Author Topic: trying to make sense of Jack  (Read 7206 times)

Offline nakymaton

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trying to make sense of Jack
« on: July 24, 2006, 04:52:19 pm »
This has been niggling away at me for a while, and I'm going to throw it out to the forum and see if you all have insights that I don't have.

It seems like conversations about Ennis keep coming back to the internal struggles he has. Whether people say he doesn't know that he's gay, or won't accept that he's gay, or won't accept that he loves Jack, or knows he loves Jack but is scared of that horrible memory of his childhood, it still comes down to some kind of essential conflict within Ennis himself. And it rips my heart out to watch it.

But then there's Jack. On the one hand, Jack seems like he's the one who accepts who he is and who he loves and just wants to be able to live openly with Ennis. But on the other hand... Jack also pretends to be straight to the world, and seems to manage it fairly successfully until Ennis's divorce. (And even afterwards, Lureen and Jack never get divorced.)

In the story, Jack lies. He lies a lot. But in the movie, he's quite a bit different -- in particular, he seems much more emotionally vulnerable than story-Jack is. So... hmmm.

Here's one try. Pick this apart, cause I don't think I've got it figured out.

Movie-Jack seems like a bit of a chameleon... like he tries (at least) to be what people expect him to be. It sounds like he never succeeded with his father (paraphrase from memory: "can't please my dad," in the first bar scene). And he doesn't succeed with Aguirre (not the first summer, and definitely not the second summer). And he doesn't succeed with Lureen's father (though he appears to be trying, at least, in the scene with baby Bobby). But he succeeds the first time he meets Lureen, and he's at least a decent salesman ("You're the best combine salesman we've got." Though he's also the only combine salesman Lureen's got, so that may be faint praise.)

And then there's Ennis. Or rather, there are the many different Jacks that react to Ennis. There's that first moment outside Aguirre's trailer, when Jack looks as though he's going to start off by saying something, but when they end up sizing each other up (or checking each other out; they could be doing either or both). There's the very friendly "Your folks just stop at Ennis?" There's the attempt to find common ground in the bar ("You from ranch people?")

And then on the mountain there's all the bitching about Aguirre... trying to find common ground by complaining about the boss? There's that moment when Jack tries to decide how to approach Ennis after the bear attack, when Jack is worried and happy to see Ennis, but fakes being angry. It's like Jack just keeps trying different approaches to see how Ennis responds to them.

I could try to fit every interaction into this description, but I'm not sure if I can. But I wonder... does Jack like being a chameleon, or is it a relief that Ennis seems to know Jack, that Jack doesn't have to pretend to be somebody that he's not? And does Jack start to fall apart after the divorce because he doesn't want to have to keep up a charade for his entire life?
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Offline Daniel

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Re: trying to make sense of Jack
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2006, 05:09:23 pm »
I see Jack more as being openhearted and sensitive to everyone around him. As I understand him, all he wanted was a little bit of kindness, some sign of loving affection from the men in his life (his father, Mr. Aguirre, Ennis, Jimbo, Mr. Newsome), but he never received any, except for the little bit from Ennis on the mountain and during their reunion. Jack's personality centered and hinged on this prospect of love and kindness. If you notice in the film, Jack was never afraid to show kindness. And I think we can suspect that he learned that from his mother, as his father didn't seem to show him any and none of the other men that he encountered in the film did either.

There are some people in this world whose beings center around this perception of being loved. And I think Jack was one of those people. He pursued many "interests" such as rodeoing and ranching, but I think all in all, these were attempts to be recognized and loved by his father specifically. He wanted to make him proud so that his father would finally show some appreciation to him. Most of the men in his life seemed to avoid doing that.

Just my thoughts.

