Author Topic: You shut up about Ennis - this ain't (all) his fault  (Read 86190 times)

Offline serious crayons

  • Moderator
  • The BetterMost 10,000 Post Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 20,255
I agree with this, but I just want to add that I think Katherine's out of town and away from computers at the moment, and I don't think that she agrees with this.

Thanks, Mel, for pointing that out! You're right: I was out of town, and I don't agree with those other assertions. I just got home, and I'm so glad to see how eloquently you've expressed the ideas in your post. I agree with every word. I especially like the way you said this:

Quote
But the scene doesn't seem to be played that way in the movie -- it's one of the few moments when Ennis doesn't appear to be conflicted. (I would argue that, beautiful as the 2nd tent scene is, that Ennis's face never looks as peaceful as it does during the dozy embrace. Both men are just so beautiful in the dozy embrace scene.) But perhaps the movie audience didn't need more evidence of Ennis's inner battles (whatever their source) -- Heath's performance is just so pitch-perfect; Ennis's struggles are written in perfect ambiguity in his every expression. So the movie scene seems more to remind the audience of Jack's (perhaps idealized) memories, to cast the memories of the mountain in an even more idyllic light than they were originally portrayed, to provide a contrast with the argument beside the lake, and to give us two contrasting views of Jack before he dies: young and hopeful and in love, and middle-aged and resigned... and yet still in love?

I agree that the sentence about embracing a man does not fit in the movie (Ennis in TS2 seems to find nothing MORE appealing than embracing a man, and the bedroom scene with Alma suggests that if anything it's a woman he doesn't like being reminded he's embracing). More controversially, I don't believe that sentence fits in the STORY. I hated that sentence when I first read it (a year or so before the movie), and thought it seemed jarring and incongruous even then. It seems out of character for Story Ennis and certainly doesn't describe his behavior in the reunion scene. Frankly, I think it's a flaw in the story. When I've said that before, others have posed counterarguments that I find only semi-convincing (for example, that Ennis matures as time goes on). Barb's idea that it is a metaphor for

Quote
a favorite memory of a loved one that, truth be told, is marred in some way by realizing that they did not quite embrace the mutual feeling the two of you shared as fully as you did.

is interesting, and makes some sense. Except that I believe Ennis embraced the mutual feeling as much as Jack did (if, perhaps, in a different way). Anyway, even great writers like Annie Proulx are fallible, and I think this is an example of that.

Back to why I don't agree that Ennis is completely oblivious to his homosexuality. I think he's loyal to Jack because he loves(d) Jack. But I don't think Jack is the only man he's ever found attractive. I think he has long realized that he's attracted to men. That's what makes his upbringing so damaging, what with his bigoted dad and the spectre of Earl sending the message that he literally needs to fear for his life if he ever gives any sign of it. That's one reason, if not the only one, that he's so shy and awkward and messed up. And his internalized homophobia MORE convincing, to me, than it would if he never thought his dad's bigotry had anything to do with him.

Someone has put into words what I had been trying to enunciate all along... and wrestling hopelessly against a rising tide of militant Jackaholism that blamed Ennis for the entire 20 year debacle, knowing there was something wrong with this picture.

Louisev, I know how you feel.

I'll bet Lureen thought she just kept getting prettier and prettier (like in her youth) as she applied more and more make-up and bleached her hair blonder and blonder.

Hmmm ... if she really thought she was getting prettier and prettier, she'd be a very unusual middle-aged woman. Same with Diane's example of the person who gets really overweight but continues to see him/herself as thin. If you ask me, that level of denial in the case of aging and weight gain is extremely rare. I can say this with some authority because I'm a woman in her 40s who -- though of average build -- is not entirely unfamiliar with weight and body-image issues.

Now I'm willing to believe that acknowledging one's homosexuality is a special case -- if only because there I have no authoritative way of arguing otherwise. But it still doesn't fit with what I see of Ennis' behavior and his background.

