I'm not going to complain that the movie "Crash" won the Oscar for Best Picture over "Brokeback Mountain." I can't since I haven't seen "Crash." However, I have seen "Brokeback" and feel I need to speak up at some who thought that this was just a gay version of "Titanic."
"Brokeback" wasn't simply a love story, though that was part of it. But it was also a movie about men who couldn't be out, men who lived in an era where they had to keep their sexuality under wraps. The story of Jake and Ennis is a story of a lot of men I know: men who loved another men, but had to keep that love a secret. These men married, and had children, but lived lives of quiet desparation. Sometimes they had secret affairs, sometimes the kept all their feelings inside. And let's not talk about how the wives are affected.
You see, I know a lot of gay men ranging in age from the late 30s to mid 60s, who lived double lives. They've all come out and are living happier lives, thank God, but they had to go through a lot of hell, denying who they were and denying any chance at love.
I tend to think part of the problem was the fact that many people within and without the gay community tried to universalize the story of "Brokeback." The problem with making this just a common love story with two guys instead of a guy and girl is that it allows the public to ignore the issues going on.
Jack and Ennis couldn't be together, not because they were of the wrong social class ala Pretty in Pink, but because as Ennis says, if they showed affection at the wrong place and wrong time, there would be hell to pay. The reason they couldn't live a life together is because of bigotry, people.
Listen, I have a boyfriend that very well might be a partner someday soon. Say he gets sick and winds up in the hospital. In most places in the United States, I might not be able to see him, since I'm not considered family. THAT is the reality that gays and lesbians deal with. The far right is trying to pass constitutional amendments left and right to deny gays marriage rights and they are now starting to focus on adoptions to gays. It is still not easy for gay couples today.
So please spare me the talk about how "Brokeback" was just another retread of an old story. It's not. It's about the lives of many of the men I know and it's part of what gay couples still have to deal with.
Other Commentary on "Brokeback Mountain"
Alan Stewart Carl at Maverick Views.
Kenneth Turan's take in the Los Angeles Times.
Reason's Jesse Walker looks at the Ang Lee film.