The Moral Lessons of Brokeback Mountain
Even before they had seen the movie, exgay network Exodus and its prime benefactor Focus on the Family feared that Brokeback Mountain might prompt conservative Christians to rethink how they treat homosexual family members. And upon rethinking their own role in the homosexual problem, Christian movie viewers might realize that the culture-war tactics of Exodus and James Dobson are self-serving, sinful, counterproductive, and sometimes dishonest.
Whatever the intent of its makers, the movie is neither liberal nor revolutionary — unlike an Oliver Stone or Michael Moore flick, it does not beat the viewer over the head with some dumb Hollywood agenda. The movie does not glamorize sex: The main characters are not supermodels, there is no explicit sex, and the one implied sex scene looks rather painful. The movie does not prefer homosexual love over heterosexual marriage; it weighs the two and exposes the very hard struggles of both.
The film does contain heroes — but they are not the main characters.
Ennis and Jack are deeply and perhaps fatally flawed; the real heroes are the wives, children and a short-changed foreman played by Randy Quaid. In the showing that I recently attended in liberal Bethesda, Maryland, the audience was aghast at an onscreen wife’s plight when she discovers the main characters in a romantic embrace. Earlier, when the cowboys neglect their duties, sheep die and an annoyed foreman must take harsh action to protect his business. Here again, the audience must confront the irresponsibility of the main characters — and the rational reaction of their employer.
Many reviewers have said that Brokeback Mountain might teach mainstream America that two men can really love one another. But this is just one of many points made by the film, and in several respects the film paints an unflattering portrait — not of same-sex-attracted men in particular, but of men who recklessly pursue their passions — and men who conceal their feelings from people who have a compelling need to know. Decades ago, much of American society rejected the Marlboro Man myth as cancerous, racist, and inhuman — a twisted caricature of masculinity that damaged families when misguided men actually tried to emulate the myth. This movie reminds us of those days gone by — and points to the unhealthy myths that some social conservatives now wish to impose upon the real world.
While some liberals might blame societal hate for any of the movie protagonists’ dysfunctions, the film does not join in this buck-passing. The reactions of the cowboys’ peers to the relationship is often hostile, but sometimes that hostility is not only sensible, but perhaps even a bit too polite.
Yes, Jack and Ennis truly loved one another. But some things in life are just as important as love — maybe more important. One of Ennis’s central character flaws is social paralysis — an inability to choose in timely fashion among life’s competing opportunities, responsibilities, and consequences. Jack’s key flaw stands in contrast: A dangerous failure to weigh the consequence of choosing love over all else.
The movie does not glamorize these flaws — it lays them bare in the pain of the spouses, the losses suffered by the foreman, and the characters’ own fate.
When movies practice great restraint in their message, as Brokeback Mountain does, then audiences may disagree on what the “moral of the story” was. Here are the moral lessons that I drew from the film:
(I have made italicized changes in response to comments.)
1. If you are (predominantly) same-sex-attracted, don’t marry the opposite gender.
2. If you are married, don’t commit adultery.
3. It is not somehow worse for gay men to give up and divorce their spouses, than it is for philandering heterosexual spouses to give up and do likewise. But divorce should not be taken lightly — and this movie recognizes that divorce does not fix deep-rooted problems, whatever the orientation of the partners.
4. Don’t waste your life waiting to make key choices. If you do, others acting in their own interest will make your choices for you.
5. Don’t make major decisions carelessly.
6. Avoid keeping secrets. That secrecy harms others.
7. Avoid people and communities whose own hypocrisies might prompt them to harm you for being honest.
I have yet to see BBM, but the word that best describes what I am hearing from those who have is “honest”. If it is a genuine portrayal of a slice of life, regardless of the story through which it is told, I would expect a wide range of responses. As far as movies go, this one seems to have a lot to recommend it. I’m quite (pleasantly) surprised.
Wow, what a great post. You have summed this up very well and made a great msummary of the real message.
Sorry, I don’t agree with several of your last seven points.
People make compromises in life all the time. As long as both parties go into a relationship knowing what might happen, who are you, or I or a third party to say that they shouldn’t
Regarding (1), what if the person is bisexual? Why shouldn’t a bisexual person marry someone of the opposite gender. I’ll admit that the bisex person should inform his (or her) marriage partner of his (or her) bisexuality so that he (or she) can make an informed decision as to whether they should get married, but that is something of an orthogonal issue.
Regarding (2), if, by “adultery” you mean “elicit extra-marital sex,” I would agree. On the other hand, if, by “adultery,” you mean any sex outside of marriage, even if it is known by the spouse that such things are going on, I would disagree.
Regarding (3), I haven’t seen the Brokeback Mountain movie (or yet read the story, which is available on-line), but I wouldn’t take the opinions of a fiction writer too seriously. The theme might be interesting for a short story, but that’s about it. It might be a nice story, and Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was an interesting Ninja movie, so I’ll be waiting for the DVD. It is probably a mistake to read to much into this.
I’ll skip down to (6). It depends on the secret. If the secret in fact might harm others, you would have a point. Many secrets do not harm others. Desperate Housewives notwithstanding.
Regarding (7), many people have their little hypocrises. They say one thing and act in a different way. It depends on the importance of the hypocricies. I don’t know where or when you were raised, but I was raised in a suburb of Cincinnati in the 1950s and 1960s, of parents who came from the South (Virginia and Georgia). I was often regailed with the aphorism “do what I say, not what I do.” In other words, they would tell us kids what to do, and then they themselves would do the complete opposite.
1. Good point. I’ve added “predominantly.” But if if a bisexual is predominantly attracted to one gender, I still doubt they should marry someone of the other gender. That’s a recipe for pain and suffering for both spouses.
2. I meant betrayal. I don’t consider extramarital sex “adultery” if the marital partners have both agreed to it and the marital contract allowed for it. Though that may change. Until now, marriage has been defined largely by individual states and couples. But the religious right’s effort to bureaucratize and control marriage for everyone else is gaining ground.
