thoughts on Brokeback

There was an interesting barrage of OpEds in the Denver Post last weekend concerning the film Brokeback Mountain, the now nearly infamous gay cowboy movie.

The matter in question was whether or not to actually see the film if you are, in fact, not gay.

Most of the OpEd arguments against participating fell under either of these two:
a) a moral opposition
b) a relevance opposition

In other words, you might be opposed to seeing Brokeback Mountain based on your moral stance, e.g. homosexuality is wrong; or you refuse to see it because it does not relate to you.

However, one commenter wondered if those that opted out of the movie based on its relevance had also seen movies such as Star Wars or ET. Surely those same people hadn’t destroyed Death Stars or aided an alien to get back home. So how could someone feel they relate to some movies but not others?

This is a very good argument against the relevance stance. For certainly the story of Brokeback is personally relevant to a great many people. But should personal relevance solely be our basis for entertainment? Should it be requisite that I first understand how a serial killer feels before I watch a biopic about one? Should I first be able to empathize with the CGI fish’s motivations before I watch him escape the fish bowl?

Or is it enough to recognize that some stories are just stories, while others resonate with more universal human experiences?

The moral opposition argument is a completely other stance.

I for one, have not seen Brokeback Mountain, but for neither of these reasons. You see, I have a girlfriend, which I suppose puts me squarely in the heterosexual camp. Time lately has been a premium, and with so many other movies and events to partake in, well…

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  1. I know a few people who avoided seeing Passion of the Christ, not because it wasn’t relevant or that they opposed the message (they are Christians), but because they had read the reviews about the film’s graphic violence. I think many people who avoid Brokeback do so also because these sensitive souls want to avoid the potentially disturbing images in the film (and many other movies, when it comes down to it).

  2. I talked to one of my friends last night who has really good taste in films…from my viewpoint of course…who had just seen Brokeback and thought it was very good. He is an Ang Lee fan which biases him somewhat. He said Health Ledger’s performance was amazing, that it is hard to believe the guy from A Knight’s Tale could act so well. And while that may be true, I certainly have no desire to see it.

    I’m sure my moral views have some impact on why I don’t want to see the movie but if so it is unconscious. Were I to honestly assess every movie I see against whether or not the Lord would be happy with my choices I probably would see far fewer movies than I do! The truth is that I just can’t relate…guess I’m not deep enough. I can relate to people blowing up Death Stars because it is the classic good vs. evil battle that we all live with or aspire to in different areas of our lives. And yes, I can relate to love stories as I am in love with a wonderful woman, but I can’t relate to two men feeling that way about each other. Or at the very least I choose not to.

    I would much rather see a cliched romantic comedy in which I can understand (relate) why the guy likes this cute, fun, girl next door. That’s just me.

  3. This is an interesting dialogue. I have thought about this very issue a lot. I have also recently read in Psalms where David stated “I will set no vile thing before my eyes.”

    I really thought about this because David was a man of war, witnessing and participating in gory battle. He also was a major lover with several wives – so I don’t think the sexual thing between a man and woman would have been considered vile. So what to him was vile?

    Some would consider a war movie a vile thing, some movies with sexual content vile. . .to me, I think Brokeback would be setting something vile before my eyes. So I will not be seeing it. I also don’t have any interest in the story and it would be a huge waste of my time.

    That probably made no sense. Oh well. 🙄

  4. I believe there is something inherently more deviant about a sexual relationship between two men than that of an unwed man and woman. I won’t be watching this movie.

    Be prepared. This has opened a door to more and more anal sex in movies. I feel bad for our grandchildren. What are we passing down to them as a culture? What will our morals be like by then? What are they going to face? Our kids are more confused than ever. We have a lesbian couple in our neighborhood. They go to the middle school! This is what my kids will face in a few short years. This is sad.

  5. Is anal sex really the moral issue? Or homosexuality? I’d say that the presence of vaginal sex in movies for quite some time is enough cause for concern. For that matter, I wouldn’t want my young kids exposed to a heterosexual teenage couple walking down the street, smoking and cuddling.

    The problem I see with applying a human litmus test to morality is that the line is never very clear. Who decides which sins are worse than others? For instance, what would be worse than homosexuality? Rape? Murder? And what’s just below it? Incest? Premarital pregnancy? Abortion?

    How many times have people felt this: “Yeah, my kid screwed up, but at least he’s not gay.” What are parents of gay children supposed to do with that? I think it communicates that there are some sins that will never be redeemed (in human eyes).

  6. While some may find the content of the Brokeback Mountain to be objectionable, I think it would go far to advance the quality of debate to focus on our expecations of popular culture as Christians. To me, the most offensive thing about the movie and about all Hollywood product is the way in which all relationships (homosexual and heterosexual alike) are portrayed: that is, by fulfilling a universal and human desire through fabricated and unrealistic means. Its only logical to conclude that a writer that can portray intercourse between a man and a woman as something casual, or something that happens without real consequence (pregnancy, STDs) could also portray the same kind of relationship between two men.

    I think the reason Brokeback mountain causes the controversy is that for most of the history of film, though love stories may be contrived, predicatable, hackneyed, shameless, and consequence-free, it was still a contrived, predictable, hackeneyed, etc.. relationship between a man and a woman. Throw 2 men in the arena and all of a sudden we’re offended?? This should have happened a long time ago.

