Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earnestly Writing about "Earnest"

Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is memorable for its outlandish coincidences, interweaving plot threads, and complex wordplay. With its intense rhetorical banter, (my personal favorite aspect of the play), the play delves much deeper into the culture of the times. The depiction of society is the most obvious device utilized throughout the play. By using a New Historicist approach, several of the characters represent the blatant differences in class. Lady Bracknell’s over-the-top manner of dress and need for strict social connections conflicts sharply with Cicily’s “bland” countryside life and clothing. While not entirely “poor,” Cicily is of a lower class than Lady Bracknell’s. Cicily tends to her garden, and educates herself (albeit unwillingly) with the aid of Miss Prism, whereas Lady Bracknell creates lists to further herself in society’s eyes.

Lady Fairfax represents a cross between the two, as she is still very high socially, but does not hold nearly as much disdain for the “simpler” way of life. While she does chastise Cicily for being an unsophisticated woman, it should be noted that she does this under the impression of infidelity. Furthermore, her parallel to Cicily (in terms of mannerisms, world view, and dialogue), displays that society does not determine the quality of person. Ironically, the two both write in diaries and are incredibly vain, further demonstrating the similarities that both classes have.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Not The Best...

Watching Brokeback Mountain has never been a positive experience for me. Out of many wonderful gay films available, I find Brokeback to be the least influential and entertaining, yet people continue to look to it as the pinnacle of gay films. The movie is based off a short story by Annie Prolux and while the short story is outstanding, the film version is not as stellar for me. The movie is slow, drawn out, and parts boring. Obviously this is because it is extremely hard to turn a short story into a movie of this length, but the filmmakers did. The question for me is, why this short story? The appeal is the two straight acting males falling in love and suffering because of it. Even though it is a movie about two gay men, the movie is also a romance. Now, imagine the plot with a man and a woman…there is no point. The story is now is probably less interesting than other heterosexual romances in the box office. Really, the only thing that makes this movie interesting to the audience is that it is a story about homosexual love. This relates directly to Queer Theory’s study of attitudes towards homosexuality. Social attitudes about homosexuality make this film “interesting” to the average viewer. In reality, Brokeback Mountain is really the gay movie it is perceived to be.

Male Bonding vs Homosexual Behavior

A quote from Hall stands out as particularly well-fitting for use of analyzing the gay content on Brokeback. "A wide range of attachments," it says, "friendships, bonding, and other interpersonal connections may be analyzed by examining a given culture's treatment of same-sex-desiring couples." It was incredibly confusing to hear the two cowboys ensure each other the morning after their first romp together, "I'm not queer." According to them, their interpersonal connection did not classify as "queer behavior"; or, there are homosexual acts that do not neccessarily translate into homosexuality. I'm not exactly sure what they were thinking, though. There seems a definite line, at least in the culture I've been a part of, between male bonding as between fishing buddies or even athletes on sports teams, and homosexual acts.

Condeming or Understanding of Homosexuality

The homosexual themes in Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain send me through a rollercoaster of emotions. Ang Lee does a very good job, wit hthe help of writers Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, in delivering very different emotions throughout the movie. The movie is mainly about the suppression of sexual desire and how one handles that within a homophobic society. It is difficult to say whether or not the movie is comdemning homosexuality or not. I believe that it is not, but rather enlightening an audience about the social implications of being openly gay. What is incredibly interesting is how is society affected by two men being openly or "closet" queers. It would seem that society in general is not affected at all, rather the private lives of Jack and Ennis suffer because of how society views homosexuality. I would argue this is the most upsetting thing that comes from homophobia. Nobody in the movie is affected by the love of Jack and Ennis unless they let themselves become affected. Society and culture move on, but it is the individual who is destroyed. I believe this is one important message from the movie. Brokeback Moutain seems to be saying that people could live in harmony if they were simply accepting of an individual's beliefs rather than a whole group's sexual preference. There is never one time when the men let their love for each other get in the way. One could try and argue that they lost sheep because of their desire, but not they lost sheep because of a storm. Instead, if individual's simply accepted one's sexual desire of another individual, than social injustice would not occur in this realm. Let's face it, homosexuality has been something that has existed throughout humanity's time here and there is nothing that is going to stop it. What this movie does is show that no matter what happens to an individual, homosexual desires will never be oppressed in the long run because it seems to just naturally happen.