3. The movie didn’t actually compare various reasons for divorce. I simply disagree with social conservatives who say gay men should stay married to their wives but who have no problem with heterosexual men obtaining divorces.
Is there really any gain in ground in bureaucratizing marriage? The Federal Marriage Amendment is not going anywhere at this point. States still decide marriage, even if the state amendments all seem to same.
DOMA was the last real bureacratizing of marriage, and that is what has stopped a federal constitutional amendment (for now). If that is “gaining ground” for the religous right, then gays are benefiting from this aspect, for now.
I read the story, and saw the movie.
I don’t disagree with the lessons numbered here.
I do think, and I know this happened to a good friend of mine in Ennis’ same position:
Ennis’s social paralysis was brought on by witnessing a brutal and torturous murder of a man like himself.
My friend, witnessed the destruction of gay friend’s careers and marriages because of outing.
Blackmail is a powerful weapon when someone knows your secret, whether you’re married or not.
And, the hideous murder of Billy Jack Gaithers had occurred nearby around the time I met my friend, and he knew his family would not only dump him, but financially blackmail him as well.
He was only 24.
Suffering from high blood pressure and yo yo weight loss and gain.
My friend married a girl he’d been good friends with in high school, against the advice of his more experienced gay peers.
But his fear outweighed his sense at the time.
Jacks and Ennises are all over this country. They don’t always marry women or betray anyone.
But the price paid is still too great, and the heterosexual majority has to understand that of all the things that gay people can do with their lives, why is being straight bigger and more imortant?
When compared to living clean, paying your bills, serving your country, helping neighbors, gainful and productive employment…playing at straight is about the most pointless pursuit of all.
I love my friend. And mind you, I keep his secret too from his wife.
I’d promised him that I would support him and be his friend, whatever he decided.
He made this sacrifice for the LOVE OF HIS FAMILY and their sensibility.
The least they could do is understand that sacrifice and not force him to make it, if they really loved him too.
That’s simply meeting a gay man halfway so that all could be open, honest and after all, happy.
When it gets down to it, the selfishness of hetero conceit boggles my mind.
I saw BBM for the unbeatable talent involved.
If anyone here read McMurtry’s “The Last Picture Show”, you get a similar picture of human desperation you find in BBM.
PFLAG hosted a woman who founded an advocacy for the spouses of gay men and women.
Our meetings often brought in bewildered spouses of gays and lesbians, but they always knew SOMETHING was very wrong.
Most, if not all-as is the founder of the network, were very compassionate and could be brought to know that homosexuality isn’t something meant for anyone to control, or lie about or cure or deny.
Or that it was anyone’s fault their spouse was gay.
PFLAG does help in that arena by staying on common, practical points, rather than those of ideology.
I never thought I would be this close to someone married against their orientation.
I don’t like the position I’m in either.
The folks portrayed in BBM didn’t believe in psychiatric intervention or counseling.
They presented stiff upper lips and went on with things the best they could.
However, Ennis’s daughters did represent a new generation of kids brought up with out friends, like a Matt Shepard for example.
And their father’s situation was understood instead of derided.
That was realistic to my mind, as far as the children of gay parents goes.
Mike, I acknowledge the changes, but I still believe that you may be a bit harsh regarding (1)
I quite frankly don’t know how to describe this, but I have had some experience in this regard. I’ve mentioned this here before.
Regarding (2), sorry, I was writing as a lawyer. Adultery is oftentimes used as a ground in divorce for screwing the adulterous spouce. If the other spouse doesn’t care, there is no issue. Adultery has largely fallen by the wayside as a crime. I actually wonder to what extent bigamy has fallen by the wayside as a crime.
Regarding (3), we won’t be seeing the movie until it comes out on DVD, so I can’t opine on the movie. I’m usually more interested in the “special features” than the movie itself.
I saw the movie here in STL, and was suprised by the responses of the crowd. I saw it in a more liberal area (the U City Loop area, close to Washington University), and throughout the movie, people were laughing at moments of tension. (Such as the wife seeing Ennis kissing Jack.) I don’t know if was out of nervousness, or what, but it was odd. There were quite a few gay and lesbian couples, or groups of friends, mixed in with older straight couples, and high school/college age kids (apparently straight).
By the end of the movie, however, everyone in the theatre was silent. Most of us sat through at least part of the opening credits, stunned and tearful.
I thought number four in your list was the key motif of the movie, that of choices being made for us. It seemed that the marriages of the two central characters, while choices they made, were at the same time, choices made for them. They didn’t consider, seriously, other options (such as relocating, radical changes in career, etc.) and so their set of choices appeared very small. I think that’s something that all of us, in some way, struggle with.
It takes a few people seeing choices where others don’t for a culture to open the extent that their choices become de facto for all of us. The sad truth is that society will respond in violence until the number of people exercising those choices become too innumerable for them to be oppressed.
Anyway, just a few thoughts this New Year’s Day.
Sorry, above I meant *closing* credits!
I’d just like to comment on something here, and it’s not meant to agree or disagree with anyone.
When reviewing Brokeback Mountain I feel that we need to keep the whole situation in a proper perspective. We should remember the time that this movie was set in. Some may remember those days, and some not, but either way the mind set of society back then along with how gays reacted to the oppression that they lived under is far different than today.
Although we still have a way to go for gays to get the equality & acceptance that is fair and just, we shouldn’t opine about Brokeback Mountain
as though it took place last week.
CK wrote: >throughout the movie, people were >laughing at moments of tension. (Such as the >wife seeing Ennis kissing Jack.) I don’t know >if was out of nervousness, or what, but it was >odd.
