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The passing of Heath Ledger and the unsettling brilliance of his signature 2005 performance in Brokeback Mountain

Canadian writer Jonathan Kay wrote this for the National Post today:

Brokeback Mountain, Heath Ledger's masterpiece, has been Youtubed, South Parked, Family Guyed and Saturday Night Lived so many times, that it is sometimes difficult to recall what an astonishingly good film it was. Had Brokeback been the only film he'd ever made, we would still properly be mourning the loss of one of the world's great actors.

Brokeback is too often pigeon-holed as a gay love story. (Wikipedia describes it as "an Academy Award-winning 2005 romantic drama film that depicts the complex romantic and sexual relationship between two men in the American West from 1963 to 1983.") But the homosexuality in the movie was incidental to a larger theme: the random cruelty of the human condition, a condition that allows outside forces to destroy the lives of even the toughest men.

In the case of Ennis del Mar (Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), the force that destroyed them was in their genes: They were gay men living in a homophobic world. When they were true to their love, they lived in a tiny snowglobe of ecstasy. But everywhere else, they were lonely men living a lie.

Some of the most exquisite vignettes from the movie come when those two world collide. Three years after seeing the movie, I still remember the brief scene when Jack shows up for seasonal work at Brokeback x97 hoping to see Ennis again x97 and is turned away in humiliating fashion by the rancher who knew their secret. ("You boys sure found a way to make the time pass up there. Twist, you guys wasn't gettin' paid to leave the dogs babysittin' the sheep while you stem the rose.") Outwardly, these men are the very embodiment of western ruggedness x97 especially Ennis, whose bar-fight brutality escalates in accordance with the shame he feels about his sexuality. But inside, they are train wrecks. And Ang Lee deserved the Best Director awards he got for letting that wreckage play out without any sort of deus ex machina or romantic Hollywood gloss.

But the wreckage in the film is not really about gay love, or even love itself. It is about powerlessness. Fiddle with the plot, and it would be easy for artists of equal caliber to make essentially the same film about men addicted to alcohol, or drugs, or gambling, or suffering illness, or who fall hopelessly in love with the wrong woman. When Jack famously says to Ennis " I wish I knew how to quit you," the you could be anything.

This is why so many people who aren't gay, and care nothing for Western vistas and cowboy flicks, were so affected by Brokeback. None of us have control of our lives. The movie is about whatever uncontrollable force we stay up at night worrying about. As in every great film, we read ourselves into it.

In my particular case, Brokeback became a film about failed fatherhood. Both Ennis and Jack marry and have kids. Jack manages to cobble together an outwardly respectable middle-class family life, even as his marriage deteriorates into a business relationship. But Ennis can't manage the act, and his life spirals into poverty and dysfunctionality as he throws everything away for the few chances he gets be with Jack. In one scene x97 the one that will leap into my mind every time I think of Ledger's acting career x97 Ennis barges into the grocery store where his wife has taken a job to make ends meet. He's got the kids with him, and tells his wife Cassie she's got to mind them so he can go off on one of his short-notice "fishing trips" with Jack. He shoves the bewildered kids at his wife and then takes off. Everything about him shows that he knows that what he's doing is wrong, irresponsible, bizarre x97 but he can't fight it any more than a heroin junkie can fight the needle.

It's a wrenching scene that plays to every man's worst fears about his own abilities as a father. Will he do right by his wife and children x97 provide for them, stick around, be a role model x97 come what may? Or will forces outside of his control x97 or controllable only with a willpower he cannot muster x97 conspire to make him a failure? That's the scene that broke me. And it did so because Ledger was a brilliant enough actor to sell it.

The circumstances of Ledger's death this week are murky. We don't know yet whether he committed suicide with sleeping pills, or merely took too many of them, in the wrong combination, by accident. But the interviews he gave in late 2007 suggest a tormented man x97 to the point he could barely sleep. I don't want to psychoanalyze a man I don't know, or proffer facile analogies between his own life and that of his signature screen character. But when I heard the news of Ledger's death, my mind immediately reached to Ennis' grim outlook on life. However, successful, or happy, or tough a lot of us may be on the outside, there is always x97 always x97 a vulnerability within that threatens to drag us down.

In Ledger's case, whatever it was took with it not only a man many decades too young to die, but an extraordinary actor who rendered one of the truly great screen acting performances of his generation.

