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Brokeback Mountain--the original story by Annie Proulx

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"Brokeback Mountain," the original story by Annie Proulx, on which the movie is based, has been posted:


Read it! One of the great gay romances, set in Wyoming, published the year before Matthew Shepard was found crucified on a fence near Laramie.

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The entire collection, Close Range, is worth finding and reading. Her prose is stunning, her people and settings unforgettable. She's won Pulitzer and other major awards. Brokeback Mountain won the O. Henry short story award. Some of you may have read The Half-Skinned Steer in high school or college English.

Here's a Borowitz take on the film:



Cheney, Rove Injured in Stampede for Exit

In what the official White House spokesman today called ?a regrettable mistake,? the White House had a private screening last night of the critically acclaimed gay western, ?Brokeback Mountain.?

One day after the ill-fated screening, spokesman Scott McClellan said that the White House had launched a ?full investigation? to find out how ?Brokeback,? which features actors Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as gay ranch hands, found its way into the White House screening room.

According to one source, however, the decision to screen the film was made by the president himself, who thought that the two ranch hands would be mainly occupied with clearing brush, as he himself is fond of doing at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Additionally, the source said, the film was directed by Ang Lee, who directed one of President Bush?s all-time favorite films, ?The Hulk.?

Eyewitnesses at the screening said that seconds into the film?s first explicit man-on-man love scene, shrieks of alarm rose up from the audience and there was a frantic stampede for the exit.

In the ensuing chaos, vice president Dick Cheney reportedly trampled top advisor Karl Rove, with both men reportedly receiving medical attention for injuries sustained in the fracas.

Mr. McClellan said that the White House would take ?better care? to make sure that films with gay content do not find their way into the screening room, adding, ?We feel more optimistic about tonight?s double feature, ?Capote? and ?Rent.??

Elsewhere, a new report shows that U.S. students? test scores declined 50% in the last month, largely due to the introduction of the Xbox 360.

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:laughs: at Borowitz satire, above.

(Oh, and I only recently know who Kinky Friedman is; quite a character.)

To the main topic, Brokeback Mountain, I haven't seen the movie yet, but I read about 35 pages of the 55 in the specially published edition of the short story as a single piece. I'll be sure to read Close Range, which I also bought. I don't recall reading anything by her previously, but I may collect her stuff.

A note for those who haven't read Annie Proulx's work before: She writes the characters' speech in dialect, without apostrophes, and "of" and "to" often become a short, schwa "a" in her characters' speech.

Don't let that deter you from reading her! Her prose flows beautifully, it's compact and evocative. She doesn't waste words. She handles Brokeback Mountain with an unblinking realism, with all the good and not-so-good of her characters and the natural world around them. Oh, and she keeps the "hot man-on-man" sex to a minimum needed for the story, but there is a little description of that too.

I'm not sure yet what to make of the short story. It'll require some "cogitatin and recollectin." That's a plus, not a minus, for the story and the writer. -- I'll probably have more to say later...I reckon.

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I'm not sure yet what to make of the short story. It'll require some "cogitatin and recollectin." That's a plus, not a minus, for the story and the writer. -- I'll probably have more to say later...I reckon.

I know what I make of the story, it's tremendously sad and sweet (and sexy)...painful and beautiful to read. Like all her prose in Close Range (some stories not sexy but all hit pretty hard emotionally). As for the film, apparently some of the trailers are showing sex/kiss scenes that have been cut from the final film. In the interest of keeping people informed, here's (below, not my words) an early viewer's list of sex/nudity/kissing in the film, as opposed to the trailers or the Proulx story. Anything NOT listed is NOT in the film's final edit.

For anyone unfamiliar, Ang Lee's direction is excellent. Unparalleled beauty, exquisite scenes, warmth to character relations, great care with period sets and costumes. I first became a fan with the stunningly beautiful film Sense and Sensibility.