Offline dly64

  • Brokeback Got Me Good
  • *****
  • Posts: 708
I agree with this, but I just want to add that I think Katherine's out of town and away from computers at the moment, and I don't think that she agrees with this. (There are a lot of subtle differences in interpretations about what Ennis's essential conflict is -- everything from "Ennis doesn't realize he loves Jack" to "Ennis doesn't accept that he loves Jack" to "Ennis doesn't realize that he's gay" to "Ennis doesn't accept that he's gay" to "Ennis is afraid of how other people will react if they know he is gay." I think it's a spectrum of interpretations rather than two clear sides, and it's hard to pin down the source of Ennis's inner turmoil, given how he keeps it all tied up inside himself. Perhaps all of us find some open space between what we see on the screen and what we try to believe, and it's a little different for each of us.)

I agree completely with what you are saying. (BTW – I am sure you are correct … I think Katherine’s opinion does vary some from what was stated previously …  I think I posed the additional question because there was a lot of agreement ….  of  course we’ll have to see what Ruthless says … this is her thread, after all!)

Quote
Now, to the question at hand: It seems a bit strange that the screenplay keeps the story's line about Ennis being unwilling to "embrace him [Jack] face to face because he does not want to see or feel that it is Jack he holds". I think ednbarby explains the story line really well.

It's interesting, because I think that's the line in the story that really pulls Ennis's internalized homophobia into perspective (and it's interesting that it comes into focus in one of the few moments that's purely from Jack's POV, as if Ennis doesn't even see the conflict clearly enough for the reader to understand Ennis from his own POV). But the scene doesn't seem to be played that way in the movie -- it's one of the few moments when Ennis doesn't appear to be conflicted. (I would argue that, beautiful as the 2nd tent scene is, that Ennis's face never looks as peaceful as it does during the dozy embrace. Both men are just so beautiful in the dozy embrace scene.) But perhaps the movie audience didn't need more evidence of Ennis's inner battles (whatever their source) -- Heath's performance is just so pitch-perfect; Ennis's struggles are written in perfect ambiguity in his every expression. So the movie scene seems more to remind the audience of Jack's (perhaps idealized) memories, to cast the memories of the mountain in an even more idyllic light than they were originally portrayed, to provide a contrast with the argument beside the lake, and to give us two contrasting views of Jack before he dies: young and hopeful and in love, and middle-aged and resigned... and yet still in love?

Anyway, the screenplay takes the directions directly from the story, but the implications of the lines Diane quoted are spread throughout the movie, not used directly in the dozy embrace scene. At least, that's how I view it.

You have stated this beautifully and I agree with most of what you say. When I first saw the film (before reading the short story or the screenplay) I thought the flashback was used as a way to epitomize their love for each other … a remembrance of an idyllic time.  After having read the lines (re: Ennis’ inability to embrace Jack face to face) I have to admit I was confused. I have heard many people say that the scene does not fit in the film at all. By that point in the story, Jack and Ennis had gone through so much in their relationship. Ennis was not the same person that he was on BBM. In contrast, Ennis does embrace Jack numerous times (face to face). And even in the flashback scene, Ennis is looking at Jack with affection. I reconcile this by saying that the “face to face” issue is not to be taken literally, but figuratively. I have used this argument before and I can’t say that it has been a popular view. However, I think it fits. It is evident that Ennis can physically look at Jack face to face. He can hold him in his arms. He can kiss him tenderly. What Ennis cannot face, however, is the realization that it is a man he loves.

 
Quote
…. two contrasting views of Jack before he dies: young and hopeful and in love, and middle-aged and resigned... and yet still in love?