This is very common. In my film classes, anytime students are uncomfortable with a film scene, they will generally laugh no matter the level of tension (and I teach at a fairly conservative university). This happens if two males kiss, for example. There is a great movie we watch called Jesus’ Son, and when a character is distraught over an abortion, it always disturbs me that the students start laughing. The movie is very serious at that point and leads to a character’s suicide. Black comedies like Harold and Maude, Happiness, and Man Bites Dog are completely based on the need for the audience to laugh off tension even when something (like rape) is very serious.
Mike’s analysis is very interesting, but let me point out one thing. I tend to stay away from lessons learned from films, or any type of medium. It is generally considered bad form in film criticism since moral lessons are subjective (in humanities) and tend to cheapen the film as film. However, humans tend to search for such moralities. In creative writing, I have to keep students from writing “moral” stories where the moral overwhelms the story. In film, some students are “moral critics” and have to find a lesson in every film or else they hate the film (it is always funny when showing Un Chien Andalou because students who apply morals to film will freak out–some will cry and go away disturbed because they can’t find any type of lesson). Moral criticism, nevertheless, is becoming more popular than it has been in over a century. I have to remind students constantly that message cannot be imparted in narrative–a story should be taken as a story. Mike, I am not criticizing your view–it is very thought out. It is just something I am leary of (I am always concerned when students watch a movie like American History X and think that it is showing them that racism is a good thing–long story, but it happens).
I strongly agree with the points you made, and with no caveat on #2 for my personal life. I would add one to #6 however, partially bowing to Raj’s comment. There are some secrets for which disclosure my give one a feeling of absolution, but at the same time devastate another. These are secrets that perhaps should not be shared.
They didn’t consider, seriously, other options (such as relocating, radical changes in career, etc.) and so their set of choices appeared very small. I think that’s something that all of us, in some way, struggle with.
Yes! This is so true. And to Shep, I realize the time period of the movie further restricts choices, but as a general statement this is important. We have many more choices than we often realize. Life is short – don’t just endure it.
On the issue of being uncomfortable, let me mention that some people are not bothered by gay sex, but gay kissing, which is seen as intimate, will make people very weirded out, even some gay people.
Aaron at January 1, 2006 04:14 PM
I tend to agree with your point in your last paragraph. Good films that try to make moral points are often very complex, and, as a result, make complex moral points. Indochine, for example. An excellent and very difficult film.
I agree that moral judgments are subjective and that good movie reviews stay clear of them. I intended my own moral assessment in contrast to the religious-rightists who wrote assessments without even seeing the movie.
Under what circumstances would you say it is appropriate to draw subjective moral lessons from a narrative work of fiction?
Are there any “BBM made me leave my wife” stories circulating yet? Would any of the American ex-gay organisations let their people see this movie?
BBM is the best movie of 2005. It’s even better than Wallace & Gromit.
1630r, I think Stephen Bennett claimed a few weeks ago that some guy called him and said he was thinking of leaving his wife because of the film.
>Under what circumstances would you say it is >appropriate to draw subjective moral lessons >from a narrative work of fiction?
To be honest, at least since the 1920s, contemporary criticism theory stays away from it almost completely. I suspect on some level almost everyone does tend to pull lessons out of narratives, but it is generally discouraged in academia. But then again, that may be part of the reason there is a huge backlash against academia. Movies like “A Walk to Remember” are popular because of the “message,” but notice how critics don’t like it overall because message is so obvious. I hate “American Beauty” because it feels like a message film–it does have good cinematography and acting though.
In my classes, I can’t get people away from the message thing generally, but I try to get them to see past it and focus on elements instead.
Again, I am not criticizing your comments Mike–they are well-thought out. It is more my professional background that always makes me feel uneasy with message in narrative.
There is a lot of stock put into this film. There is no real controversy and the film’s chronological setting does put it in a perspective possibly out of synch.
We as human beings are naturally curious and self determination is coded in our DNA.
We cannot let ourselves be too sedated, or ignore our own instincts towards hope.
Hope is something we also arrange our lives around.
We pursue healthier and stronger social and romantic connections if we see ourselves worthy of them and the greater society does also.
This is also human nature.
Planning for a better future requires hope.
Thanks for your little message.
I went back and read my post, then scanned through the article and the other post responses again. I guess there must have been something that triggered my initial response, although I can see that I probably gave the wrong impression of my thoughts.
I didn’t mean to suggest that we live today as gays did back then. Yes, we do have many more choices, and I agree with you where you said: Life is short – don’t just endure it.
I learned that lesson long ago, and I feel that Brokeback is an very good example to go by.
I didn’t mean to suggest that we live today as gays did back then.
I took you to mean that we should remember the time period of the movie when scrutinizing the choices made by the characters. Sorry if I seemed to be on the other side of what you were saying – didn’t mean to be.
Mark at January 2, 2006 06:40 AM
Don’t forget, the story was written by a woman.
In point of fact, my first boyfriend and I–from 1970-73–tried to engage in anal sex without lubricant. We didn’t know any better–we had brought each other out, and had had no contact with other gay people. And it didn’t work.
One of the great things about this movie (which I have now seen twice), and why I think it is groundbreaking for Hollywood, is that we can discuss Ennis’ and Jack’s characters as Mike does in this post – they are flawed, deeply honest human beings who make understandable but some regrettable choices in their lives. It is one of the few times ever in movies, and probably the first time with lead characters, that Hollywood has created 3-dimensional, non-stereotypical gay characters and explored their lives.
I have only two disagreements with Mike’s post, though. Like any good film, it becomes universal by sticking to a very specific story – about these men and the effects of their choices on their lives. As such, I think Mike’s post has an overly harsh tone, but that could be just how I am reading it. One of the things I love about this movie, and it really has this in comparison with other great films, is that the characters are not perfect heroes or perfect villians, but have real, messy, human lives. The film is a powerful exploration of what happens when we make choices that appear to be right – certainly society is pretty unrelenting with its message that all young people should get married, not to mention questioning the masculinity of gay men, which these characters would find intolerable – but are horribly wrong.