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by Canadian Gayreply 7901/24/2008

"In one scene � the one that will leap into my mind every time I think of Ledger's acting career � Ennis barges into the grocery store where his wife has taken a job to make ends meet. He's got the kids with him, and tells his wife Cassie she's got to mind them so he can go off on one of his short-notice "fishing trips" with Jack. He shoves the bewildered kids at his wife and then takes off. Everything about him shows that he knows that what he's doing is wrong, irresponsible, bizarre � but he can't fight it any more than a heroin junkie can fight the needle."

Um, no, he had to rush off for his JOB, the cows were calving, and he couldn't lose his job. It had nothing to do with Jack. His memory is faulty.

by Canadian Gayreply 101/23/2008

Not to mention that Ennis's wife is Alma. Cassie was the woman he saw later, who told him that women "don't fall in love with fun".

by Canadian Gayreply 201/23/2008

Straight read themselves into, but I doubt to the deep that gay men did. Not to the depth that I see the part of me wounded by homophobia in Ennis.

by Canadian Gayreply 301/23/2008

The first six paragraphs are awesome and brilliant.

THe second half falls apart.

by Canadian Gayreply 401/23/2008

"Straight read themselves into, but I doubt to the deep that gay men did."

Perhaps it's the grammar, but could you please explain what you meant here?

by Canadian Gayreply 501/23/2008

He makes some good points, but his analogy that Ennis's passion for Jake could be "men addicted to alcohol, or drugs, or gambling, or suffering illness, or who fall hopelessly in love with the wrong woman," is facile and insulting.

Once again, a straight man doesn't get that in all of those examples, the object of the passion is a flaw, a disease, a compulsion.

In Ennis's case, his love for Jack is the only pure and honest thing about his life. His marriage to Alma is the flaw -- the lie -- and thus the analogies don't work.

And, as r1 points out, since he's rushing off to take a job doing the only thing he knows how to do, the analogies again do not work. His limited job skills and his self-esteem's need to work and support to his family rather than live off his wife's salary do not compare to the vices of alcoholism or addiction to gambling or drugs or the wrong woman.

I suppose it's nice the guy is open-minded enough to think the movie is universal and has meaning for him, too, but he missed the point, which is that society's arbitrary rules that exclude us have killed people and destroyed lives -- including non-gay lives, like the spouses and children.

But that doesn't mean *we* are flawed for being who we are.

It reminds me of Harvey Fierstein saying about [italic]"Torch Song,[/italic] "Please don't say it's universal, it's not universal, it's GAY." That's a paraphrase, of course, but that's how I remember the sentiment.

by Canadian Gayreply 601/23/2008

Excellent analysis, R6. You should send a copy of that to the author.

by Canadian Gayreply 701/23/2008

EXACTLY r6.

by Canadian Gayreply 801/23/2008

Thanks for posting that, OP.

by Canadian Gayreply 901/23/2008

It was having a headache and not bothering to proofread it R5, but thanks for giving me the opportunity to repost it correctly:

Straights read themselves into it, but I doubt to the depth that gay men did. Not to the depth that I see the part of me wounded by homophobia in Ennis.

This is true, and it's why just thinking about the movie can so easily invoke tears from me. I've never seen it since seeing it 3 times in the theater, because it's so damn sad. Homophobia is definitely the winner in BBM, crushing the life out of the two men. But that was the story being told, there have been so many unhappy endings for gay people and that's what BBM was about. R6 did definitely nail it.

I'm ready to watch it again soon, because of Heath's passing, it's time to see it again. And I think I might make an edited version of it, containing only my favorite scenes, to watch on a more regular basis. The homoerotic mountain scenes in the beginning are definitely fun. Or maybe I can get used to watching it all the way through. But to see Ennis so defeated at the end is just really tough on me.

by Canadian Gayreply 1001/23/2008

But he isn't defeated at the very end. He swears--to Jack--that he will do what his heart tells him to. That's why he agrees to go to his daughter's wedding, instead of working the job and shutting down emoptionally. It's not a happy ending in the sense that everything will be alright from then on, because it sure as hell won't be. But it's not the complete tragedy that some people make it out to be. Against all odds, it's hopeful.

