I am SO over Brokeback Mountain. Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed the film. I cried just like you did. I enjoyed the performances immensely. Blah, blah, blah. But I am so sick of hearing about it. You would think it was single handedly responsible for some sort of queer revolution in entertainment from the way people are carrying on about it. And the attention it has been receiving has really put a bee in my highlighting cap, so to speak. Time and time again, I have seen gay themed mainstream projects serve the gay community in alarming ways. And heteros and homos alike are responsible for this.
When straight people lavish so much praise and attention on a well known gay themed film, such as Brokeback, it at times comes across that it is expected that 1) as a gay person, I should be happy that they are not offended by said film, 2) as a gay person, I should be thrilled that we are getting positive attention from the exposure said film generates, and 3) as a gay person, I should just piss myself silly with pride that a straight person is supporting said film. I actually had someone say to me that she felt that by recommending Brokeback to her family and friends, she was, in her way, endorsing gay rights. I wasn’t sure what to make of that statement. Sure, the gesture is good-natured, but really, that is just about the most stupid fucking thing I have ever heard in my life. The same thing happened about a decade ago with a little movie called The Birdcage. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. As much as I think that movie is a hoot, it hardly speaks for the gay community and its issues. But people round the world were delighted to discover that us “gays are so funny and charming.” (Which would be wonderful if it were true. Personally, I know I’m hysterical, but I also know a lot of really boring and un-amusing gays as well!). Yet, we seemed to appreciate the attention, however misguided.
My dear gay brothers and sisters contribute to this dilemma as well. I think we are so anxious to see our faces and voices out there being represented, we take this attention and exposure as a step in the right direction, and not for the blind apathy it could potentially be. So many of us want to be accepted, praised and identified with, we’ll accept any positive feedback as flattering. As one of my friends asked, “Isn’t any form of recognition that puts our lifestyle in a more accessible light a good thing?” And maybe, he’s right. But I question any queer friendly film, or gay themed television program’s for that matter, relevance to the real issues we face as individuals and as a community. Are good reviews and sympathy towards two love struck cowboys back in the 1960’s really going to aid us in our seemingly never ending quest for equal rights in today’s day and age? Do you really think Brokeback’s multiple nominations and awards are going to break down the establishment and reward us in the same way?
The whole idea of positive attention and representation is one I have always found fickle in the gay community. I find it both ironic and offensive that we, it would seem, would be willing to accept the praise and recognition mainstream successes such as Brokeback Mountain or even TV’s Will & Grace receive for their representation of gay life, while the images programming such as Queer As Folk and The L-Word project earn our scorn for being stereotypical and not representative enough. Would someone please explain the logic behind that? Why are we okay with this? Is it because the latter are more aggressive in their approach? We don’t want to piss anyone off, do we? Are we conditioned to be more secure with publicly accepted stereotypes than ones that are not seen on a regular basis? Do we crave acceptance and respect so damn much, we’ll settle for this double standard?
I certainly hope this trend end. It would be nice to watch a film or show without feeling like its job is to be a poster boy (or girl) for my lifestyle, but rather, to simply entertain me.
I suppose if Brokeback Mountain does win the Oscar for Best Picture, I will be pleased. But only because of its merits as a film, not because of what is does or does not represent. And maybe one day soon, we’ll all find a healthy compromise between being the individuals we are and supporting our common causes without such a strong emphasis on the need for mainstream representation, least of all a movie, to accomplish that.
Essential Download: "You Don't Know"
Artisit: Cyndi Lauper
Available On: Sisters of Avalon
Originally published in the March 2006 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.