On Kinky: I just read his campaign book, 'Scuse Me While I Whip This Out and like him better than ever. He's running for Texas governor and needs your votes, your donations and your volunteer time. He's gay-friendly, wild and wonderful. PLEASE visit Kinky's website and take a gander...the man's worth your time. He also writes mystery and other novels, btw, and has a huge following there and, natch, with his music. With music, he's been a trailblazer for decades. As governor, he might bring Texas into the 21st century...or at least keep it out of the 19th.


Here's an inventory of the sexual contact and nudity in the film. They are shown in deep shadow, almost silhouette, unbuckling their pants in a tent and then Jack bent over with Ennis behind him, followed by a bit of grunting and heavy breathing. They are shown from the elbows up, cuddling in bed. They are shown wrestling in the dirt and rubbing on each other bare-chested in jeans. They are shown kissing passionately several times, smashing their faces together but without any closeup of their lips. They are shown from a distance jumping naked into a lake and you get to see for a couple of seconds the suggestion of a big cock flapping between Ennis' legs. There is a scene of Ennis embracing Jack tenderly from behind, with both fully clothed. There is a blurred scene of Ennis squatting and washing his crotch and pits. There is a scene showing Jack from behind, squatting naked, washing his clothes in a river. That's about it. I suspect there was more sex shot than shown, but the film works fine without it. There is enough to let the audience know these guys are having sex. It's not a porn movie. It's a love story.


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is a link to an interview with Annie Proulx in a Jackson Hole, Wyoming newspaper. She talks a lot about the story and how she came to write it, the myths and realities of Wyoming, Matthew Shepard, the conversion of the short story into a screenplay, and the genre of Western literature. An excerpt or two from the piece:

Planet Jackson Hole: How did you come to write "Brokeback Mountain"? What inspired the story?

Annie Proulx: "Brokeback Mountain" was/is one of a number of stories examining rural Western social situations. I was trained as an historian . . . I watch for the historical skew between what people have hoped for and who they thought they were and what befell them.

PJH: I think it's clear to anyone who reads "Brokeback Mountain" that above all it's a wrenching, starcrossed love story. It is about two cowboys, but it seems inaccurate to call it gay literature. How do you feel about the film being assailed as gay agitprop emerging from liberal Hollywood? Did you ever intend for the story to be controversial?

AP: Excuse me, but it is NOT a story about "two cowboys." It is a story about two inarticulate, confused Wyoming ranch kids in 1963 who have left home and who find themselves in a personal sexual situation they did not expect, understand nor can manage. The only work they find is herding sheep for a summer ? some cowboys! Yet both are beguiled by the cowboy myth, as are most people who live in the state, and Ennis tries to be one but never gets beyond ranch hand work; Jack settles on rodeo as an expression of the Western ideal. It more or less works for him until he becomes a tractor salesman. Their relationship endures for 20 years, never resolved, never faced up to, always haunted by fear and confusion. How different readers take the story is a reflection of their own personal values, attitudes, hang-ups. It is my feeling that a story is not finished until it is read, and that the reader finishes it through his or her life experience, prejudices, world view and thoughts. Far from being "liberal," Hollywood was afraid of the script as were many actors and agents. Of course I knew the story would be seen as controversial. I doubted it would even be published, and was pleased when The New Yorker very quickly accepted it. In the years since the story was published in 1997 I have received many letters from gay and straight men, not a few Wyoming-born. Some said, "You told my story," some said "That is why I left Wyoming," and a number, from fathers, said "Now I understand the hell my son went through." I still get these heart breaking letters.

More of the interview at the Planet Jackson Hole website (link above).


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More Proulx info. She wrote the story bc she met a gay cowboy, she is herself heterosexual and married several times. This story won the O. Henry and Ms. Proulx is a Pulitzer Prize winning author, her stories mostly center on Wyoming. Technically not a gay love story, one could argue, more about hate and lies and not being able to act on homosexual attraction and love. It isn't a happy-over-after story by any means, it's very sad. Most of her stories are painful to read, in some way or other, all involve people's disappointments and heartaches.

