• Home
  • About
  • Guest Post
  •  

    If I had one wish / Love would feel like this

    Hi! Is it obvious that I’m jet-lagged and wide awake at 6 a.m.? I tried lying sleepless in bed for a few hours to get my body used to the idea that this part of the day is rest time, but I can only do that for so long before I go nuts. Then I tried reading, but my brain is too fried to concentrate. Ditto with sudoku. And I had enough TV, after two weeks in the States, to do me just fine for a while.

    I could unpack my stuff, but I’m afraid I’m so hazy that I’d start putting the navy T-shirts away in the designated grey/black T-shirt drawer, and we would not want that.

    So one more post, and then I’m going to try to sleep a bit before Atsushi gets here at 11:00 or so.

    I was going to let this point drop–largely because the fights I’ve had about it have been with non-blog people–but it’s something that apparently has to be said repeatedly, so here it is one more time.

    I could have seen…yes, here it comes again…Brokeback Mountain while I was in the States. I decided not to. I’ll probably get the DVD, or if it plays in some arty theater here in Tokyo, I may see it there. How that can be construed as meaning that I think people who have eagerly lined up to see it–and, subsequently, been very affected by it–are suckers, I cannot imagine. Do I really strike anyone as the kind of man to sneer at people for sincere, deep-seated responses to art? Chris has a post up about it that, as his often do, moved me to tears. One of the major functions of art is to remind us that we all labor, in our individual ways, within the human condition, and I’m glad this movie’s been made so that people who see pieces of their own story in it can take comfort in that.

    But those of us who don’t see our story in it have to be allowed to appreciate it on our own terms and to our own degree, and that’s where I find the implication that it’s our homosexual duty to rally around Brokeback Mountain, the pop culture phenomenon, annoying. Gays deserve as much liberty to decide whom to identify with as anyone else does. Sometimes we’ll sympathize with people without necessarily seeing them as reflections of ourselves, even if gay advocates deem it politically expedient to do so. We have to be as free to choose for ourselves as we are to speak for ourselves.

    Personally, my highest hope for Brokeback Mountain is that it’s kind of like Romeo and Juliet, making a generalizable point about the raw resilience of love in the face of social pressure by taking the circumstances to an unusual extreme. Given the frantic “It’s not a gay movie!” PR fusillade, that appears to be the way its makers are also hoping it will be regarded. But that may not make it a metaphor for gay life in any kind of direct and overarching way.

    In 2006, there are plenty of us who have been out our entire adult lives, with more experienced friends who showed us the ropes and became like family. I’d have to dig back in my memory over a decade to recall agonizedly burying a yearning for an electric connection to someone and tamping the dirt down over it just because he was a man. I haven’t forgotten what that was like, obviously, and if it’s depicted skillfully on screen, I’m sure I’ll find it devastating and difficult to watch. I’m not saying every gay-themed movie has to be Beautiful Thing or The Sum of Us. It’s just that self-loathing and the necessity of keeping things hidden don’t govern adult reality for many of us, and it’s not clear to me why we should push the line that Brokeback Mountain says more than it actually does about the gay experience just to get more exposure for gay love stories.

    6 Responses to “If I had one wish / Love would feel like this”

    1. tanoki says:

      I think there’s really something to be said for this. On the one hand, I can understand the point of the gay population who thinks you should be openly supportive of the movie. Why? Because it marks an important step for gay issues in films in that a gay love story is actually making it to major theatres and getting at least a lukewarm reception from the broader American public. Supporting the movie here is sort of like supporting the troops–you do it not because you believe in the actual cause, but because you support the group that is personally affected by the movie.

      On the other hand, I can understand and respect that you don’t want to feel a *need* to support the film just because you are gay. It’s silly to assume that all gays, simplly by virtue of being gay, have to think alike and have the same interests and preferences (outside of general sexual preferences), so why should you, just to appease the more general gay *cause*, need to place your imprimatur on Brobeck Mountain? I completely understand and agree with this point.

      I suppose the issue boils down to something I alluded to above–that, at times at least, some issues become so important in the minds of those involved that they think that loyalty is required, or at least morally justified. With the war effort, the idea is that we were all attacked collectively when the World Trade Center was downed in New York and we are all Americans effected by terrorism generally, so we should all be behind the Americans fighting to protect our freedom in Iraq, irrespective of personal allegiances or ideologies. With the gay cause, the same point probably stands–gays are involved in a mutual social crusade, and the movie here serves to promote the recognition and acceptance of gays in society. All people that are affected by issues impacting on gay rights and issues, therefore, should be supportive of the movie. It’s a milestone and a step forward for gay rights. That’s the argument, at least.

