual rock star.

37383938393839383938383 said...

So in other words, it's not art because it's fiction?

This is obviously not what I wrote. Is all fiction propaganda? Is all fiction hackwork? Is all fiction that purports to be realistic inauthentically so? There is a difference between fiction and poorly researched fiction. There is a difference between fiction and propaganda. There is a difference between fiction and hackwork. There is a difference between authentic realism and inauthentic fantasy. And there is a difference between Brokeback Mountain and art.

downtownlad said...

If it's now considered "political" to present gay people as human beings with actual feelings - then so be it.

I fail to see how this movie is part of the "gay agenda" considering that it was written by a straight female. The two gay leads in the movie do not find love in the end. Their lives and marriages are destroyed because they deny their true feelings.

But let's face it - that's exactly what the religious right is encouraging every gay person in America to do, i.e. deny their true feelings and marry someone of the opposite sex.

The religious right also encourages gay people to stay in the closet. And this movie is a great commentary on that, because it shows that even when gay people think that they are being private, when they're careful to keep quiet about their sexuality - that it's still not enough. Because your life is never truly private. People are watching when you don't expect it, and by lying to yourself, you are going to have an adverse impact on others as well.

I was in the closet until I was 34. I had three separate women who kept their social life on hold for over five years, because they were actively pursuing me. I found it amusing, but I doubt that they did.

Another girl is after me now and I haven't bothered to tell her I'm gay. Should I? What would the religious right recommend that I do?

Sloanasaurus said...

I'm opposed to "Gay Marriage." I think "marriage" is a thousands of year old tradition of a social contract between a man and a woman. If the right to "marry" were granted to homosexuals, some would try to force social equality through the courts and in the end marriage would become something different altogether.

Why not support Civil Unions?

I saw the movie last night. The movie was above average, worthy of a nomination. I did not find anything political about the film. I didn't feel like the director was trying to jam his views down my throat. It was just a story about what happened to these individuals in particular. At no time did I feel a sense that a "right" to gay marriage would have solved the problems of the main characters. There are plenty of straight people who have made the same mistakes and have had the same flaws. In fact you get the feeling that a marriage between the two would have been a total failure...mostly because their escape together avoids the reality of their normal lives, something that becomes more clear throughout the movie.

As a side note, I am glad the president is wire tapping. If he found my phone number in Osama Bin Ladin's phone book, I would assume that some follow-up would be in order.

chuck b. said...

Downtown Lad said, "I fail to see how this movie is part of the "gay agenda" considering that it was written by a straight female."

Yes, and the screenplay was adapted by Larry McMurtry and a woman who is certainly not a gay man. The actors aren't gay. The director's not gay. Who's gay agenda is this anyway?

Mark said...

So is this "gay cowboy movie" advocating that people be more tolerant of homosexuality?

Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems like our society is tolerant of homosexuality. That's not to say that every single human being is tolerant of homosexuality. But not everyone is tolerant of Catholicism, fundamentalist Christianity or Atheism.

I think it is asking too much to expect that Americans be unanimous in being tolerant of homosexuality when American society has never been that tolerant toward certain religios sects.

Sloanasaurus said...

".....Another girl is after me now and I haven't bothered to tell her I'm gay. Should I? What would the religious right recommend that I do?....."

How screwed up is a statement like this?

downtownlad said...

I think it is asking too much to expect that Americans be unanimous in being tolerant of homosexuality when American society has never been that tolerant toward certain religios sects.

Most gay people don't want tolerance. They just want equality before the law. We're quite aware that most people hate us - thank you very much. I'm perfectly capable of dissing those people (i.e. my family) without the government's help.

But as for the movie, the struggle of gay people in dealing with the closet is a very interesting subject. One that has been completely ignored by Hollywood. Kudos to Ang Lee for making a film that touches this subject.

If the subject doesn't interest you, then don't see it. I'm quite certain this movie won't be playing outside the big cities anyway - so most of American won't be able to see this movie even if they want to.

downtownlad said...

So Sloanasaurus - do you have any advice, since you seem to think the answer is so simple?

Sloanasaurus said...

"....Most gay people don't want tolerance. They just want equality before the law. We're quite aware that most people hate us - thank you very much...."