Her site with info on the film and story: http://www.annieproulx.com/

The forum thread on that site about same:


A movie trailer (NOT one of the ones with deep kissing or sex/nudity dropped from the final cut-if you have a link to one of the others with material edited out, please post!) and a Behind the Scenes short:




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Reviewers Call 'Brokeback Mountain' Twisted

by Pete Winn, associate editor

Gay love story carries a high "ick" factor.

"Brokeback Mountain" is a cowboy movie where neither of the leading men gets the girl ? they get each other.

The "gay Western love story" that will premiere Friday has won film-festival awards and is drawing lots of media attention. Reviewers have called it a "landmark."

Focus on the Family Action Analyst Caleb H. Price said Hollywood is doing all it can to get people interested in a film that they know most moviegoers will not want to see. Set in Wyoming in the 1960s, the R-rated love affair between two cowboys culminates in explicit gay sexuality.

"If you read what Hollywood is saying about it, they're calling it 'an achingly beautiful love story,' " Price said.

"But I don't see it that way at all. You see two characters obsessed with a type of bondage that they don?t know what to do with. They don't know where it came from, and they don't know how to resolve it. And they both end up experiencing tragic consequences in their lives."

Youth could easily be led astray, he said, into thinking that gay sexuality is perfectly normal ? a message that homosexual activist groups have been harping about for years.

Dr. Ted Baehr of MovieGuide said the film has generated a tremendous amount of public awareness, including positive reviews from ABC and other mainstream media outlets ? which have, in turn, invited him to comment on the movie.

His assessment?

"If you're not looking at this through the eyes of someone caught up in the 'love affair' between these two men," Baehr said, "then the movie appears to be twisted, laughable, frustrating and boring Neo-Marxist homosexual propaganda."

In other words, he didn't like it.

Whether it can draw large audiences may well be the real test ? a sign of how successful gay activists have been.

Price said the movie will probably have trouble drawing an audience ? because it has what he called a high "ick" factor.

That includes, Baehr explained, a "San Quentin-type rape scene" of sex between the two cowboys.

"If they're not vomiting their way out of the theater when they see that scene, they are certainly going to be uncomfortable, and even in the uncomfortable aspects, they are going to be bored silly," he said.

He does not expect people to recommend the film to friends.

Baehr said gay films usually do poorly at the box office. This film may do slightly better, he said, because of the box-office draw of the stars ? Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger.

" 'Kinsey,' a movie about sexologist Alfred Kinsey, got only $8 million at the box office, which was pathetic. The average homosexual movie averages only 600,000 dollars," Baehr said. "To put that in context for people, at six dollars a ticket, that's a hundred thousand people. In a country of 295 million people, it doesn't even register."

It's important to let people know the truth about this film, according to Dick Rolfe of the Dove Foundation, but evangelicals shouldn't overreact. Hollywood would love to see Christians object to "Brokeback Mountain" the same way they did to "The Last Temptation of Christ."

"If Christians protest too loudly," he said, "they can end up making the mistake of calling attention to a movie that otherwise may not do very well at the box office."

That's exactly what happened with "The Last Temptation of Christ," a blasphemous film which was protested in the 1980s.

"Any success that that movie had at the box office," Rolfe said, "has been attributed to the amount of attention and protesting that Christians did exhibit toward the film. So we have to be very careful not use our anger strategies to a point where they boomerang on us."

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"Neo-Marxist?" -- How the :censored: did that get in there? Hmm, consider the source, I guess. Dr. Baehr, I don't know.

I'm not a fan of Focus on the Family. They get extreme on other issues, and especially homosexuality.

Setting that aside --


I read the rest of "Brokeback Mountain" last night. She really packs a lot into her words. It has some sweetness and a few very poignant moments. It also has some uncomfortable truths and some sadness. Overall, it's a level-headed look at things. It lets the reader come to his own conclusions about Ennis' and Jake's relationship.

