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You've Got to Hide Your Love Away

  Brokeback Mountain

 

Ang Lee, USA, 2005

Rating: 4.0

 

Posted: February 16, 2006

By Kevin Forest Moreau, Editor-in-Chief

Spoiler Warning: If you're one of the 65 people who hasn't seen this film yet, a key plot development is kinda-sorta given away toward the end of this essay.

Dear Bill O'Reilly:

I don't usually watch your show on the Fox News Network -- heck, I don't watch much TV, period. But I was flipping around one night a few weeks ago, and I came across a particularly baffling exchange between you, the conservative "movie critic" Michael Medved, and some other dude I don't remember. The gist of it was that Brokeback Mountain, the Ang Lee movie based on a short story by Annie Proulx -- you know, the so-called "gay cowboy" movie whose title has already, in the couple of months since its release, become a shorthand for all sorts of homosexual activities -- is apparently an attempt on the part of America-hating Hollywood to promote homosexuality as a viable lifestyle.

Now, I'm smart enough to know that if I tell you I think you're wrong, the reason-receptors in your brain will automatically shut off and you'll dismiss out of hand anything I have to say. So while I'm not going to say you're wrong, exactly, I will suggest that maybe you and all the other conservative pundits who are turning their noses up at the movie are missing a golden opportunity here. If you actually sit and watch the film -- don't worry, you won't turn gay; I've seen it recently, and I had sex with my wife just last night -- you'll see that it's actually a very effective deterrent to anyone who might be considering signing up to switch teams. If anything, it's kind of like the Scared Straight of gay movies.

Consider: When Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) first meet at the beginning of the film, while waiting to apply for jobs as ranch hands. Now, Jack apparently has something going on for Ennis -- he keeps shooting all these sidelong glances -- but there's not really what you'd call chemistry between them. There's certainly nothing in their interaction to suggest a mutual attraction.

Anyway, Bill -- can I call you Bill? -- they get the jobs, which require them spending a lot of time in each other's company, up on Brokeback Mountain, far away from any other human contact. And for a good stretch that verges on boring, that's all we watch them do: work. Still no sparks. In fact, if you didn't already know what was going to happen from all the reviews and late-night talk show jokes, when Jack finally does make a move, you'd likely be wondering why Ennis doesn't clock him one and maybe draw and quarter him while he's at it. Given Ennis' surly disposition, you're amazed he doesn't pull a Boys Don't Cry on the dude.

But he doesn't, and next thing you know, the two are in the clinch, with Ennis giving new meaning to the term "cowpoke." And so they spend the remainder of their time together laughing and wrestling against a gorgeous mountain backdrop -- that Ang Lee produced a turd with Hulk, but he sure knows how to capture some beautiful scenery (or at least hire a good cinematographer). Once the job ends, Ennis rather forcefully posits that their little summer fling is over, and they go their separate ways, and even get married -- Jack to the beautiful Anne Hathaway, and Ennis to Michelle Williams (which could make her the second Dawson's Creek actress to pretend to be in love with a closeted gay man).

After four years apart, they get together again, kicking off a years-long cycle of clandestine hook-ups, with poor Jack always wanting more and Ennis the aloof one unwilling to commit to anything more than a few secretive booty calls a year. (Oddly enough, it's Ennis' personal life that suffers more as a result of the "affair"; his wife leaves him and a later relationship with hot little Linda Cardellini fizzles out.) By the way, Bill, did I mention that's a mighty nice tie you're wearing today?

Needless to say, the whole thing comes to a tragic end, which I won't give away here, save to say that one of the two grows into a lonely, pathetic old man who lives in a crappy little trailer in the middle of nowhere, working a crap job and basically enduring a bleak, grey existence. Suffice it to say that neither fella enjoys a happy, healthy life as a result of their relationship -- they don't go skipping off into the sunset together to open a cozy little bed and breakfast in Greenwich Village, that's for sure. That point is driven home by the leads' powerful performances -- Ledger is getting the lion's share of the attention, and I do admit he's come a long way since 10 Things I Hate About You, but Jake Gyllenhaal does a heartbreaking return as Jack. If he doesn't win an Oscar for it, well, I don't know what I'll do.

But I'm getting off the subject. Anyway, Bill, my point is that the consequences of the relationship for both men are dire. Now, yes, if you're one of those artsy-fartsy English major movie critics (ever notice how those schools are known as "Liberal Arts" colleges?), you could say that the message here is how our cruel, homophobic society denies many people their shot at happiness. (Is that cologne you're wearing?)

But the real moral of the story is: If you choose to enter into the homosexual lifestyle, you will not be happy. You will develop a short fuse, liable to go off at the slightest provocation. Your wife will leave you. Your relationship with your children will be estranged, at best. You will troll for Mexican man-whores to feed your ever-increasing addiction to pain and humiliation. You will be forced to hide your love away in the remote mountain wilderness, lest, as Ennis wisely points out, you be found out and killed. And ultimately, you'll die unhappy and alone.

See what I'm saying, Bill? If I was George W. Bush or James Dobson or Pat Robertson or even Michael Medved (and really, for him of all people to be condemning a movie with gay men in it seems a little, shall we say, disingenuous -- is it just me or do his loafers seem more than a little light?) -- if I was any of those guys, I'd be herding my followers like sheep to go see Brokeback Mountain. Hell, I might even arrest anyone who didn't go see it. Seriously, you couldn't ask for a better public service announcement about the dangers of the gay menace.

I'd love to discuss this subject further with you at some point, Bill -- would you like to go camping sometime? I know a great little spot where we wouldn't be disturbed. C'mon, you're not afraid that spending a little time alone with another man up in the mountains will turn you gay or anything, are you? Because really, that'd be ridiculous, wouldn't it?

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