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 didnÂt 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 wasnÂt 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