Monday, March 06, 2006

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Brokeback Mountain (2005): "Tagline: Love Is A Force Of Nature "

I consider it a professional duty to be aware of the issues of importance on the college campus. No issue seems more difficult than that of homosexuality and gender.

So I had to see Brokeback Mountain.

I actually saw this weeks ago but have been derelict on posting my thoughts. The passing of the Academy Awards and the end of a long road trip have made this moment a possibility.

What I saw was a surprise.

Nowhere in the film was the happy go lucky air of just another "alternative lifestyle", so often portrayed on TV sitcoms like "Will and Grace". This film is a very sad portrayal of the desperate need of the human soul for intimacy.

I'm frankly surprised that Ang Lee hasn't been taken to task by the gay community for directing such a negative account of homosexuality.

Ironically, if you read respectable Christian authors like Mike Haley and others, you hear them say that homosexuality is usually a result of a failure to bond with a Father:

"But growing up as a kid, Dr. Nicolosi talks about the importance of the disidentification with the feminine and the identification with the masculine. That didnĂ‚’t happen for me in my life. What happened was, my dad, his way of making me a man was that he thought that he was going to push me in areas of sports that I wasnĂ‚’t interested in and then when I would get frustrated, he would do such things as call me Michelle, call me his third daughter, different instances like that. So times with my father became very painful. So the disidentification process with the feminine never occurred because times of being with my dad and being involved in masculinity were times of pain. So that never happened for me. "

What does Ang Lee portray in this film? Two men who were emotionally rejected by their fathers. Fathers have great power to shape their children's lives for good or ill. Bitter and angry men are misery to their children. It's interesting that those that I hear addressing this issue with regard to homosexuality are Christians who call fathers to love their children with kindness and understanding.

The two men in this film have absolutely no healthy male relationships, except when they meet each other and spend the summer alone together in the wilderness. Not surprisingly, two young, virile, emotionally distant men when placed completely alone together in the same tent for months at a time strike out at each other for connection. This is hardly an endorsement of homosexuality as a normal lifestyle choice.

The relationship that they share is classically male (don't tell anyone at Harvard): primarily sexual, few words, rough bordering on violence, and of course lacking monogamous commitment. It would be difficult to summarize male sexual nature more succintly. These are real men. They have normal human hearts that are meant to experience intimacy with others. What is abnormal or at least unhealthy is the environment in which they are functioning.

This is why their relationship functions like an addiction. Jack and Ennis are fixated on one another. This is a result of their inability to experience anything close to intimacy with any other person in their lives. The famous line, "God, I wish I knew how to quit you!" is more than a coincidence in my estimation, it is a summary of the central conflict of the film. Men who cannot experience intimacy in non-sexual ways will confuse sex for intimacy and become trapped in a cycle of sexual addiction, seeking intimacy but gaining only "special access" to another through gratification.

Addictions arise from a deep need that is not being met in a healthy way and therefore is met in an unhealthy way and leads to a cycle of guilt, shame, and further acting out. This has nothing specifically to do with sexuality. Addictions come in all shapes and sizes but they are all related to the ineffective satisfaction of the needs of the human heart.

I spoke with a friend last week who spent more than 5 years living in China and we talked about he possibility of Ang Lee's interest in this film being related to similar societal issues in his home country. Emotionally distant men, a culturally opressive society, men living in close quarters, few women; all of these could be said of China. One wonders if rural America is really the target of Lee's creative agenda in this film.

Does anyone believe that the homosexual relationship portrayed in the film was healthy? I'm sure many will blame it on the homophobic pressure of a narrow minded society. Yet it seems unlikely that the men in the film would have lived happily ever after if they had been able to fully pursue their relationship. In the film, their marriages failed for many reasons that were unrelated to their sexual needs. And the one thing that we each take into every relationship is ourselves. Only someone with an adolescent view of love could look at their relationship and predict long term viability.