 
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Offline Shakesthecoffecan

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Re: trying to make sense of Jack
« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2006, 07:24:14 pm »
The thread "Jack.....rejected by men" is very similar to this one, may want to check that out as well.
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Offline Front-Ranger

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Re: trying to make sense of Jack
« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2006, 07:27:34 pm »
Daniel, I really like the way you see Jack. Parents have such an influence on their children. And thank you, Mel, for starting this subject. At last someone talking about Jack rather than Ennis!!
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Offline Brown Eyes

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Re: trying to make sense of Jack
« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2006, 11:37:37 pm »
Hi Mel,

Good topic.  I think the metaphor of a cameleon is a good one for Jack.  And, I do think that letting down his masks (everything to do with Texas really) is part of his relief in being with Ennis when he is with Ennis.  And vice versa, of course... maybe even more so for Ennis.  But, I think Jack is very wary of Ennis in many ways and is scared (a lot of the time I think) of setting Ennis off or frightening Ennis off, etc.  I think Jack picks his words carefully with Ennis.  Telling him somethings and fibbing about others.  I'd like to believe that there are moments between the two of them when they both mutually put down their guard, masks, fears, etc. and just enjoy one another and try to understand one another.

But I think what you said here is quite accurate:

Quote
there are the many different Jacks that react to Ennis



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Offline nakymaton

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Re: trying to make sense of Jack
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2006, 10:19:14 am »
shakestheground, you're right, the two threads do cover some of the same ground. Or at least maybe the "...rejected by men" thread answers my question? Anyway, I wouldn't mind having the threads merged if Katie would like that, as well, and if Katherine thinks they ought to be. I guess I didn't put the question in that thread, in part, because I wasn't sure that the "rejected by men" was the answer to my question. Or at least, I wasn't sure it was the entire answer.

I didn't word the question very well. Originally, I was thinking that Jack seems to compartmentalize his life, like he's got an Outer Jack who is the person that people expect or want him to be (and who can be different at different times, or with different people), and an Inner Jack. And I'm not sure we see the Inner Jack very often, even with Ennis -- yeah, Amanda, Jack really does pick his words carefully with Ennis, at least when Jack's saying something really important (the cow-and-calf-operation speech). And I was wondering whether if Jack was comfortable with having an Inner Jack that was hidden away (some people seem to be able to live very comfortably inhabiting various personas for the outside world, and staying very private about their inner self), or whether it was behavior that Jack had adopted in order to survive. (This is a little different, I think, than wanting to be able to live openly with Ennis. Or maybe it isn't. I'm not sure. I don't really understand Jack.)

And the sense of rejection might be part of it. Or maybe, the sense of rejection coupled with the desire for affection that Daniel describes -- Jack seems to want and need human contact. (I think the desire to be accepted and respected by his father, and maybe men like Aguirre and L. D. Newsome as well, is something different from the desire for affection from Ennis, or Jimbo or Randall... but they're all part of wanting to be liked or loved by other people.)

(And there was another interesting post about Jack-the-dreamer vs Jack-the-realist in here, and I think that might be part of it, too, and I wanted to respond but didn't have time yesterday. And it's gone now. But anyway, I know the post described the way Jack's window looked out on the only road that left his childhood home, and it seemed like that captured something about Jack, too. Only one road leaving home, and spending an entire childhood looking down there and dreaming. And being somebody who needs human contact, feeling very isolated with just his parents and the long horizons of the Wyoming plains. And being attracted to men, too. No wonder Jack wanted to get away, even if he also kept going back and telling his father that he was going to come back to stay.)
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Offline Front-Ranger

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Re: trying to make sense of Jack
« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2006, 10:55:40 am »
I thought Jack took rejection admirably well, considering. He didn't let Ennis's ribbing get to him and he picked himself up out of the dirt when those bulls threw him. He didn't let humiliation by Aguirre or Jimbo deflate him. He withstood L.D.'s ridicule and that of the Childress community for about a decade before losing his temper. I thought he was actually a pretty resilient person considering all of the shit he endured. But the experience of Brokeback Mountain and his relationship with Ennis was his primary source of strength. The knowledge that at one time and in one place he was unconditionally loved and accepted. That's what the flashback scene is all about. That's the ultimate human need and the one thing that all of us don't hardly never get.
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Offline ednbarby

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Re: trying to make sense of Jack
« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2006, 12:35:08 pm »
I thought Jack took rejection admirably well, considering. He didn't let Ennis's ribbing get to him and he picked himself up out of the dirt when those bulls threw him. He didn't let humiliation by Aguirre or Jimbo deflate him. He withstood L.D.'s ridicule and that of the Childress community for about a decade before losing his temper. I thought he was actually a pretty resilient person considering all of the shit he endured. But the experience of Brokeback Mountain and his relationship with Ennis was his primary source of strength. The knowledge that at one time and in one place he was unconditionally loved and accepted. That's what the flashback scene is all about. That's the ultimate human need and the one thing that all of us don't hardly never get.

