'Brokeback' Breaking Down Barriers?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

'Brokeback' Breaking Down Barriers?

First, I'm a very bad homo. I live in one of the cities where "Brokeback Mountain" is in multiple theatres and has been for a while. But I haven't seen it. Not because I don't want to, but due to work schedules the only "movie day" my wife and I have is Sunday and certain things have gotten in the way of us being able to go. (cough, football, cough)

Anyways, so I haven't seen it. Everyone I know has seen it. Everyone I know has raved about it, hets and homos alike. However, as much as I love film and believe in the power of film to change minds, to transform, to transcend, I have been skeptical of the claims about the reach of this film beyond already gay-friendly audiences. I'm not sure what this says about me, although I think it's pretty common among queerfolk to assume that the majority of people are homophobic until we get a clear indiciation otherwise. It's self-preservation, we'd rather be taken by suprise that someone is friendly than be caught off guard that they are not. It is a direct result of being raised in a culture that teaches people from a young age that being a "homo" or a "lesbo" is wrong. Thankfully this perspective seems to be quickly dying, I've met younger lgbt folks (I'm 30) who don't think this way.

So it does my skeptical, cynical heart good to read this:
In the equally conservative ski town of Whitefish, (MT) where the film also opened on Friday, it was the weekend's top draw, taking in $2,312 and beating out "Big Momma's House 2," "Nanny McPhee" and "Underworld," the top three national box-office draws. And a rep for the company calls the film's performance in Billings, a traditional farming community in central Montana, where it has taken in $26,065 since opening on Jan. 13, "absolutely phenomenal." "Brokeback" is also doing well in Great Falls and Bozeman, and last weekend opened at No. 1 in Helena.
I've personally loved all the quotes by anti-gay folks that there are no such thing as gay cowboys. (Clearly these people have never heard of gay rodeos or gay country western bars.) But unless these small Montana towns are actually unknown gay enclaves, these are not gay audiences going to see Brokeback. Maybe they're just going out of curiosity, to see what the fuss is all about. But this isn't a story about people going and walking out of the film, or selling-out movie theatres and no one showing up. This is about BB being an influential blockbuster in the most unlikely places.

I'm think I'm starting to believe in the power of this film.

I personally love the fact that this is a gay male love story and not a lesbian love story. I fully recognize that lesbians are, generally, not demonized the same way as gay men, nor with the same ferocity. (I personally think this has more to do with sexism and that our society puts girl-on-girl love in the "nonthreatening" category. Our biggest problem is often invisibility. Well, unless we want to be mothers, then it's a different story.) So I think it is that much more amazing that a love story between men is making such waves.

We queers have taken it hard on the nose the past few years-- victories in places such as Massachuetts notwithstanding. We've seen our families used as boogeymen to scare people into voting for politicians who have campaigned to "protect" the American family from-- horror of horrors-- same-sex people who want the right to marry their beloved. But backlash has a way of begetting more backlash. Maybe this is just the beginning of the next round. I can't wait to see what happens if it wins multiple Oscars.

Go gay cowboy movie, go! Yeeeeee-haw!

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