Monday, January 9, 2006

Oh, the Humanity

Leonard Pitts on Brokeback Mountain:

We seem prone to find male homosexuality the more clear and present danger, the more urgent betrayal of some fundamental… something. Some will say it’s — and I will finesse this for a general audience — the nature of man-to-man sex that some of us find off-putting. I think it’s more basic than that. I think gay men threaten our very conception of masculinity.

The amazing thing about Brokeback Mountain is its willingness to make that threat, directly and overtly. These are not cute gays, funny gays, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy gays. These are cowboys, and there is no figure in American lore more iconically male. Think Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, the Marlboro Man. The cowboy is our very embodiment of male virtues.

In offering us cowboys who are gay, then, Brokeback Mountain commits heresy, but it is knowing heresy, matter-of-fact heresy. Nor is it the sex (what little there is) that makes it heretical. Rather, it’s the emotion, the fact that the movie dares you to deny these men their humanity. Or their love.

Ultimately, I think, that’s what the Larry Davids among us sense. And why for them, Brokeback Mountain might be the most frightening movie ever made.