A couple of days ago, I had the pleasure of viewing the film "Brokeback Mountain." I was accompanied by an SGL male friend - an ADODI brother - who was as eager to see the film as I was. In fact, we had plans to see the film last week, but our conflicting schedules would not allow it. My friend & I committed to not seeing the film until we watched it together: I was deeply moved.
My initial reaction, upon learning of the homosexual relationship between two white cowboys, was to dismiss the film as another so-called gay Hollywood romance w/ no particular resonance to me as an SGL man of African descent. Earlier that afternoon, I spoke w/ a couple of SGL brothers who praised the film & insisted I'd experience something different from what I expected or imagined. They were right.
Set in 1963, amidst the backdrop of snow-capped mountains in Wyoming, I was immediately captivated by the beautiful cinematography. From the opening scene, it was clear the environment would play a major role in narrating the story, written & directed by independent filmmaker Ang Lee. The film's two protagonists, sensitively portrayed by Heath Ledger & Jake Gyllenhall, are 'roadies' whose strong work ethic bonds them on a practical level: they need each other to survive.
These two men are connected by rituals requiring them to cook, handle sheep, secure shelter & weather the brutal winter conditions. Alone. Isolated. They have a job to do & nothing else matters. As such, I was fascinated by the simple use of dialogue between these two men, along w/ the empty spaces filled w/ a breathtaking musical score.
I also appreciated their struggle to relate to each other, as men, as human beings, as workers, which evolved slowly as the film progressed. Traditionally, men in this setting are socialized to mask emotions others may perceive as feminine, soft, or weak. Men are not supposed to acknowledge pain, vulnerability, or terror. Yet, on "Brokeback Mountain," they discovered a longing unfamiliar to them. These two men were attracted to each other & they had an awkward time expressing this unexpected energy.
The morning after the men arise from a noticeably physical encounter of anal intercourse, absolute silence descends upon them. While cooking the, now, familiar can of beans, one of the men says to the guy he fucked, "I'm not queer." Without missing a beat, the other guy deadpans, "neither am I." This was the only time a sexual identity was discussed between the two. Up until around 1968, homosexuality was diagnosed as a mental illness in America, so I understood why the men were not, as many men are almost 40 years later, fighting for gay rights.
Contrary to mainstream media outlets, "Brokeback Mountain," is not a gay film. This film chronicles the lives of two men struggling to find meaning in the way they feel for each other. They argue, fight, hug, kiss, laugh & scream at each other over a period of time. As Chris Rock said in one of his HBO specials, "relationships are easy to get into, difficult to maintain." I doubt if the bright, young comedian had this type of relationship in mind, because our society is obsessed w/ gay identity politics.
Because they needed to work, both men had to sacrifice their feelings for each other for months. They made a commitment to stay connected, not sure of where this union would lead, considering the time frame & their need to establish manhood as it was already defined. One of the men married a woman w/ low self-esteen & had two kids in a trailer home. The other married a successful business women & had one kid, though communication problems between the two were apparent from the outset.
Each year the men would plan a 'fishing trip' in order to secretly see each other. I loved witnessing the excitement evident in their body language as they recieved each other's postcards, anticipating another few days, or week, to spend time together - in sin. There was a poignant scene early in the film in which the men engage each other arounf their religous beliefs. Small talk about Methodist & Protestant ethics ensued, which provided a backdrop for their infidelity.
The film took a tragic ending which I won't divulge here. Suffice it to say, the chemistry between these two men transcended class, gender, identity, orientation & skin privilege. The unsung manner in which they related to their families, wives & children demonstrated the complexities inherent in navigating unfamiliar sexual & social terrain. I'd highly recommend this film to my progressive friends & open-mnded family members. I intend to watch it again.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. email@example.com.