The author is right about Brokeback being Ledger's transcedent performance. Though I felt sad about his death, I didn't actually feel grief until they showed a clip of Brokeback on the news. The Joker role might prove to be very disturbing, in light of his suicide. It may even be better than what he did in Brokeback, but given that he's playing a villain in a comic book movie, I'm guessing the ending won't be hopeful for him, and people won't want to remember him for that.

by Canadian Gayreply 1101/23/2008

I always got in trouble for saying this in BBM discussions, but it bothers me that his daughter doesn't push him out of the closet at the end. If she pushed hard enough, she could've moved him forward to self-acceptance. Remember she said "I guess he isn't the marrying kind" which did come off as her knowing what was up with dad. And I've also heard "not being the marrying kind" was often a way of saying someone was gay in country code. It was Wyoming, but it was the early 80s. They had TVs, Donahue had been pushing gay rights on his show for years, and Oprah was soon to take to the airwaves. I just don't buy that those people didn't have the slightest exposure to gay rights, even if most of them were small-minded bigots. But that's not the way his daughter is portrayed. Ennis wasn't dead yet, if he were straight, his daughter probably could've successfully set him up with a new wife. So the idea that she'd never try to get him to confront being gay, and help him find some way to express it safely, seems like a derelictions of her duties as a good daughter. And they did show Ennis as a very loving father, so he deserved that love back.

And don't anyone bother to say what I described would've been an impossibility, real life gay fathers with daughters who knew the score, did just as I described in Wyoming in the early 80s. Those people had definitely heard the word gay. it wouldn't have been socially acceptable to be for gay rights, but that wouldn't prevent his daughter bringing the subject up and start letting him know she has a liberal attitude about it. And he'd say he doesn't agree, but I think with a little persistence, it would be possible to lessen the homophobia to a significant degree. And so on, a confrontation, providing him with literature, making calls to find a support group. It did happen with real fathers and daughters in the early 80s, even in rural Wyoming.

by Canadian Gayreply 1201/23/2008

As far as knowing what "I swear . . ." means at the end of the film, I'm surprised you can say with such assurance that you know. Its heartbreaking ambiguity is partly makes it one of the most powerful endings in recent movie history.

by Canadian Gayreply 1301/24/2008

This is such a great movie, even though it was not written to the dictates of R12. They need to re-release it in the theaters.

by Canadian Gayreply 1401/24/2008

r12, these are valid points in the abstract. But good fiction speaks in specifics, and what we learn from this film is that social forces may have been brewing to allow Ennis to come out eventually, but that nothing suggests that this would have been possible for this particular character. Deciding to go to his daughter's wedding shows a crack in the facade, but scarcely--to me, anyway--that he's ready to come out publicly, even far in the future.

by Canadian Gayreply 1501/24/2008

r12 - Saying someone is "not the marrying kind" is not an admission of someone's homosexuality in the plains culture region. It might be a statement that they like living alone, that they don't much like women, or that they can't get along with anyone else well enough to get married to them. Any of those three would come to the mind of the daughter long before the idea that he might be gay.

On the news they keep saying the masseusse kept checking on him. Do they mean "the hooker?"

by Canadian Gayreply 1601/24/2008

This shutting down emotionally is exactly the option that is left to most gay men. The author of the article did, indeed, miss the point. BBM is about the destruction of the gay individual in the face of non-acceptance. I grew up in that part of the country, and the characters in the movie, not just Ennis and Jack, slammed me right between the eyes. Not only did Ang Lee get the story line right, he nailed the persona of every single character.

While straight viewers might choose to read the things into the movie that the author proposes, that's only their interpretation. We all can interpret any movie in any way we like. That's anyone's perogative. It's still a gay movie.

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by Canadian Gayreply 1701/24/2008

R12, if you don't understand Wyoming, the characters, the relationship between Ennis and his daughter, homophobia or anything else about the movie or about life, why not post on some other thread.

You might as well wish the story ended with Ennis and his daughter stepping through the door of his sad little closet and into a magical land of enchanted animated sheep dancing in pink snow.

by Canadian Gayreply 1801/24/2008

R6, I agree with you and Harvey. Much of what the quoted article is saying comes down to, "Straight movies are about straight people. And gay movies? they're about straight people, too."

His tortured comparisons remind me of white people who say, "I know what it's like to be a minority -- once I was the only customer at a Burger King and everybody who worked there was colored."

by Canadian Gayreply 1901/24/2008

errrr... I meant to say "...most gay men who choose to remain in rural America."

