Idol Chatter

I was planning to stay out of the whole debate over Hollywood’s current critical darling, “Brokeback Mountain,” a.k.a. “the gay cowboy movie.” I even resisted the impulse to respond to fellow Idol Chatterer Donna’s eloquent analysis of the movie. But yesterday I happened to run across this article from the Associated Press about how a suburban Salt Lake City theater owned by NBA Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller decided at the last minute to not show the film, indicating implicitly (if not explicitly) that the decision was directly linked to the homosexuality that is central to the story. For me, this tiny news tidbit became the proverbial last straw–even though I am sure this is not the last example of censorship or politizing of this polarizing issue. I now feel compelled to vent about the uproar that has made “Brokeback” this year’s “Million Dollar Baby.”

While I love discussing movies as much as the next person, if not more, I am completely disinterested in propaganda of any kind–pro-gay/anti-gay, pro-liberal/anti-liberal, you name it, I dislike it all. And what I find especially frustrating is when movies are reduced to propaganda by the news and entertainment media. And that is exactly what has happened to “Brokeback.” The film is being reviewed less for its artistic merits as for its ability to make an argument for a cause. The movie has been latched onto by the political left as a shining example of an enduring love that demonstrates society’s intolerance and the need to legalize gay marriage. Over on the right, religious groups are applying pressure, such as the case in Utah, to not show the film at all because it goes against the fundamental values of their beliefs.

My irritation lies in the fact that, in my opinion, both sides are wrong. The story, much as real life, is far more complex and does not deserve to be reduced to the role of nothing more than a poster child in a culture war. It also doesn’t deserve all the hype.

As I watched “Brokeback” after reading reviews primarily favorable to the film, I found it impossible to believe anyone would watch this movie and come away from it believing that everything would be perfect for Jack and Ennis if only they lived in a world where gay marriage was legal. Jack cannot bring himself to be faithful to either his wife or Ennis, so is a wedding ring really the answer? In fact, both men have serious unresolved childhood issues, which sabotage all of their relationships. At the same time, it was also difficult to watch the film and not feel the pain of these two men bent on self-destruction and feel some compassion. So here I am once again, standing somewhere in the middle of the cultural and spiritual divide of our country, wishing a movie could just be a movie.

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