Friday, May 19, 2006

Brokeback Mountain and Will and Grace


Perhaps the most publicized film dealing with same-sex relationships in my lifetime, Brokeback Mountain has been discussed in the office and in the high schools where we work. I've even heard the insult - "you probably went to see Brokeback Mountain, didn't you?" So the film and its contents have been of less interest to me than the way we are responding to it. The film itself does have a lot to say about masculinity and men, the fluidity of attraction, and the poverty in "middle america". However, as a recent review that I read in the terrific LiP Magazine points out, in our response to the film, a lot more is revealed about gender norms:

"Make no mistake-while Brokeback is most certainly about love, it is not simply about gayness or even about sex, but about gender. It is an exquisite portrayal of the painful costs of same-sex desire for two men trapped in a suffocating and homogeneous culture. But it remains to be seen whether Jack McFarland [from Will and Grace] could inspire such transcendental identification from audiences and reviewers, or if we would even care long enough to find out that he had ever loved and lost in the first place."
-Heike Schotten


While the portrayal of two "real men" cowboys in a same-sex relationship can challenge the dominant story of what it looks like to be a gay man (or a man sexually attracted to other men), we should should challenge ourselves further to recognize that when we embrace the story of Brokeback we are also identifying with traditional masculinity. On the other hand, Jack from Will and Grace is a gender deviant - he's effiminate, dramatic and emotionally transparant, would we identify with his story?

Patrick Lincoln Share

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