The one sliver of redemption comes as Ennis realizes that he must stop neglecting his own daughter the way his own father neglected him.

This movie is a very sad portrayal of human beings groping for real connection with others, finding little hope and ultimately ending tragedy.

I think it's popularity in Hollywood and elite circles stems from a misunderstanding of human sexuality and an ignorance of the real source of opression against homosexuals in today's world. Whatever the sins of rural America against homosexuals may be, the greatest threat of violence against gays at this moment in history is the threat of Islamic Fascism. Making a film to address that reality would require artistic and moral courage that Hollywood knows not of. I don't believe I have ever seen a tribute to Theo Van Gogh at the Academy Awards and suspect I never will. That might cause trouble.

The film is very good, but not great and not the Best Picture, but you know that already.

My Rating: Rentable


Rich Street said...

Excellent commentary and analysis there, Ryan (especially the part of Islam). How about Hollywood making a film about Mohammed and cartoons! Then we'll see some famous stars come out in support of the Patriot Act big time!

My only question is who did you take to the movie???

Anonymous said...

You're councelling college kids? Good God...

McRyanMac said...

Dear Anonymous,

And you are?

Anonymous said...

>>>And you are?

Someone who knows what the Bible says about homosexuality, and someone who knows that homosexual acts are not "classically male." And someone who knows that people do evil because they enjoy doing evil, not because they "have an addiction" and are functioning in an "abnormal environment."

Once again, that you are a Christian counseling people is amazing, but I guess unfortunately in these days it is par for the course.

McRyanMac said...

You know, I would respect your opinion more if you felt legitimate enough to sign your name to it.

But, that aside, I have a question?

Do you, even you Anonymous, do you sin?

Sean said...

You missed the entire point of the movie. The two guys are messed up and repressed and in pain and feel like outcasts because they come from a community that would destroy them if they knew that they were gay. Ang Lee would laugh at your complete misunderstanding of his work. In fact, I don't doubt everyone involved in the project would.

Anonymous said...

Do you, even you Anonymous, do you sin?

Nope, never. I am a new creature in Christ, thank the Lord!

Anonymous said...

I used to be a christian, I used to think homosexuality was sick. Then I thought about it a while. Not that self-serving thinking that helps lead you back to your origional position, but real thinking that left nothing out. Now I sleep in sunday mornings and don't worry about what some ancient book of folklore says about my life. Thank Goodness for logic, the only known cure to superstition!

K7 said...

A couple of fake anonymouses jumped in and responded for me. (Think: 'monk'. Deceit on blogs is his specialty.)

Whether I sin or not is not pertinent to your unbiblical, and just wrong in every other way, statements about homosexuality.

My sin doesn't reverse the biblical condemnation of homosexuality. Nor does it mitigate the campaign of homosexuals to defile every iconic image of American and world history.

McRyanMac said...

Ok, This is fun. Actual comments, what a concept. I've been in meetings all day so I'll have to wait to respond fully.

McRyanMac said...

Ok, I've got a moment.

Sean, if I'm wrong, then I have some questions:

Why do Ennis and Jack have poor relationships with their fathers? Is it "because they come from a community that would destroy them if they knew that they were gay."

Why do they have poor relationships with their wives? Is it "because they come from a community that would destroy them if they knew that they were gay."

Why do they have a poor relationship with each other? Why do heterosexuals have poor relationships? Is it "because they come from a community that would destroy them if they knew that they were gay."

Why does Ennis have a poor relationship with his children? With his new girlfriend?

Are you prepared to claim that the myriad relational problems, at every level of these men's lives is "because they come from a community that would destroy them if they knew that they were gay." And conversely, do you claim that if they came from a community that wouldn't destroy them if they knew that they were gay, they wouldn't have these problems?

McRyanMac said...


"Thank Goodness for logic, the only known cure to superstition!"

Can you give me a logical reason why any sexual behavior is wrong?

McRyanMac said...


