Tuesday, April 14, 2009

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.

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