Author Topic: TOTW 12/07:Is Brokeback Mountain a 'universal love story' or a 'gay love story'?  (Read 10699 times)

Offline brokeplex

  • BetterMost Supporter!
  • BetterMost 5000+ Posts Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 7,247
  • LCARS
Not much I can really ad to this discussion... Other than my road killing a few things I mentioned not long after I first time saw Master Lee's interpretation of Annie Proulx's words.

Missouri is not Wyoming, but there is something so familure about the world Jack and Ennis exist within, that I know most of the characters in this film as though they were my own relatives.  The way of speaking, that cadence, that bravado couched in terms as polite as a good horse, and as dangerous as a rattle snake. These characters are ten years older than I am. Then, I remember the world they grew up in. It had it's good points, just as it sure had it's bad ones.

I guess what I can say is, for the first time in my life I have a film in which I don't have to transpose the love the characters have for one another. I don't even have to think about their way of speaking. I grew up with our own rural northern Missouri version of these two good oll boys. And the real hard part, I dam well knew the fear Ennis had of what would happen if anyone else found out. I think for a lot of us older gay folks, that is a whole lot of what kicks us in the gut with this story. It's like Jack and Ennis are two parts of our own soul. The dreamer that can always see the possibilities in life, and the realist that knows just how fast this world can kill you if you make the wrong move.

A universal love story?  Perhaps mixed race couples of that same period would understand why that feels like a bit of stretch for those of us that ended up with this label called gay, and a lot more far less polite terms. Just one more gay tragedy, a friend of mine said. In a way yes, but unlike the plethora of AIDS tragedies and Mathew Shepard remakes, it is the characters themselves that unwind all hope once they leave their piece of  heaven that fall of 1963. A piece of heaven Ennis can never bring himself to name beyond 'this thing'.  Am I the only one that feels a longing in Jake Gyllenhaal's Jack to put his feelings into words. Even as Jack knows, those very words would send Ennis running for his life.

A universal love story?  What other love can so threaten one's own sense of self, can make one question what it is to be a man or a woman, and drive one to deny that what they are feeling is that undefinable madness we call love?  To never speak those words, I love you? If that is universal, this is one scary world we are living in these days.




Thanks Gary for your post! I was affected in the same fashion as you by Brokeback. The feeling you are expressing are also mine.Like you I grew up in a small rural town, mine is here in Texas. I am about the same age as you are. I immediately related to the story of Ennis and Jack and felt that I understood them both. I'd like to also have a try at the discussion as to whether Brokeback, both the short story and the movie, are either "Universal" or a "Gay Love Story". And I have a message of hope for men like Ennis who have known a great deal of fear and frustration their entire lives.

At its heart Brokeback is a story of two closeted rural Gay men and their unhappy love affair over the decades. The film and the short story have universal appeal, but at its heart it is a love story of two Gay men. I don't mean to put words in your mouth but I think that like you, I experienced the closet, rural homophobia, and various states
of denial and acceptance thru the years. Like Jack in Brokeback, I had an long running affair with a deeply closeted and homophobic man. I won't go into the details here, but perhaps one day I'll discover a thread on Bettermost that makes me comfortable with relating my decades long love for Chris up to his death in 1999. I read the short story before I saw the movie, but it was the movie that liberated my feelings. I knew immediately that at last I had found "our" story. The story of men who grew up like Ennis and Jack. I most definitely do not deny the elements of universal appeal in Brokeback. I recall watching heterosexual love stories involving frustrated couples in doomed love affairs and I felt for them. An example would be David Lean's 1946 masterpiece "Brief Encounter". I felt so sad for the couple when at their last meeting in the train station before he leaves for S. Africa they knew that they would never meet again.I can relate to them even though I am not heterosexual, and I did not live in a middle class environment in 1946 Britain. But, if I were a woman, or man, who had experienced the strictures that couple encountered at that time in that environment, the movie would have a far greater punch for me. It would be my story, like Brokeback is my story. One of the liberating bi-products of my strongly emotional Brokeback experience is that I now experience movies like "Brief Encounter" much more intensely than I did before.