Is this really true though.... Don't gay people want their marriage to be accepted by society in the same way a traditional marriage is? What they really want is the same general reaction from society if they hear that Bob and Bill got divorced that you would get hearing that John and Jane got divorced.

Is it possible to get people (i.e. society) to react to Bob and Bill differently just because of the passage of a law? Or is it more likely that all the change would occur to social treatment of traditional marriage... that people would start treating John and Jane differently over time until eventually the social reaction to John and Jane is no different than the inital reaction to Bob and Bill.

I think it is a worthy point of debate.....

Ann Althouse said...

John in Nashville: You need to listen to Audible Althouse #26 and read the Dames & Moore case.

downtownlad said...

Sloanasaurus - My family has made it very clear to me that they never want to hear about my personal life - let alone meet somebody I'm dating.

I can live with that. I can't change the way they feel - and if they want to be closed-minded, so be it.

But if I meet somebody that I love, I want to be able to marry him. It bothers me much more that the government is preventing me from pursuing happiness than does the fact that my family wants no part of my personal life.

If I could choose between my family accepting me and gay marriage being illegal vs. my family not accpeting me and gay marriage being legal, I would glady take the latter.

chuck b. said...

"Don't gay people want their marriage to be accepted by society in the same way a traditional marriage is?"

Some do, I'm sure. But my boyfriend and I could not care less about this.

We bought a house before California elevated domestic partnership rights and obligations to marriage-like levels, so we paid lawyers about $1k to draft our property ownership agreement, advanced healthcare directives and all the other documents married straight people get for a nominal fee at City Hall. And that Adv. Health Care Directive might not even work in another state. If something happened to one of us in another state, we'd have to call each other's parents. It's idiotic.

I'm a middle-aged man and I pay taxes. I want ALL my 'effin rights! I want my social security money to go where I say it goes. It's my money!

I really don't care what anyone else thinks or feels about my relationship. It's noone's goddamn business.

Sloanasaurus said...

Downtown, my point is that traditional marraige, is a socially engrained tradition. Even if you were "legally" married with a contract from say the state of California, you would not really be married in a traditional sense because society would still treat you differently.

Take adoption as another example: If gays could "marry" in the state of California, but the state also had a policy that heterosexual couples received preference for adoption over a gay couple... couldn't the gay couple sue on the grounds that their marriage was not "real" marriage because of the adoption law? Therefore, to make sure the gay couple had an "equal" marriage there could be no discrimination in the adoption law? Thus, you start using the marriage law to alter other social traditions and preferences...

downtownlad said...

Sloanasaurrus - Actually adtoption is legal for gay people in every state except Florida and Utah. And yes, damn right gay marriage should imply equality when it comes to adoption laws.

I think you are totally mistaken as to why gay people want adoption rights anyway. They want them so that they can adopt their partner's kids.

My friend (gay) adopted a little girl from China. He has been with his partner for over five years and they would like to get married. His partner is in the proceess of adopting the child. That makes sense, no? I mean if anything was to happen to my friend, wouldn't it make sense for his partner to continue raising the kid, since the daughter sees both of them as her parents?

Well if my friend happened to die while they were in Florida - Florida would confiscate the kid and send her to a foster home. Because you know - it would be bad for the kid to continue living with the other partner who had raised her.

Sloanasaurus said...

Chuck B., I agree with you on your point. However, why not push for "civil unions." A civil union would grant all the same legal and contractual rights, but would be clear that "Gay-marriage is "different" from traditional- marriage (with all the social detriments and benefits thereof).

SarahWeddington said...

Does anyone else see the rank hypocrisy on the part of Rich?

He says that the success of Brokeback Mountain proves that society is ready to accept gays and that within 5 yrs gay marriage wil be a reality and that this just shows how intolerant and out of the mainstream the religious right is, etc...

Well, Brokeback I predict, will max out at 50M at most and probably much less than that.

Meanwhile, "The Passion of the Christ", the film that Rich spent the better part of a year bashing, to the point where he write something like 50 consecutive columns on it, made close to 400M domestically and 600M+ worldwide and over 1B when you add in DVDs and ancillary revenue.

But you never saw Rich write a column about how the overwhelming success of the Passion showed how Rich and his NY intelligentsia is out of touch with mainstream society or how they just don't get what the common man does.