The honest choice for these men, if they could not find a way to live with one another, would be to have lived as single men with their secret affair. I think one reason Ennis is the more sympathetic character because that is how he lives in the end. He cannot be fully honest with himself about who he is, but he knows that his marriage is not working, and his kids deserve better (IIRC, the story makes this even more explicit). He also tries to be an involved father, although I think he fails slightly in that. Jack and his wife maintain a marriage that, at least by appearances, both of them know is not working.
But I don’t think we should judge these men as good or bad humans based on their choices. They made them for understandable, if sometimes cowardly, reasons, and certainly paid a real penalty for them.
The second point of disagreement is simply that I would not include Ray Aguirre as one of the wronged people in this film. I don’t believe he asked the boys to bring the sheep back early because his losses were too high, and his encounter with Jack the next summer proves that he is pretty homophobic. In fact, there is no indication the boys were neglecting their sheep – although one sheep is killed by a coyote after their first night together, when Ennis did not go out to sleep with the sheep – the real losses came after the horrible thunderstorm, when neither man could have done anything for the sheep anyway. In fact, having one of the men sleep with the sheep is an acknowledged violation of Park Service regulations, which Aguirre seems fine with violating, so I would not hold him up as someone who was hurt by this relationship.
On the other hand, I think Michelle Williams’ potrayl of Alma’s descent from shock to bitterness (which clearly lasts well after their divorce) over her knowledge of the truth is one of the highlights of the film, and gives it even more emotional punch.
A few thoughts:
1. “I think Stephen Bennett claimed a few weeks ago that some guy called him and said he was thinking of leaving his wife because of the film.”
Yes, but interestingly enough, I believe Bennett’s show was taped before the film was actually released (or only in LA and NY). So either the guy was a fan of film fesitals, clairvoyant, or a figment of Bennett’s imagination. (I have my suspicions which)
2. Proulx does tell us that Jack was circumcized. We don’t know about Ennis. We also don’t know about size, or even if this was Jack’s first time (recalling, of course, that these are fictional characters). So speculating about spit being enough is sort of pointless. (With all due respect, Mark, I know that you don’t approve of anal sex, but can we let this point drop now?)
3. A young female friend of mine didn’t like the movie. She told my roommate “this isn’t the dark ages. they could have moved to a city”.
She was (I think) trying to find a moral in the story.
It’s tempting to think that if this ignorant country boy without education or abilities had just moved to a big city he could have been free to be a gay man and have a happy life. But that movie has already been made, and it didn’t end any happier. It was called Midnight Cowboy.
BBM is not a story with a Point To Make. I grew up in church (literally) and I recognize preaching when I hear it – and I often hear it in the movies. But I didn’t here.
Some of the best stories don’t have an obvious moral. We don’t come out of Gone With the Wind thinking that Scarlett was a woman to emulate, or find in Romeo and Juliet about how we should live. And if there is a moral in Pretty Woman (admit it, you loved it), I really don’t want to know what it was.
BBM is just a tale of a man, deeply flawed and afraid, who understood so little about himself and refused to know what he did understand. If we insist on finding a “moral” to this story, I would suggest that it is this: If you don’t know yourself, you may end up destroying not only your own life but those of others.
4. Finally, for those who have an opinion but haven’t yet seen the film or read the story, your opinions may be more informed after you do so.
I have to disagree about Heros in this story. The wives and children did nothing heroic or unusual. It was just a portrayal of people living out the life they’d been dealt.
And Joe Aguirre was not a hero. He was just a government employee trying to twist the rules and make his employees do work that was forbidden just so he’d have a better report to pass up the chain.
These people were neither hero nor villian.
but your seven points (though I’m not sure that I’m willing to elevate them to the “moral” or the story) are spot on.
It’s tempting to think that if this ignorant country boy without education or abilities had just moved to a big city he could have been free to be a gay man and have a happy life. But that movie has already been made, and it didn’t end any happier. It was called Midnight Cowboy.
I doubt that everyone who moves to the “big city” becomes a prostitute. It would probably be a mistake to over-generalize.
I watched Midnight Cowboy when it was first released. An interesting movie.
It’s tempting to think that if this ignorant country boy without education or abilities had just moved to a big city he could have been free to be a gay man and have a happy life.
I think we’re missing something that, to my mind, made the movie so poignient…
Jack and Ennis are cowboys, and not just the cowboy-drag variety. That was as much a part of their lives as their love for each other. They would have been miserable (Ennis, anyway), together or separately, in the big city — or so I would envision (this really is fiction, after all). I don’t think Ennis could have seriously considered moving to San Francisco, or even Denver.
Will people be termed “close minded” if they say it’s wrong to have an adulterous affair? Will the unprotected anal sex in this movie serve as a poor role model to movie viewers who live in the era of AIDS? What do the awards being given for Brokeback Mountain reveal about Hollywood’s tolerance to adultery and Hollywood’s intolerance for Americans who believe adultery is a sin?
I assume you have not seen this picture as you are making some assumptions about it that seem to be third or fourth hand.
1. No, of course it’s not closed minded to thing adultery is wrong. And I think the movie makes a very strong point about what happens when you are in a marriage and are not living according to its convenants. In fact, Brokeback Mountain probably tells the strongest story of what happens when adultery hits home.
2. I think that most people are perfectly capable of distinguishing between pre-AIDS sex depicted in a movie, and AIDS-era sex. That really isn’t a very relevant objection.
3. This movie is being judged on its merits. As hard as it may be for some people to understand, this movie is being awarded for its story telling, directing, acting, editing, cinematography, score, song writing, and overall impact as a movie. It is not getting awards because of its take on adultery, homosexuality, or any other “issue”.
Some people object to the content of the movie, such as (presumably) yourself, Charles. But can you say that a movie should be disqualified from an editing award because you disagree with its story? Or from a cinematograpy award?
Hollywood’s definition of “best picture” is not the same as “most wholesome good Christian values” picture. If you are offended by their awards, it isn’t because anyone is intolerant of your viewpoint but because you are intolerant of theirs.