I pulled out this line again because I think it is worth discussing. At the lake scene, it is obvious that Jack is resigned to the fact that he will never have the life with Ennis that he craved. After the 14 hours of driving to see Ennis following his divorce …   Jack knew his dream would never be realized. When Jack says, “All this time and you ain’t find nobody else to marry?”  … it illustrates Jack’s resignation. Despite this, however, I still contend that Jack loved Ennis as much as he always had … that had not diminished. Even though Jack was seeking sexual fulfillment elsewhere (Mexico, Randall), he still had the emotional commitment to Ennis (one that he, at times, wished he could “quit”).  Even if Jack would have lived with Randall, he would have still gone on his “fishing trips” with Ennis. And should Ennis change his mind and want to live with Jack … Randall would be gone in a New York minute. To Jack, Randall and Mexico were all about a hard dick, period. Ennis was his one-in-a-lifetime love. And even though he may have tried “shaking” (i.e. break it off with ..) Ennis, he knew he couldn’t … just as Ennis could not “shake” Jack.
Diane

"We're supposed to guard the sheep, not eat 'em."

Offline nakymaton

  • BetterMost 1000+ Posts Club
  • ******
  • Posts: 1,045
  • aka Mel
What Ennis cannot face, however, is the realization that it is a man he loves.

Yes, I agree that the line is the story is more metaphor than reality. (Though the 2nd tent scene isn't in the story, and it's possible that it was literally true of story-Ennis before the reunion kiss.) I don't know if "realization" is the best word... I think it's very possible that Katherine is right, that Ennis knew from early on that he was attracted to men. But I think that that knowledge wasn't the beautiful, joyful thing that it should rightly be for any person who experiences a love as beautiful as that between Ennis and Jack. It was the source of a great deal of inner conflict for Ennis, because in all other respects he genuinely belonged to a deeply conservative, homophobic culture. So it wasn't so much that Ennis couldn't literally embrace Jack face-to-face... but Ennis couldn't embrace that part of himself. He might know about it, but he couldn't embrace it.

And that's what makes the story so painful and powerful, that deeply rooted inner conflict. It's what makes me want to wave a magic wand or pull out my One Ring and tell the whole damn world to just change, already.

Quote
Despite this, however, I still contend that Jack loved Ennis as much as he always had … that had not diminished.

I agree with this, too. But I left the question mark, because that's one of the things that I try to believe, not one of the things that I can clearly know.

PS: Katherine, I think that what's out of character in the story is actually part of the conversation in the Motel Siesta, where Ennis and Jack discuss where other people go if this happens to them. That sure reads like an acknowledgement that they're like those people in Denver... but it reads to me like Annie Proulx's commentary on Wyoming, not like something that Ennis would acknowledge, even in a context where it's clear that moving to Denver simply isn't an option he'll accept.

But, you know, open space and all that...
Watch out. That poster has a low startle point.

Offline dly64

  • Brokeback Got Me Good
  • *****
  • Posts: 708
Thanks, Mel, for pointing that out! You're right: I was out of town, and I don't agree with those other assertions.

Katherine – you posted this note while I was writing mine. I’m so glad you’re home! It’s no fun being in consensus!  ;D(kidding!!!)

Quote
Back to why I don't agree that Ennis is completely oblivious to his homosexuality. I think he's loyal to Jack because he loves(d) Jack. But I don't think Jack is the only man he's ever found attractive. I think he has long realized that he's attracted to men. That's what makes his upbringing so damaging, what with his bigoted dad and the spectre of Earl sending the message that he literally needs to fear for his life if he ever gives any sign of it. That's one reason, if not the only one, that he's so shy and awkward and messed up. And his internalized homophobia MORE convincing, to me, than it would if he never thought his dad's bigotry had anything to do with him.

Now I'm willing to believe that acknowledging one's homosexuality is a special case -- if only because there I have no authoritative way of arguing otherwise. But it still doesn't fit with what I see of Ennis' behavior and his background.