Ms. Proulx' response, quoted earlier in the thread, to the Planet Jackson Hole reviewer states her take on the story succinctly.

Is it "gay literature?" It's a story. It's literature. It has two men who can't define or accept that they have a gay relationship; that they are bi or gay. It's more than "just" a "gay story," but it's that, too.

Thank you, to Ms. Proulx, for writing something so honest.

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I didn't notice before but the Close Range book collection version has this preface missing from The New Yorker version:

Ennis Del Mar wakes before five, wind rocking the trailer, hissing in

around the aluminum door and window frames. The shirts hanging on a

nail shudder slightly in the draft. He gets up, scratching the grey

wedge of belly and pubic hair, shuffles to the gas burner, pours

leftover coffee in a chipped enamel pan; the flame swathes it in

blue. He turns on the tap and urinates in the sink, pulls on his

shirt and jeans, his worn boots, stamping the heels against the floor

to get them full on. The wind booms down the curved length of the

trailer and under its roaring passage he can hear the scratching of

fine gravel and sand. It could be bad on the highway with the horse

trailer. He has to be packed and away from the place that morning.

Again the ranch is on the market and they've shipped out the last of

the horses, paid everybody off the day before, the owner saying,

"Give em to the real estate shark, I'm out a here," dropping the keys

in Ennis's hand. He might have to stay with his married daughter

until he picks up another job, yet he is suffused with a sense of

pleasure because Jack Twist was in his dream.

The stale coffee is boiling up but he catches it before it goes over

the side, pours it into a stained cup and blows on the black liquid,

lets a panel of the dream slide forward. If he does not force his

attention on it, it might stoke the day, rewarm that old, cold time

on the mountain when they owned the world and nothing seemed wrong.

The wind strikes the trailer like a load of dirt coming off a dump

truck, eases, dies, leaves a temporary silence.


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Those paragraphs are also in the edition of the short story that is the movie tie-in (has the moive poster cover). ISBN: 0743271327

Yeah, my point was they are absent from the online versions floating around.

Dude, I'll be all better after I see the film this weekend.



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Well, I saw the film today. (We tried to go last night, but every showing on all three screens was sold out. So we got tickets for today. Can you believe that even the Sunday morning and early matinee shows got sold out?!) Then I spent part of the afternoon rereading the short story. The film is quite faithful to the printed story, but conveys a lot of its information cinematically. Heath Ledger deserves all sorts of awards for his performance as a man of few words, who conveys as much by what he doesn't say as by what he does.

There are a lot of great reviews and articles generated by the movie.

Roger Ebert's review ( http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.d...S/51019006/1001 ) does a fine job of discussing the motivation of the characters. And the New York Times has a great piece on the difficulties of being an actual gay cowboiy in Wyoming today ( http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/18/fashion/...LhGDFEE+WIT06CA ). The one person I'd really love to see personal reflections on all this from is Grasshopper (Jamie), who now lives on a ranch in the American West. Another person with experiences of local expertise I'd love to contact is a high school classmate who now lives and teaches school in a small town in Wyoming. They're probably in places where seeing the movie at a reasonable location isn't going to be a possibility for a while, though there are plans to expand it to more and more cities in the next couple of weeks. It's probably going to take some Academy Award nominations to get it into theatres in small-town America, but the film is good enough that it's not just a hopeless dream for that to happen.


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Unfortunately, we're not likely to hear a response from Grasshopper soon, for several reasons. That's a shame. His comments on subjects and his writing, and he himself, are top notch. I hope things will get better for him soon.

Many people in small (or large) Southwestern towns could comment on the realism of Brokeback Mountain, I'm sure. Anyone who's gay (GLBT) in America knows it can be difficult, out of the closet or in it; even our best-adjusted people here know that's obvious.

So what's new about the film and short story, or about being a gay person in the rural Southwest, why comment on it?

Precisely because it's hard; because people aren't always accepted, don't accept their own feelings, and feel they have to hide it or not live that way at all.