You are demanding that they use some morals scale (yours) to measure pictures. They aren’t demanding anything from you.
Why is Brokeback Mountain being given nomination after nomination? Why is this movie resonating with those in power in Hollywood? The answer is Hollywood doesn’t view adultery or unprotected anal sex in a negative light. The emotional pain of the women and the potential diseases the women may be exposed to (syphilis, etc) is overshadowed by a story of two men pursing their desires. Unprotected anal sex and lying to your “loved ones,” these are minor plot points to those in Hollywood. There is a profound disconnect between the “anything goes” attitude of the Hollywood elite and those who are on the other side of the movie screen in the theater.
The movie takes place before the time of AIDS, but it still influences those seeing the movie today. To romanticize unprotected anal sex in a movie shown to today’s audience is negligence of the highest degree.
Despite what you say in point #1, those of us with beliefs that differ from the “everything is good” Hollywood attitude, are seen as being intolerant. Those in Hollywood are demanding that we reward (give awards and praise) to a STORY (not just for editing or directing or some technical point, but the STORY) that supports adultery, lying to your wife and having unprotected anal sex. It’s not wrong to stand up for being truthful to your wife, not sleeping with other people when you’re married (with kids) and not having unprotected anal sex regardless of whether the disease of the day is syphilis or AIDS.
Charles, I do not see how Hollywood is demanding that we reward anything. Like most industries, the movie business largely rises and falls on free market economics. People are free to agree or disagree with the message, but in the end, only films that are successful will bring monetary reward. As your post demonstrates, you are quite free to complain. Will some consider you intolerant? Certainly. However you are equally free to consider their philosophy to be “everything is good.” Such is life.
Charles, I don’t like putting words in people’s mouths but I don’t believe you. There is something intellectually dishonest in what you are saying and I can’t quite put my finger on it.
Period pieces are written all the time, accurately depicting things which we would now consider quite dangerous or irresponsible. They show men and women with multiple partners, smoking cigarettes left and right, driving while intoxicated, etc. These things happened, and the story is not always a lesson in morality either – have you never seen adultery in a movie before? So I find it hard to believe that you are protesting about these guys not whipping out a condom before having sex.
You seem to be going out of your way to say some strange version of politically correct negative things about BBM while not saying that you don’t like men having sex with men coming to a theater near you. Is that really what is bothering you? Are you just fuming that this movie isn’t getting more negative reviews and instead seems well received? Because this other stuff honestly doesn’t seem to make any sense in this context.
Charles, Charles, Charles…Have you PAID for a ticket?Have you been asked to PAY for the cost of awards nights?Did Ang Lee raid your bank account to make the film?Did they ask for your script writing wisdom?I suspect it’s no to each of these. You haven’t been asked to approve, let alone do or pay for anything. Yet, you want them to do something for you?Don’t like the sound of the film… Easy. Don’t go and see it.(You also remain free, of course, to raise money and make your own damn film.)And P.S. — unprotected sex, of any sort, is only a risk for HIV or any other STD if the other person is infected. If they are not… you can do whatever you want without catching anything.It’s caused by a virus, not sex.
Irrational Entity – “I do not see how Hollywood is demanding that we reward anything. Like most industries, the movie business largely rises and falls on free market economics.”
Answer (Charles)- I’m refering to award shows and nominations, not the financial success of the movie.
Reasonable (David) -“Period pieces are written all the time, accurately depicting things which we would now consider quite dangerous or irresponsible.” + “have you never seen adultery in a movie before?”
Answer(Charles) -The issue isn’t solely that the movie contains adultery. The issue is that Hollywood is rewarding a movie that focuses on adultery, lying to your wife, and having unprotected anal sex. The Hollywood elite are strongly supporting this movie through MASSIVE nominations for awards. It’s not wrong (or politically correct) to recognize a Hollywood elite that supports a movie that is the anti-thesis of being truthful to your wife, not sleeping with other people when you’re married (with kids) and not having unprotected anal sex regardless of whether the disease of the day is syphilis or AIDS.
Grantdale – “You haven’t been asked to approve, let alone do or pay for anything. Yet, you want them to do something for you?”
Answer(Charles)- When Hollywood nominates (for awards) a movie where the main characters demean women and marriage, we all must stand up for what is right. Movies affect people. It is not romantic to lie to your wife and have unprotected anal sex. The elite Hollywood actors and studios are public figures and as such their actions are open for public debate, regardless of whether a person buys their products.
Grantdale- “And P.S. — unprotected sex, of any sort, is only a risk for HIV or any other STD if the other person is infected. If they are not… you can do whatever you want without catching anything. It’s caused by a virus, not sex.”
Answer (Charles) – What a horrible message. Many STD’s don’t have any symptoms. You can’t tell if someone is affected with HIV by looking at them. The idea that the characters in Brokeback Mountain could determine if they weren’t risking the lives of their spouses is completely false. And they certainly didn’t have a syphilis lab test at anytime in the movie. This movie shows two men having unprotected anal sex without taking any measures to see if the other person has STDs. Perhaps this danger can be shown to the audience in “Brokeback Mountain, the Sequel,” where the wives of the two men are wondering why they are sick, unknowingly dying from syphilis, while the men continue their “love affair” behind the backs of their children and trusting spouses.
Jeez Charles, I presume you’ve got as equally boiled up over every film in your lifetime that has explored characters who have been betrayed or cheated on?(I’d appreciate a link to where you’ve been making all those comments.Or is just gay themed films that get your goat?)I do hope people are influenced by the film: I hope they realise the pain and futility that comes from causing gay men to marry women when those men would decide otherwise.Ditto Lesbians, to men.And this is a “horrible message”??? OK, at least you didn’t say it was incorrect.But, odd, it is the very message that lays behind each and every abstinence-only school programme:
Thanks, I am mighty glad to know you cannot tell if someone is HIV+ just by looking at them. Jeez, just as well that they invented BLOOD TESTS or we’d all be up sh** creek without a paddle.And consider this… perhaps the wives were sleeping around. Perhaps in the sequel we can see more of their lonely and frustrated lives and the way they sought out companionship elsewhere. And it was the wives who bring syphilis back into the home. Wow, there’s an interesting twist that’ll be sure to wizz-bang impress those Hollywood elites! (and they’re probably Jews too!!!)Perhaps we can contact Ang Lee and offer a joint script to him?Here’s the deal, though: you do the spell checking, and we’ll do the fact checking.