Now to the hopeful news! What I have found over the last year plus 6 months is a growing number of older gay and bisexual men who grew up in rural homophobic circumstances ,and who have been or are still deeply closeted, that have grabbed on to the Brokeback experience and are now for the first time in their lives able to relate their deepest feelings. I have encountered a number of such men here in the DFW area and also during my summers in Montana. Slowly, these men, because of both Brokeback and their advancing ages are speaking out and seeking each other out. When I speak with these men I always urge them to go online and browse the Brokeback web sites. I am partial to Bettermost and highly recommend it for them. I have noticed over the last 3 months increasing numbers of these previously silent men are joining the ranks of us Bettermostians. Annie Proulx made an interesting comment in her intro to the book / screenplay combo published last year. To paraphrase her, she noted the the highest suicide rate in Wyoming is among single men over 60. There is a very good reason why, many of that number are closeted Gay men, who like Ennis, have lived a life of fear and frustration.Finally, they "just can't take it any more". I believe Brokeback is quietly helping to heal the broken hearts of many men who were previously leading silent frustrated lives. I will retire in December, but I don't intend to sit idle. One of my projects will be to help network and reach out to these many forgotten, largely silent men, who now at long last are finding their voices.

Have a great week!

Offline notBastet

  • BetterMost Supporter!
  • BetterMost 1000+ Posts Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,276
  • no way out but through
i finally realized what has been nagging me about this topic all week (apologies I haven't read the previous posts, and I just want to quick say this while the light bulb has clicked on) - can't it be both? A universal love story and a gay love story?  does the question imply that gay love is not universal or vice versa?

okay i'll go read what everyone said now.
“It can be a little distressing to have to overintellectualize yourself” - Heath Ledger

Offline notBastet

  • BetterMost Supporter!
  • BetterMost 1000+ Posts Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,276
  • no way out but through
I still am trying to figure out exactly what "universal" love really means.  It just seems too general of a term to me.  I don't know how we can know what kind of emotion or experience is truly universal.

I started thinking about this "universal" question a little bit while responding to the "Is BBM anti-gay" thread here in Open Forum.  And, I started to wonder about how the audiences of the film tend to feel in terms of identification with characters in the movie.  The whole question of how an audience member identifies with the protagonist/ main characters in any film is a major, major issue within film studies.  And,  I think one thing that the filmmakers of BBM are very, very successful in doing is finding ways for the audience member (regardless of gender or sexuality) to identify with the two main characters and really begin to experience the situation through their eyes a bit.  And, then I sort of wonder, if this ability of a general audience member (or more specifically any audience member who isn't a gay man) to identify with the social position of closeted gay men might then translate into this idea of "universal" love.  In other words, the general audience member/non-gay-male audience member then experiences the love between Ennis and Jack as something that they too can completely identify with... and therefore the emotion is articulated as "universal" as a way of explaining this phenomenon.

Does this make any sense?  Anyway, I think the whole question of how audiences identify with Ennis or Jack (or both) through the course of the film is really important to this issue of how the love story is perceived.




yes, what you are saying makes sense to me... 
“It can be a little distressing to have to overintellectualize yourself” - Heath Ledger

Offline notBastet

  • BetterMost Supporter!
  • BetterMost 1000+ Posts Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,276
  • no way out but through
Not much I can really ad to this discussion... Other than my road killing a few things I mentioned not long after I first time saw Master Lee's interpretation of Annie Proulx's words.

Missouri is not Wyoming, but there is something so familure about the world Jack and Ennis exist within, that I know most of the characters in this film as though they were my own relatives.  The way of speaking, that cadence, that bravado couched in terms as polite as a good horse, and as dangerous as a rattle snake. These characters are ten years older than I am. Then, I remember the world they grew up in. It had it's good points, just as it sure had it's bad ones.

I guess what I can say is, for the first time in my life I have a film in which I don't have to transpose the love the characters have for one another. I don't even have to think about their way of speaking. I grew up with our own rural northern Missouri version of these two good oll boys. And the real hard part, I dam well knew the fear Ennis had of what would happen if anyone else found out. I think for a lot of us older gay folks, that is a whole lot of what kicks us in the gut with this story. It's like Jack and Ennis are two parts of our own soul. The dreamer that can always see the possibilities in life, and the realist that knows just how fast this world can kill you if you make the wrong move.

A universal love story?  Perhaps mixed race couples of that same period would understand why that feels like a bit of stretch for those of us that ended up with this label called gay, and a lot more far less polite terms. Just one more gay tragedy, a friend of mine said. In a way yes, but unlike the plethora of AIDS tragedies and Mathew Shepard remakes, it is the characters themselves that unwind all hope once they leave their piece of  heaven that fall of 1963. A piece of heaven Ennis can never bring himself to name beyond 'this thing'.  Am I the only one that feels a longing in Jake Gyllenhaal's Jack to put his feelings into words. Even as Jack knows, those very words would send Ennis running for his life.

A universal love story?  What other love can so threaten one's own sense of self, can make one question what it is to be a man or a woman, and drive one to deny that what they are feeling is that undefinable madness we call love?  To never speak those words, I love you? If that is universal, this is one scary world we are living in these days.




This makes sense to me, too.