What you are saying is that Ennis is in denial. I gave a few examples that you did not buy  … so let me give a few different examples, because I think this does fit in to what we know about Ennis …

A woman lives in the burbs, is a stay-at-home mom, husband is a doctor. She has been raised in a God-fearing home and has been taught to do all the right things. She becomes overly stressed and gets an Rx for Xanax (which is a highly addicting drug). It gets to the point where she is taking more pills than prescribed and can’t go a day without them. She starts ordering them over the internet to prevent withdrawals. Okay …. to you and me she is a drug addict. To her, drug addicts use illegal drugs. They live on the street. They are dirty and smell. She uses Xanax, which she can get from a “legitimate” source. She lives in a beautiful house. She is always dressed perfectly and never has a hair out of place (and would certainly never smell). Besides that, she was taught that “good Christian girls” never take drugs. That’s a “bad thing”. So for her to come to the conclusion that she is a drug addict is not even in her realm of comprehension. 

Now let’s look at Ennis … he was taught homosexuality was a “bad thing”. Although it is not explicitly stated, Ennis more than likely had stereotypes of what a homosexual would look like or act like. Ennis did not fit those stereotypes. Ennis had sex with women …. he contended that he liked having sex with women (albeit having sex with Jack was way better).  Ennis didn’t have multiple partners. He did not desire any other man (that he could actually acknowledge). Ennis could not admit that he was a homosexual. If anything, after Jack died, he became even more homophobic and withdrawn. It would not fit Ennis’ frame of reference to admit that he was homosexual. He loved Jack, yes. But he did not understand why it was Jack he loved. It was a surprise to him … it was an anomaly. If Jack wouldn’t have come into his life, I am not convinced he would have ever had a homosexual affair, IMO.
Diane

"We're supposed to guard the sheep, not eat 'em."

Offline serious crayons

  • Moderator
  • The BetterMost 10,000 Post Club
  • *****
  • Posts: 20,255
But I think that that knowledge wasn't the beautiful, joyful thing that it should rightly be for any person who experiences a love as beautiful as that between Ennis and Jack. It was the source of a great deal of inner conflict for Ennis, because in all other respects he genuinely belonged to a deeply conservative, homophobic culture. So it wasn't so much that Ennis couldn't literally embrace Jack face-to-face... but Ennis couldn't embrace that part of himself.

Mel, I completely agree with this. I do think he realized it, but definitely not in any kind of beautiful or joyful way.

Quote
PS: Katherine, I think that what's out of character in the story is actually part of the conversation in the Motel Siesta, where Ennis and Jack discuss where other people go if this happens to them. That sure reads like an acknowledgement that they're like those people in Denver... but it reads to me like Annie Proulx's commentary on Wyoming, not like something that Ennis would acknowledge, even in a context where it's clear that moving to Denver simply isn't an option he'll accept.

Hmm, I'll have to ponder that a bit. Personally, that line never bothered me. I think of Story Ennis as being more willing than Movie Ennis to admit that he's like those people in Denver -- that is, he likes having sex with men, or at least a particular man. And he figures that kind of thing would be more accepted in a big city, I guess just as he somehow knows what they've got in Mexico. Not that it would seem like a realistic option for him to go there.

Of course, speculating on what people do in that situation would be out of character for Movie Ennis. Because he wouldn't want to admit that he's in that category (even if, deep down, he knows he is).

Katherine – you posted this note while I was writing mine. I’m so glad you’re home! It’s no fun being in consensus!  ;D(kidding!!!)

Thanks, Diane! And I agree, debate is fun.

Quote
A woman lives in the burbs, is a stay-at-home mom, husband is a doctor. She has been raised in a God-fearing home and has been taught to do all the right things. ... Besides that, she was taught that “good Christian girls” never take drugs. That’s a “bad thing”. So for her to come to the conclusion that she is a drug addict is not even in her realm of comprehension. 

I see what you're saying, and I agree that's a better analogy. It's true that Ennis doesn't see himself as queer in terms of all the stereotypes he might attach to that label -- just as the woman you describe doesn't see herself as a "drug addict" per se.  Would the woman openly take her Xanax in front of god and everyone with no hesitation because she doesn't see herself as fitting the drug addict profile? Or would she be worried that people in town and people on the pavement would "know" that she's taking too many? If it's the latter, then she's a pretty good comparison to Ennis ... neither might use the label they despise to describe their own behavior, yet at some level they realize their behavior is not "normal." Maybe the difference between acknowledging that and ACKNOWLEDGING THAT comes down to that old "space between what he knew and what he tried to believe," that Mel mentions in her excellent thread.