If anything, the success of The Passion relative to Brokeback, not to mention the overwhelming success of the marriage initiatives in the 15 or so states they've had them shows that Rich is the one who's out to lunch.

Brokeback is a film that has a niche audience and will appeal to the highbrow, liberal, urban crowd that saw Good Night, Good Luck and other liberal movies.

They say gays make up 2-3% of the population with those with gay feelings or inclinatoins making up another 3-5%. That means there's at least 15-20M Americans that are gay or have had gay thoughts or "experiemented". When you add in the liberal crowd, that's more than enough to make Brokeback a decent success. But it doesn't mean anything as far as some wider statement goes.

Also, the sex in Brokeback is stylized and the gay aspect isn't really focused on that much.

Compare it to how guy/girl love/sex is treated in most movies and it isn't even close. Most of the sex in Brokeback is implied and off screen. They show a kiss and some fooling around, but nothing really controversial.

When they make a movie where Jake and Heath have numerous open mouth kisses, where you see them fondling each other in states of undress, and any of the other things you'd see in your avg hetero love/sex scene or romance, then let me know.

Of course, Brokeback will sweep the Oscars and win Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay. That just means that Hollyowod is pushing the smae liberalism it pushed with the Euthanasia in M$Baby and other awards where it tries to make a statement.

The public is the real bellweather, though. It's the public that made hits out of films like The Passion, LOTR, SpiderMan, Star Wars, Shrek, Jurassic Park, etc... It's always the family friendly and the traditional values friendly films that will do the best at the box ofice.

Mark said...

I think a gay man who is being persued by a heterosexual woman can just say, "I'm not interested," without disclosing his sexual orientation.

If a woman realizes that a man is not interested in dating her, she can just move on, unaware that she was going for a gay man.

Does it really matter what the reason for his lack of interest was?

chuck b. said...

"A civil union would grant all the same legal and contractual rights, but would be clear that "Gay-marriage is "different" from traditional- marriage (with all the social detriments and benefits thereof)."

Clearly be different how?

Sloanasaurus said...

Dowtown, I never implied that adoption by gays was not legal, I am just saying there are preferences in the system and there are prefences in society. An overwhelming majority of society would agree that (apart from any other negative concerns, situations and exceptions) a child as better being rasied by a man and a woman in marriage than two of the same sex. Mostly because this is the definition of the traditional family.

For gay marriage to be equal with traditional marriage, you need to get to the point where an overwhelming majority in society see no difference between a gay couple or traditional couple. How do you get there......

chuck b. said...

"Well, Brokeback I predict, will max out at 50M at most and probably much less than that."


Sarah, you're on record.

I'll say $75M.

Anyone else?

(are we going to define our terms? Theater grosses only? DVD sales?)

Mark said...

Most gay people don't want tolerance. They just want equality before the law.

But a relationship between a man and a woman isn't "equal" to a relationship between two men or two women, just as a relationship between three men and four women (a group relationship) isn't equal to a relationship between a man and a woman.

Two men might really love each other and care for each other. But their relationship is substantively different from that of a man and a woman because of the complimentary nature of the two different sexes.

As for tolerance, I do think a minimum level of tolerance for homosexuals should be insisted upon so that homosexuals aren't routinely beaten up and murdered without fear of prosecution.

But beyond that, who cares?

Mark said...

For gay marriage to be equal with traditional marriage, you need to get to the point where an overwhelming majority in society see no difference between a gay couple or traditional couple. How do you get there......

In Belgium they recognize gay marriage but they don't give gay parents the same rights as heterosexual parents.

So I do think there is a bias that most people have (And this is cross-cultural. You can't blame it all on Jerry Falwell.) that prevents people from wanting to encourage gay parenting. Since many people link parenting with marriage, most Americans oppose gay marriage.

Palladian said...

"But a relationship between a man and a woman isn't "equal" to a relationship between two men or two women, just as a relationship between three men and four women (a group relationship) isn't equal to a relationship between a man and a woman.

Two men might really love each other and care for each other. But their relationship is substantively different from that of a man and a woman because of the complimentary nature of the two different sexes."

You base this theory on, what? All women are "complimentary" to men and vice versa? You're talking out of your ass.

