Now Hear This! 02.15.06
It all started when I went to a little film called “ Brokeback Mountain.” Perhaps you’ve heard of it? No?
Well, it’s this adorable little romantic drama with cowboys and mountains and rough sex in the woods that’s based on a short story written by E. Annie Prolux in 1997. Oh yeah…the cowboys: they’re gay.
My boyfriend and I joined two other friends and went into the theatre where we were forced to sit down front because there were so many people there. We watched as the cowboys in question fell first in lust and then in love spending the next two decades cheating on their wives while living double lives. They periodically snuck away on the pretext of fishing in order to spend time in the mountains where they presumably boinked each other senseless then went back to their everyday existences.
The story ended with one of the cowboys dying a tragic, but seemingly normal death. Normal, that is, until the film briefly flashed on the character in question having his skull beat in by a tire iron. What had up to now been a story about love had transformed suddenly into a story about hatred.
I left processing this inconsistency. The more I tried to ignore it the more it screamed at me from the periphery of my mind. In an attempt at purging my thoughts of the voices playing smear-the-queer in my cranium, I sat down at my keyboard and hacked out a strongly worded opinion piece. Let’s just say I was none too kind.
I already knew what I had to say was not going to be popular. I‘d already had several discussions with close friends which further solidified my resolve. I also have this confounded sickness I inherited from my mother that will not allow me to keep silent about anything that provokes me no matter who it may offend. I was prepared for dissent but I still stood by my opinion. What I wasn’t prepared for was the maelstrom that followed.
It started benign. First I got an e-mail saying I was an idiot. They lambasted me for misassigning a quote to the wrong character—a crime to which I shamefully admit.
In my frenzied typing I wrote Ennis where I meant Jack and thus sealed my fate.
Comments from friends and colleagues—even those who strongly disagreed—were still tame. Then, the real cacophony started. The e-mails grew increasingly more rabid until they stopped being anything more than pure hatred. I was called things that would make the butchest cowboy flinch in anger and I’m no cowboy. One lovely person went on to draw conclusions about my parentage and suggest that my mother only had me for the welfare money.
I know what you’re thinking: “Sticks and stones”. But as I stated earlier: hatred is the subject of this diatribe. Hatred has this viral quality of infecting a person without them realizing it happened. As my every thought was turned into kibble, my solemn resolve slowly gave way to resentment. That resentment eroded into anger. My anger soured and turned into bile before I knew any better. The more I engaged the more they made me feel hate. They were winning and it showed. My bitterness grew and I started to feel like what I was accused of being. Only when I disengaged was I able to get free.
All of this over a movie based on a short story…or rather my opinion of same.
It is interesting to me that in this age where more and more of our liberties and freedoms are being slowly eroded away, where gay people are good enough to entertain the masses but not good enough to raise children of our own, where our neighborhoods are no longer safe places for us to live because of hatred or random violence, where we have more important things that should be occupying our minds as a community and as a part of the greater nation that one lowly writer’s opinion could bring out the worst in us. It amused me to read one person curse me a new hole and then tell me that I was making gay men look bad. Mr. Pot, I’d like you to meet Mr. Kettle and by the way…you’re both black (now somebody’s gonna make something of that line too…sigh).
Just today an 18-year old man near Boston walked into a gay bar and wounded two gay men with a hatchet. Where was the seed of his hatred born? Did he see the tire iron for a split second and know exactly what he had to do to prove he wasn’t like those queers on the screen?
I’m not saying that “ Brokeback Mountain” made someone try to kill two people. However, it is interesting to note that “ Wyoming Stories,” the E. Annie Prolux book that was the context of the original short story “Brokeback Mountain” was in fact printed in Wyoming almost exactly a year to the day gay college student Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten and left for dead in that same state. A coincidence to be sure, but the point is what could have easily been a story about hope and love while still being true to life was purposefully presented by straight people who do not even know what it is like to be persecuted because of one’s sexual orientation as what amounted to nothing more than a lesson in hatred.
The possibility of happiness and true love is dangled in front of us as bait so in the end we can be slapped with the sickening possibility it all ended with a tire-iron in the head. And what do we do? We sit around and make this exercise in hatred some sort of gay “Passion of the Christ” phenomenon where we make like Pat Robertson. We worship this movie striking down any who dare say anything bad about it. Meanwhile our friends, families, and co-workers are being shot and killed in their own neighborhoods or chopped up with hatchets by deranged teenagers dressed all in black. We are losing ground but we continue to accept tolerance over acceptance and can’t even tell the difference between the two.
One thing is for sure, hatred is hatred no matter whose pants it spends the night in and if the GLBTQ community as a whole doesn’t start learning to agree to disagree more and stop beating the crap out of each other then there may not be much of a community left. We won’t have to worry about straight people portraying us badly. We’ll have done it all by ourselves and have no one else to blame but the reflection in the shattered mirror that is our lives.
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