First let me say that I think “Bareback Mountain” would be an excellent name for a gay porno film, and I’d be totally surprised if someone hasn’t used it by now. Back to the column …
I haven’t seen “Brokeback Mountain,” and I don’t plan on doing so. It’s not because I hate Ang Lee or fear gay cowboys. It’s just that the film doesn’t look like it does anything new for me. I’ve watched indie films for far too long to think gay cowboys is new ground. If you watch indie films, you’ve seen movies that center around gay characters. If you’ve read history, you know that cowboys engaged in plenty of homosexual activity. The only thing “shocking” about the movie is that it got people upset. That’s what I’m interested in.
Why did this film cause so much controversy? Is it because mainstream America is shocked by the notion of gay cowboys? I think that could very well be part of the problem. After all, how well versed in history are we as a nation? Bingo. One other reason, which seems a little more likely to me when it comes to the males, could be because of repressed homosexuality and the fear of being thought of as queer.
I’ve had more than one guy say to me that even if he wanted to see the movie he wouldn’t because he was afraid of what his friends would say. It appears that some people think that seeing a movie with gay characters in it will make them gay … or at least cause people to think they are gay. Oddly enough, one of the guys who said this to me confessed to loving porn where two women go at. Apparently “deviant” sexual orientation is okay as long as the genitalia doesn’t match your own.
I’m writing this column as a heterosexual guy without any apparent sexual hang-ups. I say that so you know where I stand. Gay people don’t scare me. They don’t repulse me. And they sure as hell don’t offend me. I know that there are gay athletes. There were gay cowboys. There were gay Nazis. Greeks took homosexuality to whole new levels, as do some Middle Eastern cultures. Hell, there are even gay skinheads. Homosexuality is not new, it is not strange. It is also not going away. So why the fear and backlash over a movie?
Easy. Men are cowards. They are also more confused and uptight than they should be.
The American male has undergone decades of social engineering by various forces in society, which has had some adverse side-effects on men. In this culture, many males have to try to “own” their masculine side … especially in front of their male friends. Society has told males that acting like a “man” in public is not always wise or welcome. Because of this, males, in their private moments with friends, act more “manly.” Shared showers at the gym, wrestling, other sporting events, hanging out with the guys and putting down the opposite sex (which is reminiscent of the old adage that men are for loving and women are for breeding), using stimulants to allow to you to express your emotions when with the guys, and so on. These are all things that have homosexual elements to them, and they are all the typical behavior of a repressed male trying to prove his manhood in a society that frowns upon that sort of thing.
I find it odd that the most homophobic men I know are also the ones who enjoy the company of men over women (who seem to exist solely for reasons of objectification and mockery). They don’t find their behavior as strange as I do, and if I suggest that they may prefer penis to vagina … well, they are ready to fight.
So along comes a little movie that would elicit no negative reaction in a mature society, and people go ballistic. Theatres won’t show it. It becomes mocked. Audiences yell “fags” during the trailer, proving that when it comes to entertainment and art, it seems that society can deal with male homosexuality in only one of two ways: it can be used for comedy (witness “Will and Grace,” which takes the edge off any serious issues) or as dysfunctional (Buffalo Bill from “The Silence of the Lambs,” who had gender issues). Dealing with it seriously, especially in the context of something like “Brokeback Mountain,” isn’t something that is done without an uproar from all the usual suspects.
We don’t know history, and we don’t let our men be real men who have real feelings — be they violent thoughts, feelings of inadequacy or homosexuality. It may no longer be acceptable for men to be emotionally distant or violent no matter the reason (other than alcohol-fueled violence against someone they aren’t related to), but they also cannot feel comfortable with their sexuality when it differs from the heterosexual standards. (Something similar has happened to women, too, but in almost the opposite way.) They can only have certain “acceptable” feelings, and have to suppress others lest society labels them “weak.” When confronted with a film that depicts homosexuality at the very core of our culture (i.e., the cowboy has always been seen as the “rugged individual” — the symbolic epitome of American culture), we get scared. Could this be true? Were the men in white hats really buggering each other out on those lonely plains? If that’s true, what other cultural myths are set to be shattered? It eats away at the foundation of what makes Americans American, and that never sits well.
Face it, there is a large group of men and women who will never accept that homosexuality is anything but an aberrant behavior done by people who should know better. They will never accept that history is full of it, and when a movie challenges their beliefs, they will rebel. It won’t matter if some of these people have latent homosexual tendencies. They won’t see it that way. Society won’t allow them to, and they wonÕt allow themselves to, either. To them I say: Seeing a movie with gay characters won’t make you gay any more than seeing a movie about cancer will give you cancer. If your friends think you’re gay because you see a movie about gay cowboys, then your friends are idiots and you donÕt need them. Gay cowboys existed. They aren’t something dreamt up by Hollywood. If you were a real man, you’d feel comfortable in your own skin, and you wouldn’t need to react so negatively to a film you may really want to see. If you want to see it, see it, and don’t let anyone stand in your way. Embrace who you are. You can be one hundred percent hetero and still enjoy the movie. It is possible, believe it or not. Don’t let the fact that society has made the average man a total mess of repressed emotions and false notions of what it means to be male deter you. Be strong and don’t follow the herd. Be that rugged individual and do what the hell you want. Just like those gay cowboys of the past.
Man or mouse? You choose. But when you scream “fags” at the screen you aren’t really fooling anyone … except yourself.
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Posted on March 16, 2006 in Features by Doug Brunell
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