      Like the war argument, you can be against the war but for the troops. I think that’s the brand of pressure you are feeling when you talk about the reaction you feel *expected* to have to Brokeback Mountain. The point is, the community effected by the movie–the gay community–doesn’t expect you to appreciate the movie on a personal level, but does expect you to support it because of the significace the movie has in terms of the gay movement in general.

      I’m not sure which side on fall on in this argument, but I thought I would at least state the general argument to stimulate discussion. Fire away.

    2. Zak says:

      Sean, you have come to the bizarre and erroneous conclusion that your individual opinions are NOT to be totally dictated by the group to which you belong.

      Report to college for four years of “re-education,” after which you will hopefully realize that group identity is the only thing that matters.

      I recommend Wesleyan.

    3. Politicizing self hatred?

      Reflecting on the “all-gays-must-see-this” hype surrounding the release of “Brokeback Mountain,” Sean Kinsell demonstrates why he’s one of the most honest voices in the blogosphere: …those of us who don’t see our story in it have to be allowed to…

    4. Sean Kinsell says:

      But Zak, buddy, why bother going to Wesleyan when we already live…you know? : )

      Tanoki, there’s a lot to respond to there. Your analogy between support for the war and support for gay visibility is very suggestive, though I don’t know that it works entirely the way you think it does. Most Americans aren’t pro-gay, but they’re not The Enemy in the non-negotiable way Islamofascists are. That gives different dimension and heft to the approaches we have available.

      I do think that I’d say the two are similar in this sense: We’re in Iraq now. We cannot afford to screw it up, so we cannot show ambivalence; historically, that’s the best way to demoralize your own forces and embolden the enemy’s. In any action of that magnitude, there are going to be things that are done wrong, or people who get involved whose motives aren’t pure. We have to be self-critical and figure out how to improve as we go. But when it’s time to talk turkey, we have to be firmly behind our own.

      Likewise, on a smaller scale, as gays, we have to support people’s right to seek their own happiness and to speak freely. Some of the expression produced is going to be unhelpful, or disingenuous, or counter-productive. But we can’t start picking and choosing in hindsight who should have been allowed to make which movie or stand-up routine. Free speech is free speech, and either we believe in it and see it through…or we believe there are exceptions to accommodate our own little wish lists, and we create an opening for our opponents to say, “See? They’re really closet fascists!” and for newly out people to say, “Who gets to decide what makes me a legitimate homosexual? I don’t want anything to do with this.”

    5. joe says:

      Sean, when I saw you listed among the gay blogger alliance for straight indifference to Brokeback I was disappointed. You don’t have to like the movie to acknowledge that the discussion it has generated is a good one. It’s typically Hollywood – with all that implies – and nice that we’re the subject in this way.

      I saw it yesterday and I don’t think it is a gay movie. It’s a straight director, straight actors and for straight people. What’s significant to me is that this is an understanding empathetic straight America showing the straight America that has not been so understanding or empathetic just exactly what the cost of choosing NOT to be gay is. That gay America latches on to the movie it is reasaonable and appropriate.

      The party line on the right has always been that it’s a choice, and the wrong choice. I saw in this movie the clear message that the wrong choice is NOT to come out. I detail all the whys and wherefores in my post being gay is a choice. I hope you’ll check it out and let me know what you think.

    6. Sean Kinsell says:

      Joe, I don’t think it was Mary’s intention to squelch the exchange of ideas. It certainly isn’t mine. I also haven’t decided whether I like the movie, for the (to me) very good reason that I haven’t seen it.

      If you’re seeing new ground being broken in the discussion the movie has generated about gays and gayness, I’m glad to hear it. Personally, I haven’t, and that’s my objection to the whole brouhaha. Everyone’s reaction has been drearily according to recipe. It is not the duty of gay people to get frothed up over Brokeback Mountain out of loyalty to the cause; it’s not the duty of straight people to show their support for us by getting frothed up over Brokeback Mountain. I plan to read your post after writing this, and I expect it to be interesting and substantive, as your posts usually are. Would that the rest of the effusing over the movie were likewise.

    Leave a Reply