Apologies.

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by Canadian Gayreply 2001/24/2008

R12, having been out at age 12 in 1966 in Oklahoma in a cowboy family, I absolutely agree with you about people knowing about gay life even in rural areas by the early '80s, but you seem to want his daughter to be someone she wasn't.

The points you make might have worked in a different story, but not in the story Annie Proulx actually wrote.

Do you remember her inspiration for the story? She was in a cowboy bar in Wyoming, and she noticed a man in his '60s looking at a young guy surreptitiously.

The character you want his daughter to guide him to be is not the man Annie Proulx saw that night and wrote about.

by Canadian Gayreply 2101/24/2008

"Not only did Ang Lee get the story line right, he nailed the persona of every single character."

Yeah, and he did it all by himself.

by Canadian Gayreply 2201/24/2008

Point taken, r22, but the book and the cinema portrayal don't always jibe.

by Canadian Gayreply 2301/24/2008

They could easily have become hollywood cowboys. Even though thousands are responsible for their small part in a film, ultimately it's the directors work.

But let's not quibble about this. BBM is a great movie. Period.

by Canadian Gayreply 2401/24/2008

I think this is a better article about the movie, written right after the movie's release. "Epiphany on Brokeback Mountain" ... if you didn't read this back when BBM was all the rage here, then read it now.

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by Canadian Gayreply 2501/24/2008

"Brokeback is too often pigeon-holed as a gay love story."

Right. It's really about sheep.

by Canadian Gayreply 2601/24/2008

The author means well, and sure, all good art has many angles of accessibility and connection -- but come on, there's a reason that this film was so deeply and intensely felt by so many gay men who saw it.

I only saw Brokeback once, and can still remember almost every part of the film as if I'd seen it five or ten times.

by Canadian Gayreply 2701/24/2008

Here's something that was written shortly after the movie came out that I had saved at the time.

I don't actually remember the source, but it, too, was written by a straight guy:

"Ennis isnx92t strong like that. Hex92s so scared of who he is he begins to disappear within himself. An early shot shows him leaning against the boss-manx92s trailer, head down, cowboy hat covering his face. Itx92s cowboy cool a la James Dean. Throughout the film Ennis keeps that cowboy hat covering his face but with each frame it becomes more tragic x97 a man too scared to be seen. Donx92t look at my face because you might see who I am. He gives himself a smaller and smaller spot on which to live his increasingly shrunken life. The movie begins with youth and wide-open vistas and ends in middle-age in a tiny trailer. The one scene that broke my heart is wholly ordinary: Ennis, alone in a cafeteria booth, head down, picking at a piece of pie. Hex92s alone, and will remain alone, no matter how many waitresses try to drag his ass onto the dance floor.

This is why the movie is striking a chord with the non-gay community. Ennis resonates because he reminds us of some part of us. Life has such possibilities, and from lack of courage or weariness or outright fear we allow it to shrink us into this small, sad space doing this small, sad thing. Donx92t look at my face because you might see who I am. The film does what itx92s supposed to do. Itx92s specific but itx92s universal."

by Canadian Gayreply 2801/24/2008

It is a terribly sad and moving movie. However Ennis is not defeated in the end. He decides to go to his daughter's wedding. In a small way this was his acknowledgement that he has to follow his heart, not his autopilot perception of what he should do. In the case of Jack, his homophobia wins and he puts Jack second even though Jack is the best thing in his life. At the end of the film, he realizes that his daughter (who loves him too) needs to be put first- he is not making the same mistake. But he DID lose the great love of his life, and he knows it was his own fault ("I swear Jack") at the end. But in the case of his daughter and her marriage, he makes himself present, as he did not do for Jack, to his and Jack's ultimate misery.

by Canadian Gayreply 2901/24/2008

To those wondering why Ennis never came out of the closet:

1) When he was a kid, his dad showed him the body of a gay man who was beaten to death.

2) His true love was beaten to death, likely because he was gay. (Did anybody believe the 'changing a tire' story?)

Seriously, why would he come out?

by Canadian Gayreply 3001/24/2008

"Seriously, why would he come out?"

