Friday, January 13, 2006

Mixed Feelings

Before I forget, if you've a taste for the slightly skewed, and aren't following Emily Veinglory's Gay Zombie Penguins, you probably should.

I'm a bad lesbian. I have no real desire to see Brokeback Mountain, although I probably will go anyway because Annie Proulx wrote the short story.

I will admit that the apparently deep-seated appeal of slash fic is somehow lost on me. I strongly suspect the good looks of the two young actors in the movie, coupled with the novelty and promise of hot guy-on-guy chemistry, is boosting this movie's popularity far beyond what it might otherwise exhibit. Normally, I'd expect a movie like this to come out low-budget, with complete unknown actors, play a long weekend in the local art-house, then disappear forever.

I'm stunned and impressed that the story--it's a good story, by the way, published in The New Yorker, in 1997--managed to draw such big names.

I worry, however, on a couple of points. I worry that a queer lovestory going so mainstream will serve to create a tempest in a teapot with the idiot far-right, and distract from the fact that we can't marry our long-term partners, file a joint tax-return, or do any number of other little things that straight, married people take completely for granted. I worry that the backlash will serve to distract from the fact that in many states it is completely legal to deny housing or employment on the basis of sexuality. "Look, you got Brokeback Mountain, for chrissakes--you're getting your perversion flaunted right in our faces, so quit yer whinin'!"

I dunno. I could just be paranoid, too.

Then, there's the completely selfish aspect--I don't really want to let the idiot far-right in on queerness. I don't really want them to see the pain and the heart-breaking self-identification battles. I don't really want to share with them that rare, private moment of "oh, my god...this is why I've never quite fit in." It feels too personal. Too private. If I thought it would make a difference for one single second, then perhaps I'd feel differently. These people aren't even going to go see the movie, though--much less experience some sort of epiphany. They'll just use it as so much more ammunition about the "homosexual agenda"--which is not about rubbing anyone's face in anything, by the way; but rather, it's about being able to have a job and an apartment; and about not being beaten nearly to death, tied with your own shoelaces and left to die hanging from a fence . . . all just because you're queer.

I will say, after cruising a handful of message boards to see what was being said about the movie, I'm glad for the sake of the young and enthusiastic newly-gay*, out there. They seem to feel affirmed and, frankly, a bit giddy. As if this movie really is a triumph towards the greater goal of cultural acceptance.

In the long run, I'm afraid, it'll do no such thing.

*Newly-gay being the under thirty-five crowd. After a couple of decades, it gets harder to sustain that level of enthusiasm about your sexuality--probably regardless of gender-preference.

Not that it isn't still fun...


Anonymous said...

Man, it just boggles my mind what people will do to others who live a life they disagree with.

I don't post this very often, but I've been a victim of a mild gay-bashing incident. I say mild because I got the **** kicked out of me, but the dude involved didn't go any further than that.

It ticks me off so much because I'm not gay. I never was. But some dude saw me sitting in a Denny's restaurant talking with another guy, and assumed....

I used to believe the nonsense about the so-called 'homosexual agenda' that you mentioned, Mac. I was once one of the right-wing fruitcakes that try to say everyone is out to destroy America except the right-wingers. But after that beating, I realized that the only people who are destroying America are those who are not willing to live and let live.

I won't be going to see the movie you mentioned, simply because I'm not into gay romances. But I must say that I agree with your observations in your article. Too many people think they have to legislate morality for everyone else in the whole wide world. I wish people would get a life, frankly, and stop being so judgmental about people they don't understand. It's not going to help their cause at all. It'll only make them look like the idiots they are....much like you pointed out.

I hope everything's going well for you this weekend, Mac. I'll talk to you later:)

Anonymous said...

I have a lot of mixed feeling on this too, Mac. And my brain needs to mull it over a bit. Then maybe I'll come back and post, or I'll email ya.

As for the movie, I don't think it will have a positive effect though. The far right has far too many idiots who wouldn't know how to focus on what's important if it jumped up and bit them in the arse.

Live and let live is not well understood.

Dawno said...