(how about 'story of gay love unfilled due to homophobia, with universal elements'?)

I guess what makes it 'universal' is even for folks that have not lived the lives of Jack or Ennis, not dealt with love unfulfilled due to homophobia (internalized or otherwise) there is still something deeply personal, emotional, intimate, about their story - that lets them say "I am Ennis" or "I am Jack." I can see (I think) how that may seem trivializing to someone who has more specifically lived the lives of Ennis and Jack, but I still think that is where the universal element comes in...  (I think I am saying the same thing Amanda said, in a more blubbering way...) 

(Addendum - as usual I should have just read ALL the posts before blubbering away.......)
“It can be a little distressing to have to overintellectualize yourself” - Heath Ledger

Offline serious crayons

  • Moderator
  • The BetterMost 10,000 Post Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 19,436
i finally realized what has been nagging me about this topic all week (apologies I haven't read the previous posts, and I just want to quick say this while the light bulb has clicked on) - can't it be both? A universal love story and a gay love story?

Yes, my opinion is that it is both. I think the motivation for the topic is that this has become a contentious question for some people (I don't mean here, necessarily -- I'm thinking of Daniel Mendelsohn and others).


Offline Garry_LH

  • BetterMost Supporter!
  • The BetterMost 10,000 Post Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 11,245
There is no doubt that Brokeback Mountain has hit a lot of folks in many diffrent ways. My first time, I got to the theater as the previous showing was letting out. Straight couples, of the age Jack and Ennis would be today, with this numb look of near drained shock on their faces. A few women completely falling apart in tears. A group of women, who I would have labled as the 'academic film going club, silent with looks of deep thought on their faces. A cluster of teenage girls, one of them gushing about how she thought Heath was just the hottest guy there is... And those lone men... Many of them looking more at their feet than the world. Like they were just trying to get one foot in front of the other to get out to their cars and pickups. Just hanging on, cuse men don't cry... especially in public, or at least not outside of a darkend theater.

I guess I too believe that that the closer a theatrical experience comes to the reality of our own lives, the more potential it has to move us far beyond what we could have imagined before we experienced it. Even as, such a masterpiece will touch the hearts of all who are at a place in their own lives where they will allow it's Spirit to touch their souls. What ever Brokeback Mountain is, it is a gift from Spirit for those that are ready to see, hear, and feel its power in their own lives. It is for me nothing less than sacred.
It could be like this, just like this... always.

Offline ifyoucantfixit

  • BetterMost 5000+ Posts Club
  • *******
  • Posts: 8,049



         I have only this short...it will be,,,heheh....thing to say..I think what makes it universal, is the universal truths it
shows.  How all people can be affected in these kinds of ways that are depicted.
         I so happens that the two protagonists are gay, which added an extra dimension, that the gay population could,
readily connect to.  It I think is a universal story, with a gay core.



     Beautiful mind

Offline jstephens9

  • BetterMost 1000+ Posts Club
  • ******
  • Posts: 4,326
Am I the only one that feels a longing in Jake Gyllenhaal's Jack to put his feelings into words. Even as Jack knows, those very words would send Ennis running for his life.

Garry,

You have some excellent thoughts about the movie and the question. I wanted to answer that yes I did feel the longing in Jack to explain the feelings in words to Ennis. But instead, he had to make things seem as less threatening as he could. I believe he feared that by going too far he would destroy what they did have. It wasn't even a quarter as much as what Jack wanted, but it was something. Feelings to preserve what you have with someone can many times lead to not telling them completely what is on your mind.

Offline Bucky

  • Sr. Ranch Hand
  • ***
  • Posts: 85
I think Jack and Ennis' love story is both a universal love story and a gay love story.  I think that when Jack and Ennis worked for Aguirre on Brokeback Mountain that both of them had experienced lonely childhoods with dads who were unfeeling and Ennis had no parents at all after a certain age and had to be raised by his sister and brother.  Somehow Jack and Ennis had found in each other something special that they both understood.  On Brokeback Mountain they could be themselves and love openly but after they came down from Brokeback Mountain reality had set in which was harder for Ennis to cope with it seems to me than Jack.  The reality was that because society was as it was that their love could never be so Ennis married Alma and Jack eventually married Lureen.  Yet their feelings for one another on the inside was as strong as ever and in reality they loved each other more than anyone else even though Ennis spent enough time trying to deny it.  It was a strong love but a forbidden love and after Jack died Ennis spent a lot of time in regret for a life time of denying that he loved Jack and what might have been.

Offline Artiste

  • The BetterMost 10,000 Post Club
  • ********
  • Posts: 15,998
More news ??

Or is it a hate-crime story because these, one or more are gays (homosexual or bisexual men)?