Because he should have had a set. It's Wyoming in the 1980's not Wyoming in the 1900's. The modern gay movement would have been seen on the tv at least. A lot of people go through worse and have the constitution to if not be out completely, at least attempt a small piece of happiness with another gay man. He spent his life afraid and he would die afraid. Not necessarily a heroic gay figure, more of a sad gay figure.

by Canadian Gayreply 3101/24/2008

this is one fucked up piece.

First of all, why does so much energy have to go into describing homosexuality as incidental, as if homosexuality is a dirty little part of the story? This is ironic, given that the story celebrates love universally but unabashedly does so through a gay love story. The tragedy of the story is the result of the failure to accept and integrate gay love into the loves of these two men in an open liberated way. This piece doesn't understand that and plays to the thinking that creates the tragedy in the film.

The inability to quit someone you love is not on a par with the addictions he mentions.

Jack was not "the wrong woman." Jack was the right man.

by Canadian Gayreply 3201/24/2008

If he had made a life with Jack, perhaps Jack would have not been beaten (living on his fathers ranch.) Ennis knows this.

He is flawed, he is scared and he is homophobic- with good reason. Although I never saw a man mauled quite like that as a kid, I experienced many many intances of homophobia acted on including blackmail, loss of employment, and communtiy ostracism. Did not stop me from coming out, and having a good life to boot- like many people of my generation.

by Canadian Gayreply 3301/24/2008

R31 is really clueless, ignorant, arrogant, and self-absorbed.

by Canadian Gayreply 3401/24/2008

R32, you should go to the site and post that in response to the original author.

by Canadian Gayreply 3501/24/2008

"2) His true love was beaten to death, likely because he was gay. (Did anybody believe the 'changing a tire' story?)"

That's very ambigious and one of the big questions. We don't know if Ennis is actually projecting his childhood trama onto the situation. Proulx was asked about that and she said she wasn't sure or something along those lines.

by Canadian Gayreply 3601/24/2008

There was a lot of discussion of that ambiguity at the time, but ultimately what really happened isn't part of the story anyway, Enis's belief or at least suspicion was.

by Canadian Gayreply 3701/24/2008

I just love it when people try to pick apart and judge the characters and actions, and try to CHANGE THEM, in a FICTIONAL story, in this dase, one that began as a truly wonderful short story.

by Canadian Gayreply 3801/24/2008

Exactly, r38.

by Canadian Gayreply 3901/24/2008

"Thanks for posting that, OP."

You're welcome. : )

by Canadian Gayreply 4001/24/2008

r1 is right. He had to go to the JOB, NOT out with jack. She should rewatch one more time.

by Canadian Gayreply 4101/24/2008

I watched it with a straight female friend. It got to the part where Ennis breaks down in the alley and I heard this immense gasp from my friend and her eyes were really wide and she just started BAWLING like I've never seen anyone cry before. I asked her what was happening and she said "I never knew, I just never knew a man could feel that way."

Totally eye-opening experience for her and for me.

That scene will always be the most powerful one for me because of my friend.

Ledger was a damn fine actor.

by Canadian Gayreply 4201/24/2008

Uh R31, most gays in the 1980's married and had children and lived in the closet. You may not like it, but it's the truth.

by Canadian Gayreply 4301/24/2008

R31, let's not forget about the emergence of AIDS in the early 80s.

That would keep someone like Ennis in the closet.

That's when my sexuality started to develop and it had an impact on acting upon it.

Shrinks have said I use AIDS as a reason not to have sex, but, as reasons go, it's a pretty strong one IMHO.

by Canadian Gayreply 4401/24/2008

"Uh R31, most gays in the 1980's married and had children and lived in the closet. You may not like it, but it's the truth."

Dream on, child at R43. I'm 55 and remember the times quite well, thank you. I was 27 in 1980 and living with my b/f in the suburbs as an out couple. Had plenty of out and proud friends at the time. Were there a lost of closets cases then? Sure, then as now. But to say most gays in the 1980's were married with kids and closeted is patently ridiculous.

by Canadian Gayreply 4501/24/2008

Wow, R42... that's really interesting. Thanks for sharing that.

