One of the interesting things that’s gone missing in all the “gay” discussion about Ang Lee’s new film, Broke Back Mountain is this: You could make those two cowboys a straight couple, for example, one black, one white, same setting, same time frame, not change more than a few lines of dialogue and the film would play exactly the same.
And that is because the subtext of the story is ageless: How we humans box ourselves in with paradigms that limit, blight and ultimately destroy our ability to realize our full, genuine selves. There are Broke Back Mountains everywhere. In Saudia Arabia a woman isn’t allowed to drive a car alone because, well, women aren’t allowed to do that sort of thing. In some parts of America, a black man still risks extreme danger for looking “funny” at a white woman because, well, black men aren’t allowed to do that sort of thing. Gays can’t get married because, well, that sort of thing just isn’t done. White men can’t jump, blacks love watermelon, all hairdressers are gay, God hates fags, Mexicans are lazy, women are hysterics, the list of blind, bigoted assumptions is endless.
In the wonderful film, Billy Elliot, Billy had a genuine talent for dancing but everyone in his world knew that sons of miners don’t dance. The Monty Python crew did a wonderful spoof of this theme in their Sons and Lovers skit by reversing things: Mom & Pop were intellectuals and writers while their son begged to become what he always dreamed of becoming – a coal miner.
And so it goes. We hobble our lives because God decreed it, Society decreed it, The Family decreed it, and, well, Everyone knows. And so our made up “realities” continue to bind, blind, cripple, limit and finally destroy our very real lives. Yet with what single-minded ferocity do we cling to our self-created jails.
That we know this truth deep in our bones is what gives Broke Back Mountain such a powerful resonance and such a deep, unflinching sadness.