Concepts in Brokeback Mountain and how it relates to Our Sexuality Human Sexuality Spring 2011 The concept of homosexuality has been explored by society for many years and is not a new concept. Gay roles portraying homosexuals as people with the same drives and desires as heterosexual people have only begun to surface in the last few decades. Roles showing lesbian women and transgender seem to have been more widely accepted especially when they are used as humor. The role of the gay man in film and in society seems to be widely accepted when those roles are opposed or when the stereotype of a gay man is needed to inject some humor.
Homosexuals are only now receiving the same attention that other controversial roles have received without the extreme criticism in the past. The social acceptance of homosexuality, especially with regard to long term relationships, has slowly grown, so more films are breaking through the stereotypes to form a more complete picture of gay relationships not just gay sex. In Chapter 7 of Our Sexuality, it states that men are more likely to separate sex from love but that gay men, especially, make this separation. (Crooks, & Baur, 2011 p. 197) It’s not that gay men do not value love but that they value sex as a means to an end.
I believe this is the way Jack and Ennis’s relationship began. Neither character has any doubt about his masculine gender but proximity, as chapter 7 also discusses, plays an important role in their relationship as the two men become emotionally bonded to one another and their “means to an end” becomes love. (Crooks, & Baur, 2011 p. 188) Jack seems more accepting of his homoeroticism whereas Ennis is drawn against his will to submit to his own desires and to Jack. Brokeback Mountain is clearly portrayed during a time when discrimination is an even bigger issue than it is now.
In Chapter 9 of Our Sexuality, it tells us that society, in the early to mid 1900’s, attitudes towards homosexuality shifted from sinners to the belief that they were mentally ill. Surgical procedures attempting to cure this “illness” such as castration and lobotomy’s were performed. (Crooks, & Baur, 2011 p. 260) The two men in this story meet each other as ranch hands, and fall in love with one another. They do not understand why or how; they just know they love each other. They do not consider themselves “gay,” because it is simply unacceptable during this time; they cannot fathom being gay men because of what society teaches them.
It was a simpler life for Ennis when it was just the two of them on the mountain and they were free to express themselves. It is made clear through the reaction of Ennis’s wife and the two men’s former employer that homosexuality is viewed as “repulsive” and “evil. ” Ennis’s wife yells at him when she realizes what had been going one and calls Jack, “Jack Nasty. ” She is disgusted and ashamed that Ennis had sexual relations with Jack. And their former employer also makes snide comments to Jack about his relationship with Ennis, and tells them not to come back to Brokeback Mountain.
This is a good example of homophobia as explained in chapter 9 of Our Sexuality. (Crooks, ; Baur, 2011 p. 261) In Chapter 7 of Our Sexuality, Eros is another concept that stands out in this movie. Eros is a romantic love style; they make erotic lovers who are very affectionate and openly communicative. (Crooks, ; Baur, 2011 p. 185) According to Choices in Relationships, Eros refers to sexual love. It seeks self gratification and sexual expression. In Greek mythology, Eros was the god of love and the son of Aphrodite. “Plato described “true” Eros as sexual love that existed between two men. (Knox, ; Schacht, 2010 p. 54) According to Plato’s concept, homosexual love was the highest form of love because “it existed independent of the procreative instinct and free from the bonds of matrimony. ” Also, women had low status and were uneducated; therefore, they were not considered ideal partners for men. By implication, marriage and love were separate. The two men in this story are expected to be macho, sexually straight, cowboys. Society is inflexible, and they have no choice but to follow the rules- Ennis and Jack are forced to live a lie because they have no other options.
Though it frustrates them, they have to play the hand they are dealt and go on with their “normal/moral” lives with a wife and children; however, their love for each other was Eros and nothing could penetrate or distract from that- not neither time nor distance. They had the highest form of love. Films like Brokeback Mountain show the humanity of their characters allowing the audience to see what they already know, love between two people. The filmmakers have focused so closely and with such feeling on Jack and Ennis’ characters, that the movie is emotionally perceptive to the audience about the struggles of heartache.
The film relates to the majority of society, because the more it understands the individual characters, the more everyone can relate to them. Throughout the story the two men constantly struggle with the fact that they simply cannot be together. They talk about it and they desire to be together, but they know, in their society, it simply is not an option. They get married to women, they have sex with their wives, and they have babies, because it is all they know to do. They know there is no possible way they could ever be accepted as homosexuals, and again, they cannot even bring themselves to label themselves as being gay.
Chapter 9 tells us that in 2009 the United States congress passed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which included attacks motivated by sexual orientation, sex, gender identity, and disability. (Crooks, ; Baur, 2011 p. 262) Research shows that individuals who are more religiously conservative have more negative attitudes towards homosexuality than people who are less conservative in their beliefs. Jack Twist, who was more open and accepting of his orientation died at the hands of a hate crime due to his orientation. Is this a story about gay cowboys?
Many have pointed out that the two men at the center of attention were gay sheep herders; but fewer have recognized that the characters, if they can be labeled at all, are closer to bisexual than strictly gay. In the story, the men were portrayed as married and heterosexually responsive. Factor in the main event; two men having intermittent sexual flings, and it is clear the fictional pair were bisexually capable. What chapter 7 of Our Sexuality teaches us is that “same-sex” activities are not sufficient in and of themselves to establish an identity as a homosexually orientated person. (Crooks, ; Baur, 2011 p. 198)It is the falling in love with the same sex element that is necessary to establish a gay identity. If this is the case, Jack and Ennis were indeed gay. Chapter 5 of Our Sexuality teaches us about Gender Identity and the Interaction Model. The two characters, Jack and Ennis have no problems with their gender identity and announce a couple of times that they “aren’t gay,” whereas some people experience considerable confusion in their own efforts to identify with their own male or femaleness. There is too much evidence supporting the important role of life experiences in shaping the way we think about ourselves. ” (Crooks, ; Baur, 2011 p. 113)The Interaction Model acknowledges both biology and experience in shaping the human brain. The tag line of the movie poster for Brokeback Mountain intends to teach us that “love is a force of nature. ” Rather, I think it unintentionally, portrays how sometimes the longing for love is also a force of bad nurture. Whether derived from nature or nurture, the feelings are strong, tragic and human. Such well portrayed emotions compel a belief in their truth.
When those favorably disposed to gay advocacy watch it, they often report a tragic story of love unrealized due to societal homoprejudice. They see the relationship between Jack and Ennis as representing something good, even epic. Those who focus on those negative consequences of the tryst render another moralistic generalization from the story; homosexuality invariably leads to dead-end relationships and despair. Perhaps, as another point of view is sexual fluidity, as chapter 9 of Our Sexuality discusses, the reality is that some men and women are attracted to others of the same sex and experience conflict over that fact. Crooks, ; Baur, 2011 p. 253)For them, the feelings they experience just are. They did not choose or want them, nor do they find much change even with help. Being in circumstances where passion can overcome reflection makes the dilemma all the more raw, intense and tempting. REFERENCES Crooks, R. , ; Baur, K. (2011). Our sexuality. Belmont: Wadsworth. Knox, D. , ; Schacht, C. (2010). Choices in relationships an introduction to marriage and the family. Belmont: Wadsworth.
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