So Charles, let me get this straight… you see Brokeback Mountain (I’m assuming you’ve actually seen it) and you say to yourself, gee, I wish I could live the life Ennis and Jack lived?!
This movie is a T-R-A-G-E-D-Y. It doesn’t “celebrate” adultery, it shows the pain it brings to everyone involved. It got award nominations because it’s a really well made film about how much a closeted life of adultery and repression sucks.
Is Chariots of Fire a bad movie because the college dons were anti-semetic? Is Schindler’s List a bad movie because it portrays Nazis? None of these “Christian” organizations are complaining about Walk The Line, some are even praising it despite its contents of adultery, drug abuse, etc. Obviously everyone who sees Ray is going to want to start doing heroin.
If you’ll excuse me, I saw The Ten Commandments last night, so I’m off to enslave the Hebrews.
Grantdale – “I hope they realize the pain and futility that comes from causing gay men to marry women when those men would decide otherwise.”
Answer (Charles) – Again we see some people(Grantdale) watching Brokeback mountain and finding justification in what the two men do to their wives (cheat, lie, unprotected anal sex with another man). This is a movie that promotes adultery as a way for gay men to deal with what has been “forced” upon them by “society.” This is an incorrect and wrong message. Adultery and unprotected anal sex should not be defended.
Grantdale – “you cannot get an STD by being monogamous with an uninfected person.”
Answer (Charles) – The women are being monogamous, yet they still can get a disease from their cheating husbands! This movie romanticizes unprotected anal sex outside of marriage. Unprotected anal sex is classified as high risk sex, meaning it can easily transmit disease. In addition to adultery and lying, the men are jeopardizing the health of their wives by engaging in the high risk extra-marital affair. The idea that the men can engage in unprotected anal sex and not contract a disease is wishful thinking at its worst. It is incorrect.
Grantdale – “perhaps the wives were sleeping around.”
Answer (Charles) – There’s no evidence that the women cheat in Brokeback Mountain. The evidence is to the contrary, while the wives dutifully take care of the kids, the men meet at the mountain to betray their wedding vows. The movie clearly shows that it is the men who are sleeping around. This movie justifies adultery and turns the blame on ANYONE, except of course the two gay men who are jeopardizing the health of themselves and their families.
Boo – “Is Chariots of Fire a bad movie because the college dons were anti-semetic? Is Schindler’s List a bad movie because it portrays Nazis? ”
Answer (Charles) – In Chariots of Fire, the anti-semetic college dons were not praised or “justified” due to “society.” In Schindler’s List, the Nazis were not portrayed as the “victims” who were justified in committing murder because of “society.” The issue isn’t solely that the movie contains adultery. The issue is that Hollywood is rewarding a movie that justifies (based on “society” pressures) adultery, lying to your wife, and having unprotected anal sex. The Hollywood elite are strongly supporting this movie through MASSIVE nominations for awards.
You are reading your own viewpoints into this movie. Ennis had the opportunity to live honestly and openly and chose not to, the movie does not “justify” his choice, that’s why there’s the last scene where he decides to go to his daughter’s wedding, it signifies that maybe he’s finally deciding to stop holding everything in.
And to deny that gay people were victims of society in 1960s Wyoming and Texas and risked being beaten to death by homophobic bigots is to deny reality.
Clearly you did not see this movie. Otherwise you could not possibly continue to use decriptives like “justify” or “blame”. I’m somewhat at a loss in arguing the merits of a film with someone who has not seen it.
The movie is not about blaming society, promoting or justifying adultery, or any of these other things you are claiming. Rather than leaving us convinced of your correctness, continuing to argue these points makes you look uninformed and, frankly, a fool. Before you insist on what the movie does or does not promote, you really should see it so you have a basis to your position.
You keep talking about “intolerance”. I think perhaps that you don’t know what that word means.
Tolerance is not about agreement. Tolerance or intolerance only comes into play when there is a desire on the part of one party to restrict the actions of the other.
The “Hollywood elite” are not in any way seeking to restrict your film viewing. At all. If you want to see the films they recommend, fine. If not, don’t. No one is requiring that you support adultery or anything else.
However, you are seeking to restrict the films to which they give awards. You are trying to tell those employed in the production of films what they can or cannot recognize as quality. You are insisting they comply with your views.
You, Charles, are being “intolerant” meaning that while others are willing to tolerate your film viewing standards, you are not willing to tolerate theirs.
Additionally, Charles, I have little respect for people who are not intellectually honest. Truthfully, Charles, your objection has nothing to do with syphilis at all. You are saying that just to try to make some point (which isn’t working, incidentally). So be up front, Charles, and admit that this is all just because you disapprove of homosexuality. That is the only reason you disapprove of this film.
I know you think you have to lie to advance your agenda. But tell me, Charles, is dishonesty what your side has to offer? Because, if so, I don’t want it, thanks.
Boo – “Ennis had the opportunity to live honestly and openly and chose not to, the movie does not “justify” his choice, that’s why there’s the last scene where he decides to go to his daughter’s wedding, it signifies that maybe he’s finally deciding to stop holding everything in.”
Answer (Charles) – The synopsis of Brokeback Mountain given by the studio is: “Two young men — a ranch-hand and a rodeo cowboy — meet in the summer of 1963, and unexpectedly forge a lifelong connection, one whose complications, joys, and tragedies provide a testament to the endurance and power of love.” Adultery and lying is a testament to the endurance of love? Engaging in unprotective sex that endangers the lives of your family is a testimony of the power of love? Only from the viewpoint of those who made this movie. They see the adulterer as the hero and protagonist. This is wrong.