That scene about ripped me up inside too. Even in the short-story.

by Canadian Gayreply 4601/24/2008

R45, this may come as a shock to you, but Ennis is not you, and your experience is not everyone's.

by Canadian Gayreply 4701/24/2008

Bully for you R45, but you are not representative. And certainly not representative of Wyoming, where the closet was the norm right up through Matthew Shepard. In fact, I had a friend from Wyoming who was just like Ennis and I met him in the early 1990's when he was still conflicted about his sexuality. Given that there were almost NO companies in the US that didn't practice systematic discrimination against gays and lesbians until the 1990's, I think it's fair to assume that you lived in a little bubble fantasy world with almost no contact with the United States of America.

by Canadian Gayreply 4801/24/2008

When I lived in Atlanta less than ten years ago, it was still the norm for gay men to be married.

by Canadian Gayreply 4901/24/2008

They tell me it is STILL the norm in Dallas.

by Canadian Gayreply 5001/24/2008

Where in my post do I compare myself to Ennis, R47? You (or R43) made the absurd statement that most gay people in the 1980's were closeted. It was 1980, not 1880, Stonewall had happened 11 years prior. If you had bothered to read my entire post, I did say that there were lots of closet cases but most gays were not married or closeted then.

Do you honestly think all those men in discos and clubs in the late 1970's and early 1980's (pre AIDS) in cities from coast to coast and every where in between were all married closet cases out on the town away from the wife and kids for the night?

by Canadian Gayreply 5101/24/2008

That was a truly incredible scene, R42.

by Canadian Gayreply 5201/24/2008

BFD, R48, you could go to Wyoming today, or New York City for that matter, and find somebody closeted like Ennis.

Just because you met a closet case in Wyoming in the 1990's doesn't support the statement that R43 originally made: that most gay people were married with children and closeted in the 1980's.

And spare me the fucking lecture about job discrimination. I was born in 1952, came out at 19 in 1971 IN FUCKING MISSOURI. Believe me, I know all about discrimination on the job and elsewhere.

BTW-you sound pretty closeted yourself.

by Canadian Gayreply 5301/24/2008

Regarding the grocery store scene, Ennis emotionally and mentally bullied Emma which is obvious not from the spoken word but from Ennis' eyes.

To point that out only reinforces how very rich ans subtle the sreenplay and acting are in BBM, especially Ledger's performance.

A truly remarkable moment is when Emma comes up behind Ennis while they are on the bed and Ennis never, at any point during the scene, looks at Emma. Even when he turns his head to return her kiss his eyes are closed. I surmise, correctly, I believe, that Ennis is thinking of Jack;he does not want to see the physical presence of Emma.

Ledger's performance in BBM was far better than Hoffman's in "Capote".

by Canadian Gayreply 5401/24/2008

Here name was Alma, R54, Alma, not Emma.

by Canadian Gayreply 5501/24/2008

Here name was Alma, R54, Alma, not Emma.

by Canadian Gayreply 5601/24/2008

"You (or R43) made the absurd statement that most gay people in the 1980's were closeted."

It wasn't me, and I'm not R43, but dammit, if you don't believe that most gay people in the 1980's were closeted, you're completely delusional.

by Canadian Gayreply 5701/24/2008

I stand corrected r55 and r56.

by Canadian Gayreply 5801/24/2008

"Do you honestly think all those men in discos and clubs in the late 1970's and early 1980's (pre AIDS) in cities from coast to coast and every where in between were all married closet cases out on the town away from the wife and kids for the night?"

Do you honestly believe that gay men in discos and clubs in teh late 70's and early 80's represented "Most" gay men in the country??!?

by Canadian Gayreply 5901/24/2008

Agreed completely, R54.

by Canadian Gayreply 6001/24/2008

Well, R57 and R59, back up your claims with statistics. Other than its merely your opinion that most gays in the 1980's were married closet cases, what statistics do you have to back up your opinion? Were you even around then? How old were you in 1980? Is this just heresay, stuff you've heard from other people?

I don't have any statistics either, but I do know that I was in many, many places in the 1980's and it was not at all difficult to find a lot of out gay people in cities large and small, East Coast, West Coast, the South, and the Midwest.

And once again, the notion that MOST GAY PEOPLE IN THE 1980's were married closet cases is ridiculous.

by Canadian Gayreply 6101/24/2008

So, R61, you actually think all those married closet cases from the 50's and 60's magically got divorced and came out in the 70's?

You don't NEED any statistics to know what you're saying is bullshit. Just stop, okay? I mean, bully for you, you were out and brave and stuff. This isn't ABOUT you. Give it a rest.

