Saturday, January 07, 2006

Gay Cowboy Fever Grips Madison

At some point, something has happened to you in your life where you knew it was coming, yet could do nothing about it. Being made to see “Brokeback Mountain” for me was one of these times.

Think about Hurricane Katrina – the people on the gulf coast had days worth of notice. They knew a Category 5 hurricane was about to hit the gulf, yet there wasn’t anything they could do so save their homes and valuables.

As soon as I saw the trailer for “Brokeback Mountain” with my wife, I knew the clock had begun ticking. As much as I ducked and dodged, I was certain I would be made to see this movie. Resistance was useless.

Why was I reluctant to see the movie? I think this quote by Larry David sums it up best:

"If two cowboys, male icons who are 100 percent all-man, can succumb, what chance to do I have, half- to a quarter of a man, depending on whom I'm with at the time?"

So we went to see it in Madison today. Needless to say, a movie about gay cowboys couldn’t have had a more receptive audience. It would be like seeing “Passion of the Christ” in Vatican City.

My wife and I saw “Capote” last week, so I figure I might go through the whole year without seeing a movie with a straight leading character. In fact, I plan on watching War of the Worlds one of these days, and I’m pretty sure any movie with Tom Cruise doesn’t break the streak. Plus, I’m praying for “Boat Trip II.”

After one of my friends ridiculed me for going to see the movie by delicately referring to it as “Fudgepack Mountain,” we got to the theater for the 1:30 show at Westgate theater. It seemed strange to me that in Madison this movie would only be playing in one theater, given the demand to see it here. When we arrived, the line there already wrapped around to the Milio’s sandwich shop, which is a good 100 feet long. I made a crack that by the time we got to the front of the line, it will be playing in the dollar theaters. A guy in line behind us referred to the movie as “Boneback Mountain,” which I think was inadvertent, but funny nevertheless.

When we made our way up to the counter, we were informed that the 1:30 show was sold out, and that we would have to buy tickets for the 3:45 show. They told us to show up at 3:00, as we would have to wait in line to get a seat. So the wife and I went to lunch and ran a few errands before we showed up at 3:00 to an equally long line. As it turns out, each show for the rest of the day was sold out, as well. (The attached photo was taken with my cell phone camera at about 3:15, and we were about half way to the front).

As soon as I walked into the theater, I bumped into a guy wearing a pin with a picture of George W. Bush with a circle and line through his face. I was unaware the Bush Administration had taken a stand on gay cowboys, but I now know this is an important demographic you do not want to cross.

So how was the Madison crowd? Well, if I didn't know I was at a movie, I would have throught I was at a Pier One employee convention. I was actually a little scared that I would be outed as heterosexual - and if they knew I was a Republican, you would have read in the paper about a man being beaten in a theater by a gang wielding expensive shoes as weapons. So for my safety, I suggested my wife go sit on the other side of the theater. (It's like when I went to see "Supersize Me," I refused to carry the big bucket of unhealthy popcorn I had just eaten out of the theater, for fear some healthy person would sneer at me.)

So how was the movie? Pretty darn good.

It raised some interesting questions, and didn’t bludgeon you over the head with the answers. I kept trying to think of what I would have thought about the movie if I were gay, and I came to the conclusion that I may have found the movie a bit disappointing. The movie features two male characters who, instead of giving in to their love for one another, continue to lead lives in straight married relationships over the course of 20 years. Each has children. Is the lesson that it’s better to subvert your own personal desires for the purpose of maintaining what’s best for your children, or were they merely keeping their relationship secret because of the dangerous consequences of it becoming known? Wouldn’t the real gay empowerment message be for them to live the lives that they want regardless of the consequences?

Does the movie argue that having a gay relationship outside of your heterosexual marriage doesn’t count as cheating on your spouse, or does it adequately portray the damage that it can do? Is Heath Ledger’s character actually gay, or does he just have undeniable feelings for one dude because of how dynamic that one guy happens to be? Will gay people believe it sends the wrong message by assuming homosexuals can keep their desires and behaviors in check, or does it adequately portray how painful it is to hold it in? Am I now gay for seeing it?

So in the end, I would recommend this movie for anyone. It is a bit long, but the cinematography is brilliant. And if you don’t like it, you are most likely a homo.

UPDATE: Here's how an Associated Press story describes Brokeback Mountain:

"The film, starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, is about two cowboys who discover feelings for one another. The two eventually marry women but rekindle their relationship over the years."

For the record, I discover feelings (mostly negative) I have about other men on a daily basis. Rarely do these feelings lead me to clutching another naked man in a tent.