Precisely because, when we do come out, very often we have to unlearn ways of thinking and doing about ourselves and about being gay. -- Notice I switched from "they" to "we?" That in itself is a message of how divided it gets. -- I'm still relearning myself. "I'm gay. Now what?" That may seem like a flippant or shallow question, but it is very far-reaching.

Detractors will say Brokeback Mountain points out what's "wrong" with being gay. Instead, I'd say it points out what's wrong when people aren't true to themselves, and when they don't have the opportunities to be themselves or to advance in life.

There is a way to work to make things better, without letting ourselves get so angry or so sad that life crushes us. I have seen plenty of what's bad. I can still see what's good, and I will not accept anything else for long anymore.

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The straight dude's guide to 'Brokeback'

Our intrepid gay columnist has sage advice for his straight brethren

By Dave White

MSNBC contributor

Updated: 7:26 p.m. ET Dec. 8, 2005

You are a heterosexual man. And you have no personal beef with gay people.You're educated and fairly socially liberal and occasionally listen to NPRand you don't like to see anyone bashed or discriminated against. You're nohomophobe. You're proud of yourself.

But your girlfriend/wife/common-law /female or whoever loves that adorable Jake Gyllenhaal has already stated her intentions. When it's her turn to pick the Saturday night date-movie, you're seeing "Brokeback Mountain."

"But I am a heterosexual man," you're thinking, "very, very, very, very straight." And you're kind of freaking out as the release date quickly approaches - and even the expression "release date" is making you kind of jittery. You're hoping to remind your female life partner that, while you feel gay people are very wonderful, colorful, witty additions to the human population and that Ellen sure is fun to watch dance in the credit card commercial and that Tom Hanks really deserved that Academy Award for whatever that movie was where he died at the end, that you are very, very, very, very straight and that it should exempt you from seeing Adorable Jake.um. do "it" with Heath Ledger. You really don't even want to know what "it" entails because you've lived this long without finding out. You're thinking the words "red-blooded," as in "I am a red-blooded American male, etc," don't sound so retro anymore.

And yet, you're still going to see it whether you like it or not. This necessarily presents a dilemma: how to make her happy and endure your first gay-themed movie where guys actually make out on a very big screen right in front of your face? And that's where I come in. I'm a red-blooded American male homosexual movie critic who's already seen "Brokeback Mountain." And I could just tell you how great the film is, that it's really powerful and moving and all that, but that isn't what you want to hear. So I have some viewing tips for you, my straight brothers. I promise I'm only here to help.

1. Accept the fact that this is all your fault in the first place.

You were the one who was all excited to take your ladyfriend to "Jarhead" anyway and when you got there and saw that it consisted of lot of AJ (how this article will refer to Adorable Jake from here on) running around all sweaty, muscular and shirtless in the desert, doing a sexy dance wearing nothing but a Santa Claus cap over his "area" and then simulating a big gay orgy with his fellow grunts, you were like, "When does the killing start in this movie?" while your woman thought, "Oh yes, more Santa Dancing please." You brought it on yourself.

2. Realize now that you have to shut up.

You kind of have no idea how important it is for you to shut up. But it's crucial. I was recently at a press screening for another movie and I overheard four guys in the theater lobby talking about "Brokeback." They were resolute in their refusal to go see it and they couldn't stop loudly one-upping each other about how they had no interest, were not "curious," and were, in the words of the loudest guy in the group, "straight as that wall over there." Oh, the wall with poster for the Big Gay Cowboy Movie on it? That straight wall? Well here's something that everyone else now knows but that guy: he's probably gay. Being silent marks you as too cool to care about how other men see you. It means you're comfortable and not freaked by your own naked shadow. Did Steve McQueen go around squawking about how straight-as-a-wall he was? No, he didn't. He was too busy being stoic and manly.

