What I Think about Brokeback Mountain

A couple of years ago, my friend Kerim Friedman wrote a post on his blog about the movie Brokeback Mountain. Kerim had questions about the statement the movie was trying to make. I replied that despite the movie’s overt content addressing homosexuality, I believe it also made a very powerful class statement. Rereading the comment, I really liked what it had to say about the movie, so I have reformatted it to fit here.

I do feel that Brokeback Mountain was genuinely a class statement or at least that a genuine class statement is contained in the film. I grew up in a small logging town, and have met real cowboys and rodeo athletes. I thought the portrayal of this personality type was dead on: the material bleakness of rural life, the way that characters talked to each other, the kinds of things they boasted about, all brought back childhood memories. Before I had seen the movie, I was skeptical it would have much to say to me. But one of my childhood friends who now works in Tokyo as a corporate recruiter described the movie’s message as, “Imagine the troubles two gay loggers would have to struggle with discovering their love for each other.”

It is a kind of urban pride to assume everyone wants and can live life in ‘The Big City’. But making that kind of move just isn’t possible for everyone who grew up in the kind of lives portrayed by Brokeback Mountain. It may be true, as John Scagliotti writes in Counterpunch, that the, “thousands of Western gay boys “that took up urban life in the 1970’s and 80’s” included some cowboys. I’m certain this is true. But I am just as sure that if you grew up to be a cowboy in a place like Merritt, British Columbia (home of the important Nicola Valley Pro Rodeo), you’d better not talk about homosexuality unless you’ve got something negative to say. It may be that homosexuality is one of the few remaining aspects of life that makes it possible to talk clearly about this kind of life.

One final point. Am I the only one who finds it strange that our ‘cowboy’ anti-heroes are shepherds? I have never met a cowboy shepherd, although the film crystallized the fact that they must exist. I have never spoken to a cowboy about this, but my guess is this is low class ranch work. It could very well be that the introduction of factory beef farming has changed the reality of ranch work. Does anyone know anything about this?


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