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Home Defense in the U.K. | Main | It's The Moonbat "Gone With The Wind"
December 14, 2005

Brokeback Mountain And Tribal Signifiers

Stephen writes:

I am a gay man who lives in Chelsea, New York and went opening night to see the film. The film, like all Ang Lee films, is beautiful to look at. The scenery is magnificent. In fact, I was overwhelmed by the mountains and rivers and outdoors scenes. The movie itself was slow and tedious and boring for long periods of time. Michelle Williams, who plays the wife of the "quiet" gay man is particularly heartbreaking, but her performance alone does not make up for the film's slowness. There is no cathartic emotional moment in the film. And, there are too many false endings, or moments where the movie should have ended. I told my friend immediately after the film that the critics were overrating this film - no doubt because their liberal, left-leaning sensibilities (remember the reviews for the Passion) lead them to this conclusion. The movie is a gay man's Woody Allen film - elite critics love it; masses don't get it.

What struck me here was the comparison to Woody Allen-- I was going to mention that myself.

Anyone who's truly honest with themselves has to admit that Woody Allen stopped being funny shortly after Annie Hall, and stopped making watchable movies shortly after Hannah and Her Sisters. (He somehow managed to make a good, funny movie, Manhattan Murder Mystery, years later, but that's an aberration.)

If you're dishonest with yourself, you can still continue to see Woody Allen movies and pretend you're entertained.

I suffered through Woody Allen Cognitive Disonance through the Purple Rose of Cairo and Zelig days. "Four stars!" the critics raved. And I saw them, and I agreed... kinda. I looked for the good in them and thought, "Well, those weren't so terrible," while actually I had not enjoyed those movies at all.

I broke with the Woodman during Shadows and Fog. I was anticipating it-- a new Woody Allen movie -- and I found myself giving charity laughs through the early going. Or recognition laughs-- I was pretending to laugh to signify I had understood his 681st reference to Leopold and Loeb. And I noticed the other members of the audience were doing the same.

We were all pretending the enjoy the movie so that everyone else in the theater would recognize that we were the sort of enlightened folks who would enjoy a Woody Allen movie.

But none of us actually were.

I'm not so sure Stephen is right about the critics loving these movies and the masses not getting them. I don't think the critics, by and large, actually do love these movies. They're just like those poor, bored moviegoers watching Shadows and Fog trying to convince themselves, and everyone within earshot, that they have the intellect and taste to like these movies.

Is Brokeback Mountain good? Well, I don't know. I haven't seen it. I've seen Ang Lee's last couple of movies (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hulk) and was distinctly underwhelmed. I suspect it's an all right movie, but that it is being praised far beyond its actual merits. Both because earnest liberal movie critics want desperately for this movie to make money so that less movies like Stealth are made (as to Stealth, I couldn't be more in agreement, by the way), because it reaffirms and communicates their own cultural values, and also because praising it marks them, in the minds of their fellows, as good people with exquisite taste.

Fashion says something about you as a person. Even if you dress like a schlub, it says "I don't care about fashion." People make statements about themselves, or who they'd like to be, or be seen as, with their cultural/consumer/fashion choices.

Brokeback Mountain, for this season at least, is the new black.

But the critics are going to find it hard to push Brokeback into hit-territory, because people simply don't believe them. People know critics grade this sort of "important," "message" movie on a rather dramatic curve, and discount their recommendations accordingly.

More Saint Sullivan of the Sacred Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name:

BOONDOCKS AND BROKEBACK: A pretty funny series. Keep clicking through the week's strips. Mickey isn't the only straight guy uncomfortable with gay men expressing love.

I think I'll skip this particular critics' recommendation as to the "funny" Boondocks, too.

Let's fess up: Straight guys are "uncomfortable with gay men expressing love." I know I am. Not in the abstract; I could give a fig if two guys are in love. More power to them. But yes, witnessing male-on-male intimacy is never really comfortable for most straight men. We're hard-wired to be averse to that.

I don't mean to say it's objectively disgusting. Some might say that; I don't. I mean to say that there is, in most straight men, a response to it that makes it subjectively off-putting. Not to get graphic, but there are certain kinks people have that others find subjectively nasty or cringey or uncomfortable, but they wouldn't say it's objectively, universally, inherently disgusting. It is just not for them-- not to partake in, not to watch.

This is where the harder-core of the gay movement separates from the more realistic wing. Andrew Sullivan seeks, ultimately, for the inherent, biological response in some men to find gay intimacy pretty weird -- possibly an irrational response, possibly a rational one, possibly an evolutionary one, but real nonetheless -- to be extirpated. He won't truly be free, he imagines, until a straight guy is just as comfortable with a male-on-male sex scene as a male-on-female.

That's just not going to happen, Andy. You're just setting yourself up for further "heart-ache." The more realistic goal is for gay sexuality to be embraced by society... in the abstract. Not in the tangible or concrete.

Does that mean that Andrew Sullivan will never be completely free as a heterosexual? Unfortunately, it does, and I'm not saying that's a good thing. But that's the way it is, and it will always be that way.

It's not that most straight guys dislike gay guys, or disapprove of them, or find them immoral perverts, or such. (Although, yes, there are plenty of those as well.) It's just that -- well, some people are just really put off by the idea of certain kinds of sexual behavior, and gay sex is one of the biggies. It bothers me not one whit to know that a gay friend just hooked up. * (Except, of course, as regards the safety aspect of it.) But I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to be there when it all goes down, either.

Society can do more to welcome gays. But rewiring the basic psychosexual circuitry of the heterosexual male brain is not among them, and Andrew Sullivan is asking for an awful lot when he demands that in order to make him fully free.

AllahPundit tipped me to that, and also offers the following predictions:

1. Identifying straight men who show any distaste for BM at all will become a running theme on his blog over the next few weeks.

2. His own review of the film will consist largely of rapturous, almost
lyrical, praise.

Way to go out on a limb there, buddy.

* My closest gay friend actually brags about his conquests, though. Which I find amusing, not because he's hooking up with guys, but because he's boasting about it. "Dude," I always have to tell him, "it's a guy you're talking about."

"But he was hot," my friend parries.

"A hot guy," I riposte.

It's like bragging that an ATM just gave you $60, no questions asked.

Now, maybe gays aren't as promiscuous as some claim, but there's little doubt that men are, let us say, less discriminating in this regard than women are.

"Herd Mentality," from the Washington Post: Allah, The Obsessive One (But I Likes It), tips to this bit from the WaPo:

Then a herd mentality started to sink in, like a gay church praying at the altar of "Brokeback Mountain." There's a countdown on Gay.com ("It's finally here!"), E-vites are landing in in-boxes ("Let's watch it together!"), and blogs are keeping tabs on the film's awards, including yesterday's seven Golden Globe nominations -- the most of any film this year. The message is: If you're a self-respecting homosexual, you had better get in line -- as so many did this past weekend....

"This is our gay 'Gone With the Wind,' " says Neil G. Giuliano....

Dude? Let's be honest: There already is a "Gay Gone with the Wind." It's called Gone with the Wind.

Next thing you know they'll say it's the "Gay Wizard of Oz."

I don't think there's anything at all wrong with trying to give cash-money support to the sort of movie you'd like to see more of. But, yeah, given all this painfully obvious desire for this film to succeed, it kinda makes me doubt the objectivity of critics and Golden Globe voters.

And, as much as I understand gays' desire to make this film successful, I hope Andrew Sullivan can understand that I don't quite share that desire as passionately as he does.


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posted by Ace at 06:19 PM

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