Folk heroes were on my mind this morning as I trudged through dirty snow. Specifically, I was thinking of gay folk heroes. Even more specifically, I was thinking of contemporary gay folk heroes Jack and Ennis of it-movie “Brokeback Mountain”.
Thank you dear reader, I realize Jack and Ennis are fictitious characters. Much a folk hero’s exploits can be fiction. Did Mark Bingham break into that cockpit on that doomed flight and wrestle Al-Qaida terrorists away from the controls? Did he not?
Does it matter? No. He is still a hero regardless and has a mythology of sorts built around him (and an international rugby tournament named after him). Were there ever really gay cowboys in the sixties? There is certainly a heaping helping of presumably straight cowboys who are quite mythic cowboys. Granted I don’t know much about them; only their names: Buffalo Bill, Pecos Bill… eh… Lonesome Cowboy Bill…
Yesterday's folk legends are simply today's hype. What those Bills need is a good PR person!
“Brokeback Mountain” is a grand love story. And the great American West has served as a backdrop for countless stories. It’s only fitting this gay romance be linked to a western for that coveted cross-over (and Oscar) appeal. Everyone knows that cowboys are macho. Unless, of course, you are a gay line dancer. Whatever, heel-slapper, talk to the hand! When your boots match your vest match your hat, you are not macho.
I don’t think the movie would have the same appeal (for gays or straights) if Jack was a hair dresser and Ennis a florist portrayed not by hunky, hetero Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, but by dumpy, GAAAAAAAAY Nathan Lane and … ick. I can’t stand the thought.
Ang Lee certainly never called me to do a sweeping epic set in my apartment. Mine is not a secret love nor do I really possess Heath Ledger’s “quiet master of a look that speaks volumes”. Well, unless I’m staring at the last bit of Chinese takeout. No, alas, a sweeping epic set in the cozy apartment of Bryce/Neil would involve a lot of baby talk, foot rubbing and discussion of potential kitten names (equally baby-talky). There is a fair amount of sweeping now that I think about it. Our apartment gets awfully dusty. But that a good movie does not make.
But such simplicity is what actually makes “Brokeback Mountain” and the heroes so appealing to gay men (and hopefully that cross-over Oscar crowd as well). That and the swallowing of one’s sexuality (that sounds dirty) – the battle to accept it – and the eventual acceptance (perhaps too late).
That conflict, crisis and resolution is felt by all of us gay men. Yeah Nathan Lane twittering about in a gown is funny, but it’s too easy. Today’s queers may have the internet and gay magazines and gay television stations and gay social groups and gay bars and gay gyms and gay hair, but it’s still hard sometimes.
And a hero perseveres through hardship with exceptional strength, courage and resolve, whether it be seeing your true love only twice a year for “fishing” trips or enduring the queue at the gay Starbucks to find out your latte is done all wrong! Although that barista was awfully cute. Yeah, sorry, too easy.
The inundation of gay media can be a bit suffocating. A welcome change is enjoying a simpler time and two cowboys doing the fighting and fucking for us. I'll probably see “Brokeback Mountain” this weekend and finally compare the contemporary gay folk legend of these two cowbois with the hype of the actual film.