"As for tolerance, I do think a minimum level of tolerance for homosexuals should be insisted upon so that homosexuals aren't routinely beaten up and murdered without fear of prosecution.

But beyond that, who cares?"

Well, I suspect a lot of people care but in your sphere (where the men are men and the women are women) i'm sure they don't matter. May the children you might produce from your superior heterosexual relationship learn empathy (and logic) from someone besides their father.

John in Nashville said...

Ann: Thank you for your citation to Dames & Moore v. Regan. The questions are indeed difficult. One need not engage in detailed analysis, however, to identify where the burden of persuasion lies.

It would be seemly to recognize at a minimum, however, the settled Fourth Amendment principle that a warrantless search is presumptively unreasonable, and the burden of justification is on the government actor who acts without a warrant. The President's ipse dixit is hardly sufficient in that regard.

In that Congress has (at least ostensibly) codified the warrant requirement in regard to the electronic interceptions at issue, this falls in the third of Justice Jackson's Youngstown Sheet & Tube categories: "[W]hen the President acts in contravention of the will of Congress, 'his power is at its lowest ebb,' and the Court can sustain his actions 'only be disabling the Congress from acting upon the subject.'" Dames & Moore v. Regen, 453 U.S. 654, 669 (1981), quoting Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579, 637-38 (1952).

The burden of persuasion matters. In that regard, the instant silence of intelligent commentators, who often support the President, on a matter which may well portend a constitutional crisis is significant.

lindsey said...

"For gay marriage to be equal with traditional marriage, you need to get to the point where an overwhelming majority in society see no difference between a gay couple or traditional couple. How do you get there......"

In other words, you need to get the majority of people to agree that the emperor's new clothes are quite fine. You need to get everyone to agree to the lie that a same sex couple is the same as an opposite sex couple even though they obviously are not. In other words, your "equality" rests upon society mutually agreeing to a lie.

lindsey said...

"You base this theory on, what? All women are "complimentary" to men and vice versa? You're talking out of your ass."

Palladian, psssst, it takes a man and a woman to make a baby. Their genitalia are designed to "fit" together. They literally compliment one another; whereas, two men or two women don't "fit" together. This is very basic and obvious to most people.

Aspasia M. said...

In reference to the earlier conversations on this thread:

I think it's ridiculous for the marriage laws to be unequal. And I think that kind of legal inequality encourages people to marry individuals who they do not love.

I've never understood what people are about who insist that same-sex love cannot or should not exist. Why would they push people to marry someone who he or she does not love? It must be hell for both partners. I haven't seen the movie, but it sounds like Brokeback Mountain explores these ideas.


This thread has been debating the "political" versus "artistic" nature of the movie. There's a difference between art infused with concerns about power and society (the wider definition of what is "political") and propaganda. For example, I could argue that Ralph Ellison's _The Invisible Man_ deals with the political theme of race relations. However, it is a fantastic work of art.

Palladian said...

"Palladian, psssst, it takes a man and a woman to make a baby."

Who said anything about making babies, lindsey? Is that the sole basis of marriage?

"Their genitalia are designed to "fit" together. They literally compliment one another; whereas, two men or two women don't "fit" together. This is very basic and obvious to most people."

Gross! Geez, all you straight people can think about is sex, sex, sex. Here we are having a conversation about love and art and all you can think to add is some base, puerile and off-putting remarks about genitalia "fitting" together, as if it were some sort of dirty Lego set. Pull your mind out of the gutter and talk about love and art with us. If I were to explain to you all the wonderful places that various biological parts fit, in boys and girls and boys and boys and girls and girls, it would only cheapen the converation, the sanctity and mystery of sex, and possibly irritate our host.

What do you have to say about the movie? Have you seen it? I thought everyone was smashing.

No one has mentioned Ang Lee's earlier film "The Wedding Banquet", about a mixed race gay couple, one of whom is forced to enter into a sham marriage with a girl in order to placate his elderly Chinese parents, and the hilarity and disaster than ensues. Not as good as "Brokeback Mountain", and quite a different genre (with a fair bit of comedy), but still a sensitive treatment of the same issues in a very different context.

Finn Kristiansen said...

Critical Observer said:

If liberals are going to make pie-in-the-sky liberal propaganda, I wish they would stick to Palestinians and Jews singing and dancing in the Gaza or promoting interracial sex amongst teenagers.


