Saturday, February 04, 2006

Consider the Source

There's a free weekly newspaper that litters downtown bus stop benches and the floors of fast-food restaurant bathrooms, and it's called New Times. They're garnering a lot flack lately because of bad editing decisions over the last few weeks. As the weeks passed the quality of the affronts only became more obvious.

This week the cover story on the apparent Meth problem in my podunk county guided the reader inside to view the ingredient list and recipe on how to make the drug. I'm sure many experimental and disgruntled teenagers were ecstatic.

Last week, the publication's cover story focused upon the death of a local police officer; he was a troubled man who killed himself when he found he was going to be arrested for sexual misconduct and abuse. I'm not going to judge the man, the adverb "allegedly" preceded nearly every allegation in the story, but it's clear that while he may not have been a saint, his death left behind a wife and their children. With that in mind, the title on the cover was "COP OUT" and the header above the story itself ended with " he skipped out of town--permanently."

But I'm talking about the incident that started the whole problem, at least the one that started bringing in a copious amount of letters to the editor.

It was the week that Brokeback Mountain arrived in theaters (I was going to put "came out" but that would only lead to misinterpretation) and the review in this paper was accompanied by a small picture taken from the movie that was crowned with the caption: "Homo On the Range."

The choices the paper's editor has made recently are receiving incredible scrutiny from the readers. But what can we expect? It's a free local arts & entertainment newspaper, how much can we trust its investigative reporting and how much can they expect the reader to trust? Unfortunately, the editors and staff writers of this periodical take themselves too seriously, I think, and even they forget that they are writing for an audience larger than the population of their offices. On both ends the entire problem stems from a lack of consideration of motives, meaning, and sources. Brokeback Mountain is another perfect example of this lacking reflection.

Kevin Smith puts a lot of homosexual humor into his films and outside organizations have reacted negatively to it. However, in his fantastic (and hilarious) Q&A DVD (entitled "An Evening With Kevin Smith") Smith says he fills his movies with that humor out of respect for his homosexual brother. Watch the DVD for specific details.

Like Smith's films, a lot of people are taking Brokeback Mountain out of context. Some people are seeing the film as an issue movie, one propogated by the evil homosexual shadow organizations around the world.

But this is Ang Lee--the man that could pass as a young Dalai Lama if swathed in an orange robe and bespectacled. If one were to divide directors into three categories, the artistically-motivated (including Francis Ford Coppola, Tim Burton, and Martin Scorsese), the politically-motivated (Michael Moore, Steven Spielberg [in inspiration and not in aim], Oliver Stone, Spike Lee), and the entertainment-motivated (Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, and Clint Eastwood), Lee would be a part of the first, artistically-motivated group. Looking at Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Sense & Sensibility, and even Hulk one can see that it's not the content of the film that he's necessarily pushing but it's the work as a film that interests him. He tried to do the same thing with Hulk as he did with Crouching Tiger..., to make a relatable, beautiful movie--and, arguably, Hulk could have been so if they'd cut 2 of the 3 endings they tacked on. And, in sequence, Lee's doing the same thing again with a little-known short story.

People are always referring to the film as "the gay cowboy movie," which, I guess, is what it is. But that people shrink in fear from it, as if everyone who worked on the film was gay (they weren't) and it had some incredible power to turn the viewer gay (it can't) and that being gay meant living a life not unlike the undead, void of all thought and meaning (it doesn't). As soon as it became associated with homosexuality and not the story of impossible love (re: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) people created expectations that aren't founded (re: Hulk). It's just a movie. Most people, and I'm not joking, half-way expect the damned thing to be a musical fairy-land where two guys frolic beneath Montana's big sky holding hands, adorned in bright colors and call each other "bitch" all the time as they blow kisses to each other.

From what I understand this is not the case. I have yet to see the movie but I look forward to doing so. What this whole "controversy" reveals is that while some (most, hopefully) thought that American society was growing more tolerant of fellow people, many still can't believe that people with one different quality of living can have the same tragedy, comedy, history, love, sadness, and intelligence of "normal" life. But life is defined by the differences that present themselves as we stroll along. We all think of ourselves as "normal" and we judge everything on the base values established by our very selves. Difference is normal, or else we may not even realize we are alive.


DCVB said...

I just happened to notice that today (Feb. 9) marks the one year anniversary of my first post and the beginning of the Boasts of Bethel. Thanks to everyone who reads and for encouraging me through very, very kind words of support.


Ryan said...

Congrats Boasts. I just saw BBM, as the kids are calling it, in Paso Robles of all places. I wish the press would have told me it was a sad movie rather than a gay movie. Depressed me out for the rest of the day. Keep up the fight!

andy said...

What I want to know is: why is it that being gay in the 21st century apparently means being completely depressing and utterly hopeless? Why is it that every thing gay has to make you sad (if not directly, at least in a mildly covert manner)?

What happened to the days of more frivolous entertainments?

DCVB said...

I don't know if it's trying to be that general, Andy. Honestly, I think it's commenting on the difficulty of being gay in the American Midwest at a time when the country was experiencing the shift from "tradtional" American lifestyle to a more distinctly "modern" one (i.e., don't forget that this film takes place from the 60s through [I'm guessing] the 80s or early 90s, a distinctly 20th century outlook needs to be kept in mind, though I'll grant that of the 21st is not too different from that of the 20th).

I believe it's commenting on that shift and how things weren't changed quickly (though you could argue that there has been no change at all). Like the idiom, "Rome wasn't built in a day," tolerance of those unlike us is not something that the entire country can't accept at the same time. If you want to work with a biological metaphor, the idea needs to spread like a virus, starting at one place (or many places) and needs to make its way outward.

I think it is an uplifting drama in regards to how the audience will most likely react to it. Ideally, the audience will be reacting in sympathy to Ennis and Jack's situation, and the fact that the movie is so well-liked tells me that this is so. Just the fact that people are reacting positively shows that ideas are changing. Most of us watch their tragedy and say (if caught up in the magic of film), "why don't you guys just come out? Why don't you just move in together? Ennis' fear is unfounded!" People want them to be happy, and that's a reaction that I would consider the result of a forward motion of the tolerance train.

As for The Birdcage, yes, it is a great movie, however I don't think it's really indicative of the greater gay population (out or closeted). I'm not too sure about this, being not gay, but I think that Brokeback Mountain is a fair reproduction of the struggle to accept one's true feelings (extending beyond simply being heterosexual or homosexual, recognition of internal desires and truths is a problem for everybody; look at me, it took me 20 years to get a girlfriend because I couldn't accept the fact that anyone of the opposite sex would find me attractive) while the Birdcage is about a pair already out and proud of it.

I also think that the representation of Ennis and Jack as "normal guys" is rather indicative of the gay men on the whole, that they're just regular guys that are not defined by their sexuality. Only one aspect of their personality is "alternative", you could say (though I tried not to) to that of the heterosexual male ideal. Especially with these guys, for they are presented as the prototypical midwestern country man, rough-and-tumble cowboys that would kick in your teeth with the point of their sun-bleached, mud-encrusted boot.

Jesus, I'm going to stop or else this will turn into another Boast.

andy said...

This coming from a man that wears a "Mantana" shirt and dreams about Jake Gyllenhaal topless.

DCVB said...

That from a man that points it out. Read the caption.

The Phoenix said...

See I touched on Brokeback Mn in the only way I could in KiD and that was with humor. I'm still not going to see it in the theaters though. Not because I don't like gay people (what you don't know will astound you) but because I hate me some lovey date movies. At least I hate them in public. In private I'll probably pick it up, watch it, and cry myself to sleep that night.