One difference, though, is that probably the woman never took Xanax, maybe was never even tempted to take Xanax, before, well, she started taking Xanax. Can we be as certain that Ennis never felt attracted to any men before Jack?

Quote
If Jack wouldn’t have come into his life, I am not convinced he would have ever had a homosexual affair, IMO.

I'm with you here. But that doesn't mean he wouldn't feel the attraction.

Offline welliwont

  • BetterMost Supporter!
  • Brokeback Got Me Good
  • *****
  • Posts: 805

Here is a post courtesy of Diane, (hope you don't mind that I cropped it and moved it over here Diane...   ;).  I thought it might be fine grist for the mill y'all got goin' here...


Ossana: .... But I do think that Ennis knows that people probably know that he’s homosexual...

http://www.advocate.com/currentstory1_w.asp?id=25277&page=



Then the clouds opened up and God said, "I hate you, Alfafa."

ruthlesslyunsentimental

  • Guest
But I don't think Jack is the only man he's ever found attractive. I think he has long realized that he's attracted to men. That's what makes his upbringing so damaging, what with his bigoted dad and the spectre of Earl sending the message that he literally needs to fear for his life if he ever gives any sign of it. That's one reason, if not the only one, that he's so shy and awkward and messed up. And his internalized homophobia MORE convincing, to me, than it would if he never thought his dad's bigotry had anything to do with him.

I agree completely with this.  And I believe that a strong conclusion can be drawn from what you said here.  It's the image of Earl and the message from his father that messed him up so much.  It's because of just how strong those two messages were in his life that I believe that he could never make the connection that he was one of those "queers."  He fought making that connection with every fiber of his being.  Yet, he loved Jack and had sex with him.  Thus, his confusion, his being messed up, was exacerbated to the point that every fiber of his being just couldn’t stand it no more.

 
Quote
But it still doesn't fit with what I see of Ennis' behavior and his background.

It's funny -- to me, this is all I see ... a complete fit with his behavior and background. 



ruthlesslyunsentimental

  • Guest
... of  course we’ll have to see what Ruthless says …

And as you must know by now, the wait won't be long. 

I really hope people don’t mind me jumping in and offering my two cents on just about every post, but I really enjoy the back-and-forth -- especially with people who really have an opinion and aren't afraid to argue it.


Quote
I reconcile this by saying that the “face to face” issue is not to be taken literally, but figuratively. I have used this argument before and I can’t say that it has been a popular view. However, I think it fits. It is evident that Ennis can physically look at Jack face to face. He can hold him in his arms. He can kiss him tenderly. What Ennis cannot face, however, is the realization that it is a man he loves.

I think this is a great way of putting it! 

I hope this doesn’t sound haughty, but I consider myself to be one of the lucky few -- one of the lucky few who saw the film before reading the short story.  All I had heard of Brokeback Mountain was that it was a gay cowboy love story.  I fully expected to see two cowboys fall in love, shack up, have a squabble or two -- but overcome them -- and have a big problem with some bad dude in town during the last 1/2 hour, then they would overcome that problem and the whole town would welcome them and support them.  Everyone lives happily ever after.  When the screen faded to black and I saw the words "Directed by Ang Lee," I was so numb I couldn't move.  I couldn't speak.  I had no idea what the hell I had just witnessed -- what I had just been a part of.  To this day I still cannot adequately describe what this film has done to me.

So, I watched it again.  And again... and again.  I'm right around 140 or 150 viewings right now.