I responded saying,"Is it because interracial sex is bad? Or because sex among teenagers is bad? Or because...?

Cause I was confused, hence the "or because...?" at how interracial sex among teenagers amounts to liberal pie in the sky propaganda. Clearly "pie in the sky propaganda" is not a good thing in your eyes, and you are certainly not implying that interracial sex among teens is swell. Your words-however confused- speak for themselves.

Then,

Critical Observer said:

Finn: I never said interracial sex was bad or that peace in the Middle East was bad. I literally said that Hollywood should promote those two things rather than make up lies about nonexistent gay cowboys.

You people might try responding to what I actually said.


Well, actually, what you literally said was that liberals should stick to propaganda like "Palestinians and Jews singing and dancing in the Gaza or promoting interracial sex amongst teenagers."

So, are you saying that interracial teen sex (aka. liberal propaganda) is good then?

Or just what are you saying? Or is it too dark up in that hole upon which you sit, and from where you pull your deepest, most critical thoughts?

And how would you know that there are no gay cowboys, like ever? I am no fan of the film, (though I can recognize Lee's skill and solid acting) and am exceedingly conservative, but some of your comments just don't make for real critical analysis. And the irrelevant interracial comment was just out of, like, yer derriere, which is funny, given the topic.

AJ Lynch said...

"Too bad it will be hard for you to read the whole thing."

Actually,Ann , I 'd like to thank you for putting any obstacle between me and a Frank Rich article.

wildaboutharrie said...

Some straight people here seem awfully preoccupied with the idea of gay men and (giggle giggle) anal sex, I've noticed. Rather teenage.

downtownlad said...

I've learned a lot in this thread. The reason for gay marriage is love. The reason for straight marriage is sex.

Both gays and straights raise children last time I checked.

al said...

Isn't this kind of a cowboy themed
Making Love
? I made the mistake of seeing that movie a long time ago. Alternated between funny and gross. I can imagine the same reaction by the majority of peope to this movie.

Meade said...

"Gross! Geez, all you straight people can think about is sex, sex, sex."

Seems a bit unfair to those of us straight people who've contributed to this discussion comments about love, art, and culture and have not made one childish remark about genitalia or biology.

Palladian said...

Meade: It was absurdist sarcasm, directed at a specific person. I harbor no general animus towards heterosexuals. I actually tend not to think of gay and straight as totalizing identities but rather states of being, but for the purpose of argument I have to accept that that is how many people see things, so I adopt the formulation.

Hey, most of my best friends are straight! Usually!

Finn Kristiansen said...

wildaboutharrie said...
Some straight people here seem awfully preoccupied with the idea of gay men and (giggle giggle) anal sex, I've noticed. Rather teenage.


Maybe because anal sex, whether done by gay or straights, can hurt if not done right? (Though I know a person who likes it with a little pain).

Or that penises were not really designed to go in the anus, and can create anal tears, among other things.

It's the anal, not the "love" that makes straights go "hmmmm", regarding gay male relationships.

But way to trivialize people and make them sound silly.

wildaboutharrie said...

"And the irrelevant interracial comment was just out of, like, yer derriere, which is funny, given the topic."

That's what I was responding to, Finn. "Gay male" and "anal sex" aren't synonymous. Teen boys often seem to think so, but they're young ignorant. I'd expect more from grownups.

Aspasia M. said...

wildaboutharrie said...

"Some straight people here seem awfully preoccupied with the idea of gay men and (giggle giggle) anal sex, I've noticed. Rather teenage."

Then Finn Kristiansen said:

"Maybe because anal sex, whether done by gay or straights, can hurt if not done right?"

Ok, so we're back to the dirty logo set level of discussion. I really shouldn't have to say the obvious - but vaginal sex hurts if it's "not done right."

Palladian said...

"It's the anal, not the "love" that makes straights go "hmmmm", regarding gay male relationships."

You do realize that not all gay male relationships invole anal sex, right? And that quite a few heterosexual relationships do? Just making sure. I know that a lot of men can't imagine what else a relationship, gay or straight, could possibly involve besides sex, but there are other things.