Beautifully put, Lee.

My friend at work who so loved the movie and then the short story that she's seen/read them twice each and ordered copies for herself so she can again and I talk about Jack fairly regularly.  The thing she was struggling to understand about him was how someone so open and seemingly fearless could come from such a repressed, lonely, and austere childhood.  I've said I think his mother had a big part in that.  And I think he rebelled, in a way, from his father while at the same time always trying to make him proud of him.  It's the eternal struggle and one that's so often rather broadly depicted in film - the conflict between father and son.  But it was so subtlely done here that it didn't beat you over the head like they usually end up doing with that conflict.  I saw it in my brothers growing up - in one in particular, and still do.  And like John Twist, my father is always saying "Andy's putting up another one of his 'trial balloons'" again," or, eerily, "Just another one of Andy's great ideas that never came to pass..."  When that brother gets to drinking too much, and he does way too often, all those years of feeling unaccepted and underloved by my father come spilling out.  And yet he is the life of every party.  If Andy is there, your party is *guaranteed* to be a success.  He's good-looking, charming, outgoing, comfortable in his own skin, and funny as hell.  And he hates his life because he never really amounted to what he thought our Dad wanted him to be.  My Dad just last night got going on about his lack of self-esteem - how he doesn't understand why he "settles" for so much mediocrity in his life when he's "got the world by the balls" like he does.  I very carefully said, "Well, not blaming you or anything, but there were a lot of years there when I think he didn't think you cared very much about him [or about my other brother and me, for that matter].  That kind of stuff does take a toll."  I was surprised to hear him not get all defensive but to say, "I know.  And I've tried to make it up to him the best I could.  But I worry maybe it's too late for him."

Sorry.  I digress.  As always.  But I guess it's easy for me to understand and relate to Jack because in so many ways, I grew up with him.  And like Jack, Andy is always trying really hard.  But trying to do what?  Like you've all said, I think it boils down to trying to make his father proud, because that would give him the validation he never got as a child.
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Offline Front-Ranger

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Re: trying to make sense of Jack
« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2006, 12:43:26 pm »
I can relate all too well, Barb. There was a book I read that really explained all this to me and helped me deal with it and put it behind me. It's called "How to Get the Love You Want," by Harville Hendrix. I think everybody should read it. It talks about the major influence that parents have on their children and the role of birth order. It also talks about how your experiences as a child influence how you select your spouse or partner and what types of people you surround yourself with.
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Offline ednbarby

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Re: trying to make sense of Jack
« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2006, 01:02:01 pm »
Yes, unfortunately, I think many of us can.  I worry, even, that my own son is already starting down that path with his father.  Ed has such high expectations for everyone that they can never possibly be met.  It's the way he's always been, but I foolishly hoped he would soften in that way when he had the child he so wanted.  Of course just the opposite seems to be happening, because not only does Will have to live up to his already overblown expectations for him, but he has to make up for all the things Ed feels he himself lacks.

I think Jack was as open and giving and fearless as he was because his mother loved him unconditionally, and maybe even tried to make up in some ways for the love and acceptance he wasn't getting from his father.  I know none of us ever once doubted our mother's love for us.  She made a lot of mistakes, but making us feel unwanted or unappreciated was never one of them.  It's a blessing and a curse.  There's something to be said for that little bit of a wall you build up from years of being underappreciated by *everyone*.  It does protect you.  But let it get too big and strong, and it protects you from *everything*, including the really good stuff.

Ideally, both parents love you unconditionally.  And while they also are responsible for raising a good, decent human being and so sometimes have to correct you, they do it in a way that makes you understand they're doing it because they love you so much, not because they don't love you enough.  Neither Jack nor Ennis was accepted by his father, or felt accepted by most other men.  But maybe Jack's mother felt somewhat more free to express her love for him than Ennis' did for him.  And in the end, that was perhaps his blessing and his curse.  But I like to think it was more of the former than the latter - that it enabled him to get more out of life than he otherwise would have - it enabled him to love Ennis with ever fiber of his being.  And in doing that, he at least saved one of them.
« Last Edit: July 25, 2006, 01:06:01 pm by ednbarby »
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