3. The good news - there's less than one minute of making out.

It's about 130 minutes long and 129 of them are about Men Not Having Sex. So yes, maybe it will be the longest almost-60 seconds of your life, but there it is. Less than one minute. In fact, it's 129 minutes of really intense longing and sadness and unabashedly weepy, doomed love story. In a very real way that's a lot more porny than any of the man-on-man canoodling that made it past the editing room. But if you're going to be a big sissy about it then you can go get her that Diet Coke and jumbo popcorn during the first major sex scene. And no plugging your ears and singing "Mary Had a Little Lamb," either. All singing is inherently gay, is why. Plus you'll be in a movie theater and some big bruiser gay guy might kick your butt. Then you'll feel even more emasculated.

4. Remember that it's a western.

And the script was adapted by none other than Total Dude Larry McMurtry. That guy is the coolest western writer in the country. He wrote "Lonesome Dove." You love "Lonesome Dove." In fact, the only problem with remembering that it's a western is having to ignore the fact that most westerns are about 1000 percent gay. If you think I'm making that up, just go watch "Red River" again.

5. They're tortured and you get to feel sorry for them.

Just like in that Tom Hanks movie, these gay guys get kicked around a lot. It's set in the 1960s and the characters played by Heath and AJ don't even know they're gay. They think they're just regular straight guys who suddenly find themselves all turned on by each other and, honestly, don't even really understand why they're awash in yucky, hypnotic love feelings. Actually wait. you know what? Don't think about that too much. Better if you just forget about the "why" of it all and start rooting for these underdogs. Pretend they're like Sean Astin in "Rudy."

6. Anne Hathaway, who plays AJ's wife, gets topless. The End.

I think it's fair to report this and here's why: as a gay man, the only reason I even agreed to sit through the really stupid remake of "The Longest Yard" was because one of my friends told me you get to see the wrestler Goldberg in the shower. In one scene. That's it. I sat through the whole thing for one scene. In that respect, my hetero pals, we are all brothers deep inside -it's just a different brand of naked flesh that ignites our prurience.

7. And finally, it's just your turn.

Really, it is, and you know it. Imagine how many thousands of hetero love stories gay people sit through in their lives. So you kind of owe us. Now get out there and watch those cowboys make out.

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Unfortunately, we're not likely to hear a response from Grasshopper soon, for several reasons. That's a shame. His comments on subjects and his writing, and he himself, are top notch. I hope things will get better for him soon.

Grasshopper posted a Christmas greeting on "another board" (most will know the one I'm talking about) and added the following about "Brokeback Mountain":

I am kinda pissy this weekend cause Breakback Mountain is only playing in limited release and I wanted to see it like right now. Excuse me, but Jake Gyllenhaal..........I feel a cowboy story coming on.
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blue wrote:

Unfortunately, we're not likely to hear a response from Grasshopper soon, for several reasons. That's a shame. His comments on subjects and his writing, and he himself, are top notch. I hope things will get better for him soon.

E.J. replied:

Grasshopper posted a Christmas greeting on "another board" (most will know the one I'm talking about) and added the following about "Brokeback Mountain":

A link to Grasshopper's has been on the AwesomeDude Home Page since December 20th. It takes you directly to IOMFATS's Grasshopper Story page. :D

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Pundits can?t stop calling Brokeback Mountain a ?breakthrough.? The question is: Why?


Start the revolution without them: Cowpokes Lee, Ledger and Gyllenhaal.

The last straw broke two weeks ago when my friend (and fellow journalist) Bob Hofler tried to make plans to go to an afternoon showing with someone who informed him, ?Oh, no ? I?m going to be there for the very first one at 10 a.m.? It was, Bob told me, as if his friend were ?going to vote in an election.? And indeed, that?s what it?s come down to. In the wake of three decades of gay-rights activism in which thousands fought and many died, we are solemnly informed by Frank Rich that a Hollywood movie ?is a landmark in the troubled history of America?s relationship to homosexuality.? Oh, yes, Brokeback Mountain is so much more important than Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 Supreme Court decision ending sodomy laws nationwide!