Boo- “And to deny that gay people were victims of society in 1960s Wyoming and Texas and risked being beaten to death by homophobic bigots is to deny reality.”
Answer (Charles) – I never denied that gay people were beaten in the 1960s. I don’t condone violence.
Timothy – “The movie is not about blaming society, promoting or justifying adultery, or any of these other things you are claiming.”
Answer (Charles) – I suggest you read the movie synopsis above. This movie is about romanticizing an adulterous lifestyle. It’s about depicting a loving relationship between two men who are married, having unprotected anal sex and consistently lie to their wives and children. The protagonist of the movie is the adulterer. If I am wrong, then who is the protagonist?
Timothy – “I have little respect for people who are not intellectually honest. Truthfully, Charles, your objection has nothing to do with syphilis at all.”
Answer (Charles) – I truly believe this movie romanticizes a adulterous lifestyle. I object to a movie where the protagonist is an adulterer and where the studio claims “two men forge a lifelong connection which is a testimony to love” by being adulterous and lying. You (Timothy)are uncomfortable that we are talking about a greater scope of the movie (beyond homosexuality) and have to resort to name calling rather than an honest intellectual discussion.
Timothy – “I know you think you have to lie to advance your agenda.”
Answer (Charles) – Where have I lied? I’ve stated the facts. This movie romanticizes an adulterous lifestyle where two men have unprotective anal sex, lie to their wives and throw their wedding vows aside to satisfy their own desires. This is the truth. It is also the truth that the studio describes this behavior as a “testament to the endurance of love.”
Timothy – “The “Hollywood elite” are not in any way seeking to restrict your film viewing.”
Answer (Charles) – I never said the Hollywood elite were preventing me from seeing a movie. The issue is that Hollywood is rewarding a movie were the protagonist is an adulterer, lies to his wife, and has unprotected anal sex. In fact, the studio describes this behavior as a “testament to enduring love.”The Hollywood elite are strongly supporting this movie through MASSIVE nominations for awards. This illustrates a profound disconnect between those in Hollywood and those who sit in the theaters.
Charles, you’re being intellectually dishonest when you talk about “unprotected anal sex” over and over again.
There was no AIDS in 1963. There were no safe sex guidelines for homosexual sex in 1963.
Nobody would believe the movie’s timeline if Jack or Ennis were driving 2004 Chevy Tahoes and they’re not going to believe it if they stop to slip on a condom.
Besides that fact, the movie does show the consequences of living a lie. It is not a happy movie, the ending shows the results of Ennis and Jack’s lies to their families.
Furthermore, the box office results betray your opinion of who sits in the theaters.
Answer: LOTS of people have been sitting through this movie.
“Answer (Charles) – The synopsis of Brokeback Mountain given by the studio is: “Two young men — a ranch-hand and a rodeo cowboy — meet in the summer of 1963, and unexpectedly forge a lifelong connection, one whose complications, joys, and tragedies provide a testament to the endurance and power of love.” Adultery and lying is a testament to the endurance of love? Engaging in unprotective sex that endangers the lives of your family is a testimony of the power of love? Only from the viewpoint of those who made this movie. They see the adulterer as the hero and protagonist. This is wrong.”
So basically, you’re admitting you haven’t seen the movie. You’re also not reading the press release you’re quoting very carefully.
“Two young men — a ranch-hand and a rodeo cowboy — meet in the summer of 1963, and unexpectedly forge a lifelong connection, one whose complications, joys, and tragedies provide a testament to the endurance and power of love.”
I would put the adultery part among the “complications” and “tragedies” of the testament, not among the “joys” as you apparently do. They love each other. They feel the only way they can express their love is by hiding and committing adultery. First part good, second part bad. The movie does not “romanticize” their adultery, it says that love can exist even in a terrible situation such as the one the main characters endure. No one is exactly a hero in this movie, pretty much everyone is portrayed as a victim of both society and of their own choices. (And Ennis comes across more as a victim of his own fear than of society)
“Answer (Charles) – I never denied that gay people were beaten in the 1960s. I don’t condone violence.”
You implied that it was somehow dishonest of the movie to portray the main characters as victims.
The reason this movie is getting nominated for so many awards is because it is an extremely good (well made, thought provoking) movie, nothing more, nothing less.
The main character in Ray abuses marijuana and heroine, cheats on his wife with many different women, and the movie won several Oscars. Does this trigger your outrage equally?
Scott- “There was no AIDS in 1963. ”
Answer (Charles) – You are correct that AIDS did not exist in the 1960s. However it does exist today and filmmakers should be sensitive to that, i.e. not have actors cheating on their wives by having unprotected anal sex with other men. There still were deadly STDs in the 1960s if you want to focus on the time period and swap one deadly disease (AIDS) for another (syphilis).
Scott- “There were no safe sex guidelines for homosexual sex in 1963.”
Answer (Charles) – There has been knowledge of protecting against STDs as early as the 1500’s when Gabrielle Fallopius invented a primitive condom that protected 1000 people in a trial from contracting syphilis.
Scott- “Nobody would believe the movie’s timeline if Jack or Ennis were driving 2004 Chevy Tahoes and they’re not going to believe it if they stop to slip on a condom.”
Answer (Charles) – Latex condoms were invented in the 1930s. There isn’t any conflict in showing them in a movie taking place in the 1960s.
Scott – “Charles, you’re being intellectually dishonest when you talk about “unprotected anal sex” over and over again.”
Answer (Charles) – It is not dishonest to stand up against a movie portraying unprotected anal sex. It is dishonest for a movie to romanticize an adulterous lifestyle where two men have unprotective anal sex, lie to their wives and throw their wedding vows aside to satisfy their own desires, and for the the studio to call this behavior a “testament to the endurance of love.”
