‘Brokeback’ & Me: A Brief History

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As this blog’s title suggests, I hold a cherished space in my heart for Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee’s 2005 masterpiece. I have written extensively about the film, discussing the positives (its beauty, simplicity, performances, and relative transgression of film-going audiences’ expectations) and negatives (the relatively poor translation of eroticism from short story to screenplay, an over-reliance on heteronormative tropes).

I often sense some hesitation on the part of my queer friends and colleagues when I explain that Brokeback is my favorite film. I imagine that it’s because it is so mainstream and, some would argue, hetero. Perhaps more frustrating, I am too often labeled as simply “the gay guy” or “the guy who loves gay movies” by straight people I encounter. Those things are obviously true, but my love for this film is not contained by those words.

“It hit me at just the right time,” is a refrain I use over and over when attempting to sum up my attitude about the unconventional and undefinable story of Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist. I wrote about this time in my life in my senior project, the one I have mentioned here before, about Vito Russo and the evolution of queer representation in film. It was important for me to find the ways in which Vito and I could connect, and one of them was through a shared lifelong passion for the stories we see on screen, and the ways they relate to our own lives at that moment.

I would like to use the anecdote I wrote as a point of connection with my readers as well. Perhaps it will explain a little better the ways I view films and just how meaningful they can be for me.

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Why I Share Films

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I have always had an affinity for sharing my favorite films. While watching a movie I love with a different audience, I often think it might as well be my first time experiencing it. The reactions are wildly divergent, the laughter or tears flow at different moments, and I come away with new ways of thinking through particular scenes.

For the longest time I figured this was simply a particular sensibility of mine. I struggled to understand why repeat viewings of certain movies were incredibly satisfying experiences.

While researching my senior thesis, titled “Beyond The Celluloid Closet: Moving Toward an Affective and Critical Analysis of Modern Queer Cinema,” the experiences of Vito Russo (above center, carrying the pole) influenced my thoughts on the matter heavily. Vito is my personal hero, our most influential theorist and critic of American queer cinema—he wrote The Celluloid Closetand a widely loved and revered AIDS activist. Though he died in 1991, my thesis became a means of reconciling the temporal space between us, and I sought to understand how he could love film the way he did even as he grew increasingly frustrated with the representation of the LGBTQ community.

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