Thank you, for signing your "handle". I hate to have my integrity questioned by a Christian who is unwilling to be a public witness. Perhaps you could go the whole way and actually put your name on your sentiments. "Let your yes be yes" and all that.

You still haven't answered my question though. Do you sin?

K7 said...

How does "My sin..." not answer your question. Why do you ask such an asinie question anyway. Who told you Christians don't sin. What denomination, what school of theology, do you associate yourself with? Whoever told you Christians are without sin, or whoever put into your head whatever it is that makes you ask a Christian the question "Do you sin?" is steering you wrong.

If you're just assuming extreme biblical and human nature ignorance on my part, then, um, ok. Do you assume such ignorance based on no evidence all the time with people? Should you? You made statement about homosexuality which is what I responded to. I made no statements about my state as a sinner.

Icarus Poe said...

"Whatever the sins of rural America against homosexuals may be, the greatest threat of violence against gays at this moment in history is the threat of Islamic Fascism."

Surely you jest. Perhaps I'm not paying attention, but I have trouble believing this. Could you perhaps supply me with one or two examples of "Islamofascist"-on-gay violence in this country?

McRyanMac said...


You know, for someone who doesn't have time to sign his name, you sure to have a lot of snotty comments.

I don't remember Jesus saying, "Blessed are the surly, for they shall be pursuasive".

I asked about your sin because your "I am the almighty Oz" attitude is common among those who claim that being a Christian means that you no longer sin. Those folks do exist, I've talked to many. In fact they seem to like coming to college campuses.

Anyway, the other reason I asked is because of your statement, "And someone who knows that people do evil because they enjoy doing evil, not because they "have an addiction" and are functioning in an "abnormal environment."

Are you saying that you enjoy doing evil? How can you be so theologically pure and yet still enjoy evil?

I'm poking fun of course. You seem to have a very simple perspective on human behavior, at least as it regards others. I wonder what your perspective on your own behavior is. I'll wager it's a bit more complex.

Finally, in all of your blanket condemnations of me, you have never actually quoted anything that I've said to prove your claims. This makes me doubt that your conclusions actually follow from my words.

McRyanMac said...

Icarus Poe,

In order to post links more easily, I answered your question here:

Anonymous said...

I do not sin. Sin is a biblical label that does not apply to those who do not belive in it. You might belive homosexuality is wrong. Fine, do not do it. Let others do as they will.

McRyanMac said...


steve said...

Well, "sin" may not apply to those who "belive" in it, but it does apply to those who live in it.

Francis S. said...

I would say that theologians run the gamut on what is the cause of homosexuality - those theologians I consider to be respectable say it's mostly biology. That old chestnut about male homosexuality being caused by a "failure to bond with the father" is something that has long been discredited by science and fell out of favor long ago among the well-educated, Christian and non-Christian alike.

I would also have to disagree on what the film is about: It's a very romantic - but tragic - take on what happens when true love is denied, which is that those who deny it and its fulfilment are ultimately destroyed by the denial. Whether the denial is forced on them by society, or by themselves, or in the case of the movie, one resulting in the other, it ends up poisoning their lives. These men are tragic not because they've failed to bond with their fathers, but because they are unable to live out the love they have for one another.

The reason that gay groups aren't up in arms about this movie is because it represents a truth that gay people live with every day: just looking at the culture wars going on in America right now, it's obvious that a huge chunk of the population hates gay people and wishes the worst for us, still today, more than 40 years after the time that this movie initially represents (just think, less than 10 years ago, Matthew Shepherd was murdered in Wyoming not long after this story was first published in the New Yorker). And yet, these two men persist in loving each other. It is a triumph of love in the face of all opposition, opposition both from without and within, a triumph despite the denial and the tragic ending.

And while I can't disagree with you that generally speaking, Islam as it is practiced seems to be pretty anti-gay, I would also have to say that the biggest promotors of hatred towards gays in the U.S. are churches and a number of prominent "Christian" organizations. Which is not to say that all churches or Christians are homophobic.

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