I might be stepping out on a bit of a limb here, being an average middle class hetro white person but perhaps panning back to a wide view of the subject of how oppressed minorities have moved from being only cast as stereotypes to finally arriving as mainstream actors is worth pondering.

Blacks and Hispanics have over time moved from being cruelly stereotyped for comical purposes or used only as criminals to mainstream roles and Oscar winning parts. There's less novelty in casting a black or hispanic in a role - it seems, than there once was. Instead of thinking "it will create a big buzz if we cast Black Actor in this part" they just say "Black Actor would be great in this role." and they're not thinking it *because* he's black.

Perhaps this movie is a step in that direction for gays and lesbians? Not so much in the individual actor's ability to get work (that's where the analogy breaks down a bit) but in the acceptance of a movie like this as 'just another good story' vs. all the hype because it's a gay love story.

While, for now, folks still focus on the 'otherness' and make comparisions to 'mainstream', it seems to me that there's a path from here to a point where it's not big news that it's a gay love story but just that it's a great love story and no-one takes note of the fact that the lovers are gay.

I thought this was a telling review: "This is one of the best serious films about homosexuality ever made, but though it's sad and sobering it's still only a rough draft of a great movie."
-- Kyle Smith, NEW YORK POST

I look forward to the day when the review says: "Sad and sobering love story but only a rough draft of a great movie" because it's irrelevant who's in love with whom.

And as far as the far-right wackos they will eventually find something else to foam at the mouth about because nobody will listen to their ranting anymore. Anti-black ranting is now the provence of a miniscule minority that has no political power. Eventually this will be true of the anti-gay wackos. At least, that's my hope.

Oh, and Gay Zombie Penguins is a hoot.

Tish Grier said...

Mac: sometimes I think that all the crap gays hear (and have to deal with) has more to do with supposedly hetero people never fully dealing with their own sexualities before they start on the merry-go-round of marriage-house-kids-career. So many go like sheep into a lifestyle that, after around 15 or 20 years of living it, begins to feel like it was, and probably really is, a complete lie in the first place.

But, they get so many benefits in the way of tax incentives, investment incentives, social security, etc., that ending the marriage is less than the ideal solution. I have met so many men who are in midlife and chafing at their conventional sexuality,(usually because they chase me harder than Wile E. Coyote chases the RoadRunner), and, when it comes down to it, all I can feel for them is a massive amount of pity.

So many unresolved issues--and because they won't own them, end up projecting them on everyone else. That's why they see agendas everywhere, even in a story that has alot more to do with being true to oneself than it has to do with being a homosexual cowboy.

Ms M said...

I haven't seen Brokeback Mountain yet but am hoping to catch it this coming weekend. I can understand your concerns Mac about the potential reaction of the far-right but I am a little confused about your post. Your concern is that this film is mainstream and popular - and will therefore reach audiences it otherwise would not, whereas a book or an arthouse film has a smaller following and has the potential of only reaching an audience that will seek it out rather than the other way around and will otherwise go unnoticed by the majority. But one of the outcomes of this segregation of media is that queer stories are only told to queer audiences or those sympathetic. And while this certainly may strengthen an identity that is defined by its minority status, it doesn't in any way challenge its status as a minority. It entrenches an identity based on exclusion. This is not to say that films made within and for the queer or art or political community don't have a role - they certainly do - but equally it is important to support those that speak from the centre to the centre. It may generate dialogue and debate true. It may generate rants and homophobic sentiment. It may invoke critiques from other camps (yes pun intended) that it focuses on the sex of sexuality and nothing else. It may be critiqued that it relies on a heterosexist expression of romance that is a genre that has traditionally excluded others. Better that than silence and terror.

Mac said...

Tish--you make an excellent point, if queer sex weren't so incredibly hot and alluring, it wouldn't be such a dire threat to heterosexism, eh?

Ms. M, thanks for reminding me to keep the faith--however you care to phrase it. :) I should probably preface all my posts for the next month with the note that I've just stopped smoking, and my mood is rather...unpredictable, of late.

Mac said...

Oh, and Dawno? You're never out on a limb, here, my friend.