Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Brokeback Why

Hollywood takes the national temperature constantly. The big studios don't want and think they can't afford to lead too far. So what does the release of and crowded theaters for Brokeback Mountain mean?

The lead op-ed in today's New York Times by Frank Rich has it right on. (Insert grousing here. I get Times Select as a newspaper subscriber, but such clear insight and good writing should be freely available from papers.) The link for Selectees is here.

As Rich puts it:
Without a single polemical speech, this laconic film dramatizes homosexuality as an inherent and immutable identity, rather than some aberrant and elective "agenda" concocted by conspiratorial "elites" in Chelsea, the Castro and South Beach, as anti-gay proselytizers would have it. Ennis and Jack long for a life together, not for what gay baiters pejoratively label a "lifestyle."

But in truth the audience doesn't have to be coerced to get it. This is where the country has been steadily moving of late. "Brokeback Mountain," a Hollywood product after all, is not leading a revolution but ratifying one, fleshing out - quite literally - what most Americans now believe. It's not for nothing that the proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage vanished as soon as the election was over. Polls show that a large American majority support equal rights for gay couples as long as the unions aren't labeled "marriage" - and given the current swift pace of change, that reservation, too, will probably fade in the next 5 to 10 years.
It's what we experience in Massachusetts and Vermont, what they are getting to Canada, and have transcended in the Netherlands. We suspect Texans will take longer to accept reality. Pity for them, but they are used to following the elephants in the parade.

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