Unless you?ve been tending a sheep pasture since September, you?ve doubtless heard about Ang Lee?s adaptation of E. Annie Proulx?s New Yorker short story that, according to Newsweek?s puff-adept Sean Smith, ?caused a sensation... Its raw masculinity, spare dialogue and lonely imagery subverted the myth of the American cowboy and obliterated gay stereotypes.? You mean like Montgomery Clift in Red River or James Dean and Rock Hudson in Giant? How about Tosh Carillo in Andy Warhol?s Horse? Across the wide cinematic prairie, there?s nothing but gay stereotypes when it comes to cowboys, and Brokeback Mountain is no exception ? what with Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal eyeing each other as they stand outside their boss?s office striking poses redolent of a Sunday ?Beer Bust? at the Faultline in Silver Lake.

But readers of The New York Times aren?t supposed to know about such things. That?s why the ?newspaper of (exceedingly faulty) record? sent fashionista Guy Trebay to talk to ?real life? closeted cowpokes, one of whom proudly declared, ?I?m a man?s man. I?m not feminine at all.? Sure. Just like those personal ads: ?Straight-acting, straight-appearing, no fats or fems.? The record will show that no ?man?s men? were present at Stonewall, where out and proud drag queens ? far tougher than Brokeback?s poseurs ? took on the cops, and jump-started a movement that now seeks to write their politically incorrect effeminacy out of gay history. But why look back? To hear it from Frank Rich, Brokeback ?brings something different to the pop culture marketplace at just the pivotal moment to catch a wave.?

The crest of that wave, however, is something not that new at all ? ?slash? fiction. This genre of homemade homoerotica, confected by and for women, began in the 1970s (and became the subject of many a post-feminist academic paper in the 1980s) by offering gay sexual fantasies involving Star Trek characters. Today ?slash? incorporates everything from The X-Files (David Duchovny being seduced by male aliens) to imaginary same-sex-capades by members of the band Franz Ferdinand. Yes, ?the sisters are doing it for themselves,? and never more so than in Japan with ?Yaoi? ? a female-created (and -consumed) publishing genre encompassing homoerotic novels, short stories and manga animation that emerged in the wake of that country?s recognition of gays as a sociopolitical entity 20 years ago. It?s why Merchant Ivory?s Maurice was a hit there, and why primary financing for Gus Van Sant?s My Own Private Idaho was Japanese.

That Brokeback Mountain is Japan-bound goes without saying. But it?s surely going to sweep the Oscars too, and break the $100 million mark at the box office. For its ?daring? is that of a Stanley Kramer production, while its ?slash? is perfectly in keeping with the sort of slosh found in women?s fiction of yore. Heath Ledger?s faithful Ennis Del Mar waits for Jake Gyllenhaal?s straying Jack Twist and his ?fishing trip? invites just as Irene Dunne pined away for a ?drop-in? from her married lover, John Boles, in 1932?s Back Street. But we?re not supposed to speak of such things, living as we do in what Gore Vidal calls ?The United States of Amnesia.? We?re instead encouraged to ignore the precedents shattered by three decades of truly groundbreaking queer films ? with Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971) leading a pack that also includes My Beautiful Laundrette (1985), Parting Glances (1986), Todd Haynes? Poison (1991) and Velvet Goldmine (1998), Gus Van Sant?s Mala Noche (1985) and My Own Private Idaho (1991), Savage Nights (1992), The Long Day Closes (1992), Wild Reeds (1994), Urbania (2000), Les Passagers (1999), Patrice Chereau?s L?Homme Blesse (1983) and Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train (1998), Kinsey (2004), and, just this year, Tropical Malady and Mysterious Skin. No, what?s really supposed to be important is the saddle-packing same-sex equivalent of Guess Who?s Coming to Dinner.