Homophobia and Heterosexism in Brokeback Mountain

Watching Brokeback Mountain for the first time certainly reinforced the ideas of Queer Theory that we have investigated. While it lends itself to many of the notions that a “gay” reading of the film would find interesting, I find the commentary on the “social attitudes about sexuality” and “normality” very appealing.

Clearly, Brokeback Mountain has much to contribute to the culture of homosexuality and – more broadly – the culture of acceptance and normality. Both Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar struggle with their sexuality in a homophobic society. This innate cultural fear of men living and loving together is one of the most important ideas in the film. Although both characters are searching for happiness with each other, Ennis makes it clear that they cannot live together because of their society’s obvious homophobia and heterosexism. This is realized when Jack is brutally beaten to death after he begins a life with another man. He cannot bring himself to conform to the “western” concept of normality and he dies as a result.

Ennis, on the other hand, is clearly more conditioned by the heterosexual culture. Both characters act in heterosexual ways: they marry and have children as dictated by the dominant idea of normality. However, Ennis (traumatized by the scene of hate and death he witnessed as a child) has internalized a sense of homophobia despite his own homosexuality. It is clear that he has a harder time coming to embrace his love for Jack because of the societal constructs and his life experiences.

Brokeback Mountain represents the deconstruction of normality. In this place, Ennis and Jack are free of the homophobia and heterosexism that dominates their “other” existences.

Social Norms

Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain presents social attitudes regarding sexuality. The film depicts that affections between people does not exist only within the confines of traditional relationships between men and women. The characters Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist exemplify this dynamic in the film by maintaining a relationship, despite the normative social attitudes in their community regarding traditional relationships. Ennis is depicted as an assimilationist because he hides his relationship with Jack from his wife and employer. The scene when Jack is murdered because his sexual orientation is discovered exemplifies the social prejudice of his community and their propagation of heterosexism.

Brokeback Mountain: Another Perspective

Throughout the movie Brokeback Mountain, there is ample amount of scenes that demonstrate homosexuality. As noticed from the start of the movie—well when they make it to the mountain—there seems to already be some subtle sexual tension between the two cowboys. After having viewed this movie, taking a Queer Theory approach, it became more evident to me the subtleties about homosexuality. It’s difficult to narrow the movie down to a scene or two that exemplifies what is meant by this. When the two cowboys get up to the mountain, they quickly begin to cohere to the roles assigned to them by a higher authority.
Watching the movie again, it became clearer the gender roles that are depicted. As society forces many couples to adhere to the provider and caretaker roles. This was not different on the mountain. One man was the housekeeper--typically understood as the female role—and the other man was the working man—typically understood as the male role. So what were the directors trying to relay to us the audience? Could it be that these two men don’t have the common discrepancies the populace assumes? Or, could it be that these two men develop a love, which spawns to homosexuality?
It’s tough to say exactly. Remembering back to my first idea of what the movie was trying to convey. Back then, I thought the movie was a story of two heterosexual men, with a love that was hard to contain. It was difficult for me to grasp homosexuality at the time; it may have been because at the time I wasn’t familiar with that life style. Having immersed myself in the real world, I now have homosexual friends that have taught me about their lifestyle. With the combination of maturity and exposure, the movie Brokeback Mountain has changed what I initially thought about it.
There are many more things about the movie that deserve consideration, however, as a result of time, they don’t get the limelight. Watching the movie from a specific approach truly changes what subtleties you pick up on.