This is about people like Ennis, of which there were a LOT.

by Canadian Gayreply 6201/24/2008

Don't you all think that Ennis kissing the shirts and holding them close to his chest was Ennis coming out to himself? Finally accepting the love he had for Jack as authentic. That, after all would be the most important and first step - his self acceptance after all those years and in the face of a really terrible tragedy - losing the only person he really ever loved.

All of my straight friends and family have "adjusted" BBM to their own situations. I think people are always entitled to deal with a work of out however it touches them within limits. My very accepting brother (who went to see it in Maine with my elderly gay father and his partner of 35 years) even tried to tell me that he didn't think Ennis was really gay. That his gay feelings were only towards Jack. We discussed for quite a long time and he came around to realize that his thesis wasn't true. That Ennis if was not "gay" was most certainly homosexual. It was a good conversation and we got closer because of it and because of BBM. I think he finally realized how difficult it had been and how courageous my father to come out in rural New England 35 years ago.

by Canadian Gayreply 6301/24/2008

[quote] This is about people like Ennis, of which there were a LOT.

Most of us were like Ennis, or at least Jack, at some point before coming out. We didn't make a lifetime of it but it was there until we did. Such a sad film but I found it life affirming. Whatever bad decisions I've made, coming out was not one of them.

by Canadian Gayreply 6401/24/2008

R63, you must be mistaken. Your father could not have had a gay partner for 35 years according to the numerous closeted posters on this thread, a la R62. Every gay person everywhere was cowering in the closet and married to a woman and had children in 1973 when your dad and his partner got together.

by Canadian Gayreply 6501/24/2008

"R63, you must be mistaken. Your father could not have had a gay partner for 35 years according to the numerous closeted posters on this thread, a la R62."

Don't be an idiot. NOBODY is saying that but you, throwing an immature little hissy fit. Let it go. You're wrong. Let it go.

by Canadian Gayreply 6601/24/2008

And you, R66, are nothing but a bloviating fool projecting your own obvious insecurities about your sexual orientation onto the majority of gay men and women who are not fucking candied ass pussies like you.

by Canadian Gayreply 6701/24/2008

Way to kill a thread, r65.

by Canadian Gayreply 6801/24/2008

The words "difficult and courageous" would be the important words in that statement, R65. It was a [bold]huge[/bold] scandal in our small home town when my parents divorced over it. The minister of our church got involved and testified at the divorce hearing. He and my mother testified that my father was "sick" and that he and his partner should not have access to his 5 children because we'd surely be molested.

My father and his partner had to move several times and eventually moved a couple of hundred miles away and later all the way to the west coast before they felt safe and comfortable. The good news is that within a couple of years I and all my siblings ended up living with or near my dad.

Eventually they moved back to Maine and retired there, finding it much more accepting then it had been in the past.

by Canadian Gayreply 6901/24/2008

Thanks r63/69. I'm sure the details are even more moving than the outline you've shared with us.

by Canadian Gayreply 7001/24/2008

"But the homosexuality in the movie was incidental to a larger theme: the random cruelty of the human condition, a condition that allows outside forces to destroy the lives of even the toughest men."

No, the homosexuality was in no way incidental, and the "random cruelty" was homophobia.

But in its odd way, this completely misguided paragraph is why I did not love BBM and will probably not ever watch it again. This is not to say it's not a good movie; like "Schindler's List", this is a well-written (mostly), well-directed, and well-acted film that I have no desire to see again.

by Canadian Gayreply 7101/24/2008

Well, this thread has been interesting and cathartic, just as all the threads were when BROKEBACK first opened.

I agree that this writer was off-base on a lot of points about the film, but the OP posted this because this Canadian writer wanted to honor the performance of Heath Ledger.

A.O.Scott, who is one of the main film critics at the N.Y. Times, did the same thing today. He pointed out that Ledger's performance as Ennis Del Mar was miraculous because he managed to truly present an inarticulate and emotionally blocked character without cheating on this aspect of Ennis's character, while at the same time suggesting (without Hoffmanesque show-boating or Lewisesque histrionics) the emotional turmoil and pain that were roiling around undernearth.