Newsweek?s Smith is simply agog at how ?Gyllenhaal and Ledger don?t dodge it. The kissing and the sex scenes are fierce and full-blooded. But if the actors were taking a risk, they sure don?t seem to think so.? Goodness, you?d swear the thing starred Tom Cruise and Kevin Spacey.

And what about gay actors playing gay roles? Is it beyond their ken? Would they be open to accusations of ?simply being themselves? rather than ?really acting?? In a marvelously irreverent article published in The Guardian called ?Gay for Today,? writer Philip Hensher put it best: ?There are no gay actors ? or at least, there weren?t until Nathan Lane, to everyone?s utter incredulity, came out. Of course, there were gay actors in America?s past ? James Dean, Cary Grant, Dirk Bogarde, Rock Hudson, Danny Kaye. Plenty of them, in fact. But, for whatever reason, there?s hardly a single gay actor of recognizable stature working in Hollywood. An incredible fact.?

Needless to say, Hensher is being cheeky. All the actors he mentioned lived and worked in an era when the closet was an unavoidable reality and living a free and open gay life well nigh an idle dream. But that dream is now a reality, and in coming to grips with it, the speculation and whispers of the past are being reconfigured as matters of simple fact. Those guys were gay. Deal with it. More importantly, today?s out gay actors ? Chad Allen, Craig Chester, Mitchell Anderson, Dan Butler, David Drake and Peter Paige ? have to deal with the ?incredible fact? that they?ve been left to fend for themselves in indie and pay-TV climes. But when it comes to parts like Ennis Del Mar, Jack Twist and Truman Capote, they?re not even going to get an audition. Only heterosexuals need apply.

Yes, things have changed, but not all that much, as Craig Lucas shows in his deliciously mean-spirited The Dying Gaul. In a key scene, Campbell Scott?s scheming bisexual producer tells Peter Sarsgaard?s sensitive gay writer, ?No one goes to the movies to have a bad time, or to learn anything,? before going on to declare matter-of-factly: ?Americans hate gay people.?

?What about Philadelphia?? Sarsgaard counters.

?Philadelphia was about a man who hated gay people,? Scott replies.

But Scott?s most telling remark comes as he prepares to seduce Sarsgaard (far more graphically than Ledger does Gyllenhaal): ?You can do anything you want ? just so long as you don?t call it by its name.?

And the name you can?t use around a gay movie called Brokeback Mountain is ?gay.? Critic after critic has enthused that the film is at heart about ?two people in love? who ?just happen to be men.?

Yeah, right. Tell it to Antonin Scalia!

?The magnificent thing, though,? notes novelist Rick Moody (hardly a disinterested party, given that it was Lee who brought his suburban-angst tale The Ice Storm to the screen), also writing in The Guardian, ?that happens . . . during the unraveling marriages of these two men, as the film hastens toward its heart-rending completion, is that you stop thinking of these men as men, or gay men, or whatever, and you start thinking about them only as human beings, people who long for something, for some kind of union they are never likely to have.?

In the immortal words of my favorite drag queen, Bugs Bunny, ?Oh, Prunella!?


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It doesn't have to be everything under the sun, as long as it shows one story of what being gay is like for American men.

Hype is only hot air anyway, much ado about nothin', baby, signifyin' nada.

This can be another boot-scootin' kicker kick to open the door a little wider.

This movie means I can look forward to future movies and novels and soundtrack CDs that show gay people being themselves.

About two straight guys playing gay parts, fine; yes, even though there are gay actors who could've been cast. Hey, if two straight guys have the guts (and the balls) to act as gay characters, even to the mushy and hot stuff, well -- hot da**, good. More, please. -- If even one person looks at this and says, "hey, maybe I can be myself after all," or "hey, maybe it's alright for that guy or girl to be gay, I think I like him / her just as well," -- again, hot da**, good; more please. -- You want to call that an "agenda" on my part? Fine. My only agenda is, I want people like me to be treated fairly, equally, and humanly. "The truth shall set you free." Let's be true and free, everyone; yes, everyone.

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