Anyway, in my experience, it's absolutely the love part that most upsets people disposed to get upset over such things. The fascination (read obsession) with the sexual aspects of gay relationships is often the result of simple prurient interest (coupled with a latent desire in some cases). But it's the idea of two men sharing non-sexual intimacy that anti-gay people (and even gay-agnostics) can't handle.

I've known quite a few ostensibly straight guys who would engage in sexual acts with other men, but they'd rather have jumped out the window than kissed or caressed the person they were having sex with. It is sometimes shocking how men can completely divorce intimacy from sex, whether in gay or non-gay situations. I think it's a very complicated combination of cultural, instinctual and psychological factors.

amba said...

Reading what Palladian says: what makes me want to see this movie is my second-hand understanding that in it two people fall in love, both of whom happen to be men. Because they are both men, it is the last thing they expect or even want, it takes them completely by surprise, and because there are no cultural scripts for it -- neither the well-worn scripts of heterosexual love nor the getting-well-worn scripts of urban gay love -- I imagine it has a purity and a helpless intensity that is the essence of love but that is often made a bit dimmer, a bit safer, by our quick resort to those stereotyped scripts. If all kinds of people are loving this movie, being moved by it, that may be why.

David N. Scott said...

Probably too late on this one, but my wife and I experiment reasonably often with 'the other orifice'. Not entirely a gay thing...

37383938393839383938383 said...

I thought vaginal sex hurts if it's done right. Maybe that's just me.

37383938393839383938383 said...

I fail to see how this movie is part of the "gay agenda" considering that it was written by a straight female.

Actually, if it had been a "gay agenda" movie written by a gay person to express a fictionalized idealization of what his/her experience of his/her relationships had been like, or by anyone who had done research on actual gay relationships to express similar sentiment, that would be art. I wouldn't go see it, but it would be art. My point was that this, written by a straight radical feminist, conjured up out of thin air and rewritten by Larry McMurty so that it resembles a credibly masculine cowboy yarn, has the whiff of being written by a radical feminist to attack "masculinity." I never said the movie was a part of the "gay agenda"; I said it was propaganda. A pro-gay agenda movie, at least, would be honest and authentic.

37383938393839383938383 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
37383938393839383938383 said...

though I can recognize Lee's skill

Lee sucked at Hulk. What skill? At hackery?

And if interracial relationships are "irrelevant" to gay ones, why don't you tell all the gay activists who think differently to stop associating the two in their public advocacy?

Why are you so dense? I said that liberal propagandists should focus on peace in the Middle East or interracial sex instead of gay cowboys. How is that hard to decipher? It's a straightforward statement.

37383938393839383938383 said...

And how would you know that there are no gay cowboys, like ever?

I'm sure there were some. But Annie Proulx didn't do any research on any of them or interview any of them before she made up her propagandistic fable. She wrote it for ideological reasons, not to express some higher truth.

37383938393839383938383 said...

Yes, and the screenplay was adapted by Larry McMurtry and a woman who is certainly not a gay man. The actors aren't gay. The director's not gay. Who's gay agenda is this anyway?

Sounds like inauthentic hackwork to me. Ahem.

37383938393839383938383 said...

Clearly "pie in the sky propaganda" is not a good thing in your eyes,

No, it's a description. If something is pise-in-the-sky, it means it is unrealistic/not-rooted-in-reality. It never said interracial sex is bad; that simply doesn't logically follow from what I said. (Perhaps that is what you think.)

AlaskaJack said...

Kudos to Palladian. In his brief response to to Lindsay he was able to commit at least two logical fallacies. Next time, why not go for three?

Kevin said...

Per Box Office Mojo, in a post today:

In limited release, Brokeback Mountain saw another stampede of moviegoers in its second weekend, while there was no springtime for The Producers in its debut.

Focus Features' cowboy love story lassoed $2.5 million from 69 locations, averaging a potent $36,354 per site, raising the total to $3.5 million in 10 days.

Among Brokeback Mountain's encouraging numbers, Foley noted two theaters in conservative markets that Focus used as an experiment for the picture's crossover appeal: the AMC Yorktown 18 near Chicago and the Cinemark Legacy 24 in Plano, Texas—"one of the biggest grossing theaters in the nation for The Passion of the Christ," explained Foley. Brokeback Mountain ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in the complexes, respectively. "[The movie] is playing to the smart set as well as the boomer set, the senior set and the gay community," Foley said.