I didn’t read the short story until somewhere around maybe 75 or 80 viewings.  I'm glad I didn't.  Sometimes the published story is better than the film and the film just gives a person images to connect with what one reads in the better short story.  Sometimes, it’s the other way around.  I look at Brokeback Mountain as the latter.  Proulx did a fine job, no doubt.  But the film so far surpasses the very thin story and gives such an enormous amount of weight to it, that while I can read the short story and put the film into it, I cannot watch the film and put the short story into the film.  There are a few instances where something in the short story has made me look at motivations in the film a little differently, but there are so many times that the film gives a completely different spin that I think it's just best to put the book aside and go with what Lee gave us.  (In a way, it's like Trekkers who try to reconcile Star Trek technology with our modern understanding of physics.  Not a really good fit.)

Quote
When Jack says, “All this time and you ain’t find nobody else to marry?”  … it illustrates Jack’s resignation. Despite this, however, I still contend that Jack loved Ennis as much as he always had … that had not diminished. Even though Jack was seeking sexual fulfillment elsewhere (Mexico, Randall), he still had the emotional commitment to Ennis (one that he, at times, wished he could “quit”)."

I agree complexly with this.  I also take this line as a foreshadowing of the closet scene.  Here, Jack is subtextually saying "All this time and you haven’t figured yourself out yet?"  Then Ennis goes to the closet.  He FINDS the shirts.  "All this time and you haven’t found out the truth about yourself and our relationship?  Well, here's these two shirts to help you."  I can almost hear Jack saying, "You dumbass mule."


Quote
Even if Jack would have lived with Randall, he would have still gone on his “fishing trips” with Ennis.

I cannot disagree with this more strongly.  After Jack saw, vis-à-vis Ennis' breakdown, the toll that their relationship and Ennis' inability to cope with it had taken on Ennis, it would have been utterly cruel of Jack to continue their relationship.  It is not love to see the person you love in utter despair and turmoil and then to say "Oh, well, at least I can get a couple of high-altitude fucks out of the guy every year."  I know that you didn’t mean to say anything like that.  But, it is precisely because Jack loved Ennis so much that Jack had to let Ennis go. 

Because Ennis sent the final postcard, I believe that Jack had not yet gotten around to closing things up with Ennis, and I’m not sure how he would have done it.  But I am sure of one thing.  Jack would have had to have gotten a final, definite answer from Ennis one way or the other.  And if Ennis' answer was the same as always, Jack would have had to have let him go.  He loved him that much.

Jack said he wished he knew how to quit Ennis.  In the most poignant irony of the entire film, Ennis showed him how.


(Please note that "quit" does NOT mean "stop loving."  It means stopping the pain.  This is love and that was Jack.)

ruthlesslyunsentimental

  • Guest
… so let me give a few different examples, because I think this does fit in to what we know about Ennis …

A woman lives in the burbs, ...

Now let’s look at Ennis … he was taught homosexuality was a “bad thing”. ...

I agree 100%.  Beautiful example. 


Quote
If Jack wouldn’t have come into his life, I am not convinced he would have ever had a homosexual affair, IMO.

And IMHO too.  I believe that Ennis needed Jack to take the lead.  And as their relationship developed on the mountain, pre-FNIT, Ennis was perkily going along with Jack's lead.  But without someone to grab Ennis' hand and put it "where the moon don’t shine," I believe Ennis would never have made a first move.  Ever.



ruthlesslyunsentimental

  • Guest
I see what you're saying, and I agree that's a better analogy. It's true that Ennis doesn't see himself as queer in terms of all the stereotypes he might attach to that label -- just as the woman you describe doesn't see herself as a "drug addict" per se.  Would the woman openly take her Xanax in front of god and everyone with no hesitation because she doesn't see herself as fitting the drug addict profile? Or would she be worried that people in town and people on the pavement would "know" that she's taking too many? If it's the latter, then she's a pretty good comparison to Ennis ... neither might use the label they despise to describe their own behavior, yet at some level they realize their behavior is not "normal."

I think this is the entire key point.  Very well stated (summed up).