Right-wing pundit Michael Medved recently wrote a self-congratulatory op-ed in USA Today about how the right-wing's lack of public outrage over Brokeback Mountain proves just how tolerant, nice and mature they all truly are.
Instead of reacting with outraged calls for censorship or condemnation, the much-reviled minions of the so-called religious right have mostly ignored [Brokeback Mountain], allowing it to collect every sort of honor with shockingly scant controversy.Bullsh*t.
No major organizations called for a boycott of the film, or threatened its producers, or made any serious attempt to interfere with those who might enjoy this artfully-crafted motion picture (it has become a modest commercial success). In the heartland of Evangelical America, Brokeback has generated more ho-hums than howls of protest (or hosannas).
The muted reaction to the film from religious communities strongly disapproving of its themes gives the lie to the common characterization of cultural conservatives as intolerant, incurably homophobic and implacably determined to impose their values on society.
Michael Medved knows full well that their silence is a coordinated strategy -- they have come to the conclusion that playing the part of Chicken Little generally only gets the movie a ton of free publicity and they end up looking like intolerant, judgemental prigs.
Robert Knight, director of the Culture & Family Institute at Concerned Women for America, says his group has made a conscious decision not to campaign against [Brokeback Mountain]. "People aren't going to walk around outside theaters with protest signs," Knight says. "This is not 'The Last Temptation of Christ,' which was such an affront that people felt they had to respond. This is something that could be and should be ignored.OK, so Medved is totally full of it. (Although all bets are off if it wins a few Oscars -- then they'll have fewer reasons to stay quiet.) What would they have to gain from boycotting? It's not as though their followers need to be told to stay away from this movie. Being "tolerant" of a fictitious movie is hardly a major achievement when you dedicate your professional life to demonizing people -- trust me, as someone on the receiving end, it's hardly "tolerant" to try to ban my marriage in the Constitution or continue to push the myth that gay people are intrinsically dangerous to children.
"We've actually discussed whether to do some sort of action," Knight says. "But the consensus was, why give it that much credit, or why call attention to it?"
Peter Sprigg, vice president of the Family Research Council -- the group that a year ago led a campaign against "Kinsey," the biopic about America's favorite/most-hated sex researcher -- says his group came to a similar conclusion. "We talked about whether we should do something, but at this point we don't have any plans," says Sprigg. "Some of these things, we don't want to draw attention to them. We would almost be doing them a favor if we were to mount a big campaign -- we'd be making a martyr out of the movie, so to speak. I don't think we want to fall into that."
If the religious right was truly giving a collective "whatev" about Brokeback they woulnd't be applauding themselves, would they? Medved's essay alone implies that they are holding themselves back, sort of like a little kid who got in trouble for pulling his sister's hair. After being scolded and threatened with punishment he's on his best behavior, so much that he constantly reminds his parents that they're not misbehaving, "See, I can be good if properly motivated, honest!" Yes, he gets credit for behaving well, but the bigger point is that the good behavior should come unconsciously. Because his behavior isn't as "good" as it is self-serving.
As for trying to distance themselves from their Middle Eastern fundamentalist counterparts, I'll be happy to give them credit where credit is due. The American right-wing doesn't call for public hangings of gays/Jewish/Buddhist/Muslim/agnostic/atheist/etc. people, they don't instruct their followers to go into certain neighborhoods and burn them down. But they do plenty to unfairly demonize certain people by pushing to pass or keep discriminatory laws and practices, which contributes to a culture of persecution and violence. So don't try to stand on my neck and tell me that you're being "tolerant."
However, here's a disturbing thought -- Medved admits that American Christian fundamentalists don't call for violence because they don't need to, they have power and violence is the last refuge of the powerless. So what happens if the American right were to become powerless? The answer to this question gets to the heart of how they truly think and feel.