    It does a real disservice to the debate about Homosexuality within the church to look at this from the deterministic, Emerging Church point of view. A Hollywood movie can portray a relationship any way a writer chooses. I really enjoyed the movie “The Family Stone”, but somehow the only stable couple in the movie was the homosexual couple. Anybody else notice this? I wonder why that happened?
    But what Hollywood will not do is tell you WHY someone is a homosexual or why someone is promiscuous. The truth is, there are mountains of hurt, betrayal, abuse, and neglect behind all of it, so its time to be realistic about what works in real life and what works in “art”.

  7. I know that all sexual sins are sins, but this saddens me more than some. I have nothing against people who are homosexual, but I do have strong feelings about the sin of homosexuality. So please don’t think I’m an unloving homophobic. I just see this sin becoming more and more prevalent in our society. It’s not a good thing. I know we’ve become desensitized to other forms of immorality in movies and that is wrong, too.

    Abortion hurts me greatly too. Someone who I love had an abortion and when I found out it was devastating to me. I felt a great loss and have very passionate feelings about that subject, too.

    As far as making a list of sins, varying the degrees from bad to worst, I think that is impossible to do. However, sins are different in that the consequences do vary and people get hurt on different levels. Some of our sins don’t impact anyone but ourselves, while others are very far reaching.

    Anyway, I don’t want anyone to think of my as an unloving or judgmental conservative.

  8. I think Carl has provided the best point on this. He has stated before that, to him, homosexuality is just as bad as a man and woman having pre-marital sex. You might not agree with that point but it’s pretty valid when you consider that they are both way outsides God’s will for every person on earth.

    The problem is Brokeback isn’t even that. It’s a movie about two men, having an affair against their wives with each other. The movie offers nothing else. It’s not some action movie with some weird love scene between men. It’s not a romantic comedy with the token gay couple. It’s all about two men having an extra marital affair with each other.

    Brokeback is the ultimate attack on traditional family values. It combines homosexual perversion with marital unfaithfulness. It scrapes the bottom of the barrel.

  9. Quite a lot of discussion you’ve got from a simple blog post, Rob! Impressive!

    I haven’t seen the film yet, so I will refrain from any discussion of the content. I will be seeing it before it leaves the theaters, because I would like to have an informed base to discuss the film, and because I like to see quality films.

    Comments like “Brokeback is the ultimate attack on traditional family values” are totally ridiculous and cliche. No one is saying families are bad. I heard a really well done commentary on “This American Life” on NPR about how much of the gay community finds the “attack on family values” really funny. No one in the gay community is saying “don’t love your family” or “don’t have a great relationship with your wife.” So even I am quite confused on the use of the word “attack”.

    Being familiar with culture and understanding what is important in pop culture and art is so important to having an intelligent conversation with anyone outside of the church. The value of being able to critique and analyze high and low art cannot be understated. Besides being able to engage our peers through art–whether it be music, movies, paintings, or sculpture–taking a critical look at art allows us to see where culture will be going in the near future. Francis Schaeffer illustrates this concept very well in “The God Who Is There” by showing how easily Christians could have stopped existentialism from influencing American Theology if only someone had been paying attention to an art show in New York in the early 1900s.

    What might we miss by refusing to see cultural landmarks in art?

  10. I love Francis Schaeffer, we had Schaeffer films in Humanities classes at Oral Roberts University that were simply outstanding. I’d love to get my hands on a copy of those.

  11. I won’t be going to the see the movie because I really don’t like going to the movies. A film has to be really, really compelling to get me out to the theatre. That, or, my husband has to really really want to see it. Somehow I doubt that my hubby will be rushing off to see this film.

    It seems to me that this film is more about unfulfilled passions than gay sex. Many people can identify this. A lot of people lead lives where they gave up on dreams or settled in a relationship or a job. I think that is probably what is speaking to folks about the movie. These men aren’t being authentic with themselves or their families.

  12. Rob,

    Have you read Ebert’s four star review? Here’s a quote I found interesting:

    “”Brokeback Mountain” has been described as “a gay cowboy movie,” which is a cruel simplification. It is the story of a time and place where two men are forced to deny the only great passion either one will ever feel. Their tragedy is universal. It could be about two women, or lovers from different religious or ethnic groups — any “forbidden” love.” — Roger Ebert

    Never thought my “first” post here would be about a controversial movie such as this. For the record, I DID try to post once about coffee, but Rob’s ineffecient web site management software bungled my post 😉 JK, Rob


  13. All along I have been thinking that I would see Brokeback Mountain. I thought it irritating that people just dismissed it as immoral. I have heard positive and negative responses from people I know. But lately, I have just been thinking about how sacred, powerful and sometimes fragile a good relationship between a man and a woman is. This movie does seem to celebrate a romantic attachment between men. The more I think about that, the more I don’t want to see it.

  14. People. It’s just a movie. And an incredibly well written, directed, and acted one at that. It’s a sad, heart-wrenching story. The fact that there is even discussion here about the gender of the characters is unbeliveable! It’s the year 2006!

    In the 1950s this blog discussion would have been about an interraccial couple, and how there was debate over going to see that movie, and what it meant for our society. This is no different.

    And the fact that anyone is disturbed by a film “celebrating” romantic attachment between two men is frankly in opposition to love. Hard to belive that in a world full of conflict and violence someone would be opposed to real love between consenting humans.

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