"Brokeback Mountain" - Sexual Confusion and Friendship's End
- Thursday, December 15, 2005
Nominations for the 63rd annual Golden Globe Awards were announced earlier this month, and the movie identified as a "cowboy romance" has taken the lead with seven nominations.
"Brokeback Mountain," starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as two cowboys linked in a homosexual romance, has been nominated for Best Motion Picture Drama, Best Actor in a Drama, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Score and Best Song. Already, critics are predicting that "Brokeback Mountain" is the leading candidate to be chosen as Best Picture at the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony.
Directed by Ang Lee, "Brokeback Mountain" is based on a short story of the same title by author Annie Proulx. The story is quite graphic, depicting an unexpected homosexual romance between two cowboys who find themselves alone in a tent. As the story unfolds, the homosexual relationship is continued even as the two men get married and establish families. The story – and the movie – includes explicit sex and depicts the hurt and turmoil experienced by the families of these two men as they periodically take what are described as "fishing trips in which there is no fishing." Nevertheless, the movie presents the homosexual romance as a relationship to be admired – insinuating that if our society could be freed of its hang-ups about homosexuality, these two could have gone on to live together happily ever after.
The movie opened in only three cities across the nation (on its initial release date), and it is not expected to be a big winner at the box office. But as an indicator of where Hollywood thinks the culture should be headed, "Brokeback Mountain" is one of the most celebrated movies among Hollywood critics, the media, and the cultural elites.
In one sense, the real significance of "Brokeback Mountain" doesn't have anything to do with cinematography. Instead, it has everything to do with our culture and the breakdown of sexual order. "Brokeback Mountain" represents something new in mainstream America – a celebration of homosexual romance on the big screen. The very fact that this movie stars two relatively well established young actors and has drawn the fawning attention of Hollywood critics indicates that something very serious is afoot. It really will not matter that most Americans are not likely to see this film. Now that this cultural barrier has been broken down, depictions of similar relationships and romances are sure to filter down into popular entertainment – and quickly.
Anthony Esolen, Professor of English at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, warns that this breakdown of the natural sexual order has led to the death of friendship – particularly to the death of male friendships.
In "A Requiem for Friendship: Why Boys Will Not Be Boys and Other Consequences of the Sexual Revolution," published in the September 2005 issue of Touchstone magazine, Esolen begins by reminding readers of a scene from J. R. R. Tolkien's great work, "The Lord of the Rings." Sam Gamgee, having followed his master Frodo into Mordor, the realm of death, finds him in a small filthy cell lying half-conscious. "Frodo! Mr. Frodo, my dear!" Sam cries. "It's Sam, I've come!" Frodo embraces his friend and Sam eventually cradles Frodo's head. As Esolen suggests, a reader or viewer of this scene is likely to jump to a rather perverse conclusion: "What, are they gay?"
Esolen suggests that this question is an "ignorant but inevitable response" to the context. He goes on to recall that Shakespeare and many other great authors spoke of non-sexual love between men in strongest terms. Similarly, when David is told of the death of his friend Jonathan, he cries: "Your love to me was finer than the love of women."
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