David Manus said...

Im just sick of having gay sexuality, or any sexuality, shoved down my throat.

My personal backlash against gay activists and movies like this is the 'in your face', intentional use of extreme images and political positions and daring 'straight' people to be offended. I'd be offended by a frank depiction of hetero anal sex or 'deep-throating' french kissing in a mainstream movie. There are some boundries of taste and propriety that still bother me when they are blared from the rooftops.

Not to mention, where is the responsible 'safe-sex' message? There is a hypocritical double-standard in practically everything the 'liberal/gay/abortionist/pacifist' lobby prates about now a days, mostly the fact its ok to bash and badmouth religion and religious people and the total demonization of anyone who criticizes gay (or other liberal) behaviours and causes.

tjl said...

It's puzzling that so many of the above commenters are prepared to analyze the content of the movie without having taken the trouble to actually see it.
Having seen the movie twice, I can safely say that it is no political tract. The movie simply shows the lives of two men, and the lives of others touched by them. A viewer moved by the tragic outcome may draw certain conclusions, but they are not forced on you. My own opinion is that the availability of gay marriage would have made no difference to Ennis and Jack because they were not part of the urban gay world where such things matter. Otherwise, Jack could have solved his frustrations by hopping in his truck, driving into Dallas, and hitting the bars (which were readily accessible by 1983 when the story ends).
The commenter who comes closest to putting her finger on the essence of this movie is "Amba," who felt that Ennis and Jack's love had a "purity and helpless intensity" because they found themselves in a situation for which they had no accepted script.

Meade said...

tjl: check out amba's blog, she's puts her finger on the essence of quite a few things.

tjl said...

Meade: sorry about that "essence" phrase. It was too early in the morning for clarity.

amba said...

Thanks M. A cheering thing to see from my dial-up isolation cell and dwindling blog . . . :(

yekattterina said...

palladian:

about sexual practices, the fact is, the gay male population has higher rates of HIV, hepatitis, shighellosis, bowel disease,and anal cancers, due to the practice of anal penetration as a normal sex practice. straights practice this, but it's deviant.

but you are right, it's "the love part that most upsets people disposed to get upset over such things."

heterosexuality represents equality between men and women. in fact, i'd say it's one area where women are superior to men, and can control them.

look at the periods of history where homosexuality (greece, samurai japan) was encouraged. they had wahhabite, misogynist attitudes towards women.

i think it's that part that turns gay men off the most about heterosexuality.

i saw brokeback and thought it was pretty good but had a streak of melodrama. the female characters were not adequatly fleshed out, IMO.

MCH said...

Wow, I am always so late to these things. My partner linked here.

I've seen the movie, it is okay.

Got that, I'm gay, the movie is just okay.

Got that, I'm gay, I read Ann Althouse.

Prometheus said...

But in fact, I do happen to think the cultural and political issues surrounding sexual orientation are more important than the silly allegation that the President deserves to be impeached for approving the emergency monitoring of incoming phone calls from al Qaeda members overseas without first getting a warrant.

Here Ann is assuming facts not in evidence. The fact is the unwarranted monitoring is now being reported to be more invasive than was originally reported. Who knows what that means? – political adversaries maybe. Also, why haven’t we gotten a straight answer on why W circumvented the FISA court in the first place? The time constraint dog doesn’t seem to hunt. Anyway, I guess we will see what is silly in January when Congress either takes the issue up or doesn’t. I've heard a lot more compelling legal authorities that Ann take up an opposing position.

chuck b. said...

From the January 27, 2006 Wall Street Journal, page W6:

"Brokeback Mountain is poised to be not just one of the most praised films of the 2005 Oscar season--it will become one of the most profitable movies of the year, and a mainstream one at that...

Brokeback [Mountain], which expanded into 1,196 theaters last weekend and has now grossed $43.8 million at the box office, is filling seats across the country...

Brokeback [Mountain] is "doing quite well," says Debby Brehn, vice president of Douglas Theaters in Lincoln, Neb., where Brokeback ticket sales are running 3-to-1 against those for Munich since Brokeback opened Jan 6. "I woudn't say people are not seeing it because of its homosexual content," she says.


Still going...

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