He felt that this performance alone guaranteed Ledger a place in the movie acting pantheon. It does. And after seeing 'Capote' again recently, and thinking (again!) that Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance was a highly theatrical and phony-baloney imitation which nevertheless didn't for a second suggest the real Capote, I more than ever feel that Ledger was robbed of the Oscar (as the picture itself was).

But that's finally irrelevant too. If anything, winning the Oscar might have put even more pressure on Ledger. Which evidently, he didn't need. Hoffman, meanwhile, will go on chewing scenery for decades to come (just like that other Hoffman, Dustin).

by Canadian Gayreply 7201/24/2008

R67, it would seem YOU are the one doing all the projecting

by Canadian Gayreply 7301/24/2008

I've a Ennis-like friend, ultra-masculine but very torn and inward looking about his sexuality. And drinks because of the torment. Will never come out because men don't do that in his Texas family. We connect on some level, but he's alone and lonely, and cannot bring himself to be true, even to himself. I'd do anything to help him, but don't know how to. It breaks my heart.

by Canadian Gayreply 7401/24/2008

Would you idiots knock it off with the irrelevant fight over the exact % of closeted gay men in 1980?

The bottom line is there were closeted, married men like Ennis in Wyoming.

by Canadian Gayreply 7501/24/2008

"Excellent analysis, R6. You should send a copy of that to the author"

I agree

by Canadian Gayreply 7601/24/2008

R25, that article you linked is very moving. Thanks.

I've cried twice today over Heath's death. I NEVER cry about things like this, but I think BBM is one of the most important movies of the last few decades, and will be considered a classic 20 years from now. It fostered a dialogue about homosexuality and opened the eyes of many people, gay and straight, about the pain of the closet.

My partner was married for nearly 20 years, and although he had started taking tentative steps out of the closet before seeing BBM, the movie forced him to look in the mirror and see Ennis looking back at him. He couldn't care less about Hollywood actors and their tabloid exploits, but Ledger's death has affected him. I think he credits the movie with giving him the courage to open up to the possibility of loving another man. I'm just lucky that I get to be that man.

If this had been the only movie Ledger had done, I think he could still be considered one of the best actors of his generation. His performance was that good. He will be missed.

by Canadian Gayreply 7701/24/2008

I love you guys, all of you, really. But it's clear that some here truly don't understand the difficulty of being a gay male in some of the sparsely populated areas of this country. It's not easy, even today. For a middle aged man, blue collar, dependent upon what amounts to day labor jobs from people he knows, and people who are likely very prejudiced, it's a bitch. Those who live in urban gay enclaves, or the suburbs, or other places where they can be out or find acceptance may not fully comprehend how deeply buried some men have to bury their feelings just to survive. Yes, we've all had to do that, but on the great plains, just as one example, it's not that easy. Matthew Shephard was murdered in Wyoming in the 1990's. I'd still be afraid to be out if I lived there. I'm sorry. When I look around the area where I live, I see a lot of the same kind of thing. There are a lot of men out here who may never get as far as Ennis. There's a lot of work to be done by all of us if we want that to be a reality.

BBM does inded apply to our lives today. This is not a matter of interpretation. The story Proulx et al wrote and that Ang Lee put on the big screen is very much about gay life around us today.

Offsite Link
by Canadian Gayreply 7801/24/2008

I totally agree with the "Out @ 18 in the 80's poster. They completely ruined the ending of BBM.

I think when the daughter visited Ennis, she should have just said,"Dad, what ever happened to that cute guy you used to be fuck-buddies with?"

"Fuck buddies?" Ennis could say, coquettishly. "Why, my dear child, I can't imagine what you're hinting at!' (wink, wink, giggle)

"Oh, come on, dad. You're gay as a gunny-sack of jingle-bells!"

Ennis, delighted and stunned, flings open the closet door and -- in a Wonder Woman-like twirl, dons both Sacred Shirts. Hugging himself, he says, "Jack, I swear -- I am a Big Sissy Mary!"

Ennis and his daughter dance out the front door and I picture a scene like "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" in "Hello, Dolly!" with doors flying open on mobile homes all over Wyoming and elderly queens dancing to the Greyhound station with Ennis and his daughter, where they all board a fleet of rainbow-festooned buses and head for WeHo and the happy lives that surely await old, uneducated, brokedown manual laborers in the vibrant gay communities of the '80.

It would have been much more realistic.

by Canadian Gayreply 7901/24/2008
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