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The ‘Brokeback’ backlash

Meredith L. Cohen

In the two years that we’ve been together, my boyfriend has never been quite as affectionate in public as he was last Friday night.Actually, that’s not entirely true. He has no aversion to hand holding and quick kisses while others are around. His displays last weekend were just a little more, well, desperately clingy. I’ve taken to calling his demonstration the Anti-Brokeback Bravura.Yep, we went to see the gay cowboy movie, “Brokeback Mountain.” Actually, again, that’s not wholly accurate. I went to see the film and a man in his mid-thirties in mid-tantrum was forced to join me against his very, very vocal will.It was after much discussion and debate that the 9:25 p.m. showing at the Isis was decided. My argument that watching dinosaurs battle giant cockroaches for three plus excruciating hours in “King Kong,” three bowl games in six days and an entire season of college football earned me the right to pick a movie. It proved to be a much more persuasive case than his, “But some guys at work will make fun of me” line of reasoning.Hence, the Anti-Brokeback Bravura. Apparently after a day receiving horrified reactions from his less-than evolved male co-workers at the prospect of seeing the film, he felt a burning need to prove his heterosexuality by placing a death grip on his girlfriend’s ass in case anyone saw him go into the theater. Worried there might be more drama in the seat next to me in the theater than on the screen, I decided it would be prudent to stuff him with a few cocktails prior to show time. We went to Bentley’s, which, in hindsight, was a mistake. Upon overhearing our plans to see the movie, the bartender declared that if he could prevent a relative’s death by going to see “Brokeback Mountain,” he would bid his kin better luck in the afterworld.I made the executive decision that we should leave the bar and instead get a drink in the theater lobby. The offerings on display ranged from micro-brews to basic ales. His choice was made swiftly. “BUDWEISER. In a can. Keep it in the can. No cup. I’ll take a BUDWEISER in the CAN.” As the pimply-faced high schooler behind the counter surely learned from example at that moment, nothing screams I Like Chicks quite like guzzling the king of beer with lips planted firmly on aluminum.But, to his credit, when the movie ended, he grudgingly conceded that it was, indeed, a good film (even though he did check his watch 22.3 times, or every six minutes). And at least he went to see it.”Seinfeld” co-creator and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star Larry David wrote an op/ed piece for The New York Times a few weeks ago on why he won’t be giving “Brokeback Mountain” his $10, saying the only way he’d go is if a cowboy lassoed him, dragged him into the theater and tied him to the seat. Although he says he has gay friends and advocates equal rights for same sex couples, it seems that he draws the line at watching two straight men “fall in love … and whatnot.”Like Larry David, my boyfriend harbors no prejudices towards homosexuals, cowboys or people from Texas or Wyoming. (Well, for the sake of absolute truthfulness, he occasionally discriminates against people from Texas.) But Larry David has plenty of other company in his “Brokeback” boycott. An entirely unscientific poll of my friends’ husbands, boyfriends, fathers and brothers has found that many completely progressive, heterosexual, non-homophobic men are refusing to see the film hailed by scores of critics as one of the best of the year, practically guaranteed lots of shiny Oscar gold at next month’s Academy Awards.Perhaps Larry David’s fear about the movie – “The voice inside my head would have a field day … ‘You like cowboys, don’t you? … You’re gay!'” – is what’s being echoed in the minds of straight liberal men everywhere. (The dilemma for men in one area of Utah is nonexistent by virtue of the fact that a movie theater owned by Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller reneged on its licensing agreement with the film’s distributor, abruptly refusing to show “Brokeback Mountain” hours before its scheduled opening at his multiplex in a Salt Lake City suburb last weekend.) The fear seems to be thus: If herding sheep and eating canned beans with tomato sauce isn’t enough to keep the über-masculine Marlboro men manly for a few months without women, what’ll happen to nebishy suburban guys who get occasional no-polish manicures and spend more money on hair care products than Mötley Crüe, circa 1984?But, as was the case with me and “King Kong,” all movie genres really aren’t suited for everyone, even if they’re cheered as cinematic masterpieces. That was certainly proved for a second time in two days last weekend. The night after seeing “Brokeback Mountain,” my boyfriend had us watch Steven Spielberg’s 1971 film, “Duel.” Had I know the movie’s tagline in advance – “When the headlights of a truck become the eyes of a psychopath” – I am certain I would have come up with hundreds, nay thousands, of better ways to spend the evening instead of watching an 18-wheeler chase a car resembling the General Lee for 90 seemingly endless minutes. I guess we’re even.Meredith Cohen often wonders: Can’t we all just get along? Questions or comments may be e-mailed to meredith_cohen@hotmail.com.


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