Scott – “Furthermore, the box office results betray your opinion of who sits in the theaters.”
Answer (Charles) – Just because a person watches a movie doesn’t mean they support the movie’s premise.
“Answer (Charles) – Latex condoms were invented in the 1930s. There isn’t any conflict in showing them in a movie taking place in the 1960s.”
Yet another example of the perils of critiquing a movie you haven’t actually seen. If you had seen it, you would know that in the circumstances of the one actual male-male sex scene in the movie, them stopping to whip out a condom would have been completely unbelievable.
Frankly, this entire argument is a red herring anyway. Gay men aren’t going to walk out of this movie thinking “Oh boy, since they didn’t use a condom, now I don’t have to!” unless they have a profound brain disease.
Finally, please try to get this through your head: the movie DOES NOT ROMANTICIZE adultery. If you simply keep repeating the same untrue claims over and over again, there is no point in discussing anything with you.
you aren’t adding anything here.
Many sites value the pick-at-minutia method of “debate” or ranting with uninformed opinions. We don’t.
Until now, we have politely let you state your opinions assuming that they were based on your observations of the movie. We appealed to logic. This however will not work with you, as you have not seen the movie and choose to believe your unbased opinion of what you think it must have been about.
Since you have not seen the movie, you are not qualified to comment on its content. You can object to the synopsis if you like. Fine. Duly noted.
However as you do not know or understand the context of anything else you are arguing, you come across as ignorant and contrarian.
Without going into endless argument, let it suffice to say that you are factually incorrect about you assumptions relating the sex in the movie (all possible “unsafe sex” references take place before marriage with inexperienced guys – the risk of disease was minimal to zero), adultery (the primary character was single, married, and divorced throughout the movie – and his adultury was shown as hurtful and destructive), the romanticism of adultury (it wasn’t in this movie), and most everything else.
Going forward, you are now asked to restrict your opinions to things about which you have a basis to talk. If you choose to see the movie, please feel free to comment about the content at that time.
Until then, do not.
Boo – “So basically, you’re admitting you haven’t seen the movie.”
Answer (Charles) – You’re saying that by reading the synopsis of the movie, I haven’t seen the movie? Well, by that flawed logic, everyone reading the synopsis (actors, the studio heads themselves, critics, etc) haven’t seen the movie.
Boo -“You implied that it was somehow dishonest of the movie to portray the main characters as victims.”
Answer (Charles) – The adulterous, unprotected sex in this movie is performed by the main characters year after year in this movie. They shouldn’t be portrayed as “victims of society.”
Boo- “The movie does not “romanticize” their adultery, it says that love can exist even in a terrible situation such as the one the main characters endure. ”
Answer (Charles) – What is the terrible situation they must endure? Is marriage a terrible situation? Again, the purpose of the movie is to show the adulterers as protagonists. The adulterers are the victims of “society.” The movie romanticizes the adulterous affair by showing it occur among beautiful mountain scenery. The adulterous acts aren’t romanticized? The first time they have adulterous, unprotected anal sex, the scene is violent and primal, in a tent at the base of a mountain. They are so wrapped up in their desires, they forget about the sheep they are suppose to be herding. The remaining adulterous meetings occur on a romantic beautiful mountain, once a year, under the lie of a fishing trip.
Boo – “They love each other.”
Answer (Charles) – Jack doesn’t appear to care if his desires hurt the people in his life, including his adulterous lover, Ennis. Is that love?
The synopsis of Brokeback Mountain given by the studio is: “Two young men — a ranch-hand and a rodeo cowboy — meet in the summer of 1963, and unexpectedly forge a lifelong connection, one whose complications, joys, and tragedies provide a testament to the endurance and power of love.” Adultery and lying is a testament to the endurance of love? Engaging in unprotected sex that endangers the lives of your family is a testimony of the power of love? Only from the viewpoint of those who made this movie. They see the adulterer as the hero and protagonist. This is wrong.
There is plenty to criticize in BBM, and Hollywood’s mismarketing of it.
But I agree with Timothy that Charles seems to be arguing for the sake of argument.
In my original post, I stated that one of the messages that I drew from the movie was, “Don’t commit adultery.” The movie conveys some of the negative consequences of adultery, though Charles apparently felt the consequences should be more severe.
Addendum: Charles was banned for extending this conversation/argument onto unrelated pages of the site. Should his messages on this page be retained or not? I thought he expressed a worthwhile opinion of the movie — but his method of expressing his viewpoint was intentionally uncivil and disruptive.
Since you banned him , it may good to leave his comments as an example of what it is we don’t want as an argument here. Just my humble opinion.
I realize tempers can flare, and I also realize that text on the net doesn’t always come off as you planned sometimes, but maybe his comments are a good example of the stubborness we don’t need in an open discussion.
People: give up.This “Charles” is clearly either a moron, or a 15 year old virgin who’s been frightened witless by their abstinence-only ejakayshun. Or, possibly, some troll from “Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum”(sic) et al (hi, is that you Retta?).Apart from all else, I doubt any of us are as much obsessed with using the word “anal” as is our friend Charles. I think the word’s been used more often in this one Alice-in-Wonderland post string than for the past 12 months.This one’s going to the Do Not Read and Do Not Post bin.Thanks for reminding us Timothy 🙂
Oh. Don’t need to worry. Aunty Mike has pulled the plug on Charles :)PS: leave what’s already here. It’s rather fascinating, in a creepy sort of way.
Mike… I know you had some concerns about the movie, specifically as to whether the characters could be considered ex-gay and also to the moral message in it.
Have you seen it yet? If so, I would like to hear if you still have those concerns.
I know that I had problems with The English Patient for similar reasons. And I hated The Piano – every character was selfish and gave no thought at all to anyone around them.
I think of any of these type of movies, BBM is the only one I can recall that gives as much emphasis on how much the lives of everyone involved was impacted.