A Broken Taboo
Several weeks ago the news about tragic death of a famous talented Hollywood actor of Australian origin Heath Ledger shook the world up. The 28-year-old actor is widely known for many roles, including his work in a controversial movie Brokeback Mountain, directed by a Far Eastern filmmaker Ang Lee.
This movie became a milestone motion picture in the whole history of Hollywood, which sparked a lot of criticism and public debates. For the first time in cinema art male homosexual relationships were shown with a great frankness and openness, and there are certain concerns that breaking this taboo can have some far-reaching negative ethical consequences in the nearest future.
The plot of the movie is based on complex and unorthodox love affair between two young cowboys, who were hired by a Wyoming ranch owner as herds, so they had to spend several months in isolation on the Mountain of Brokeback. Within this time a special bond was developed between the two men, which eventually evolved into a deep emotional and physical relationship.
After finishing their job, the cowboys separated and started living their lives, had families, but the unique feelings they shared on the Brokeback Mountain were left as scars on their hearts to be carried on to the rest of their lives.
Certainly, it was not the first motion picture featuring male homosexuality. Such movie stars as Antonio Banderas, Jason Alexander or Tom Hanks have portrayed homosexual characters before. But it is hardly possible to disagree that Brokeback Mountain demonstrated more frank and intimate sides of gay relationships which have been never shown on cinema screens to general public before. In my opinion, the movie with its several scenes involving affectionate embraces, a kiss, and so on, had too close focus on physical aspects of gay relationships, which were always skipped in modern media, especially in cinema art.
That is why public reaction on Brokeback Mountain was absolutely contradictive. While many liberal critics and art specialists in America and Europe were pleased with the depth of the plot, good acting, music and high-quality production, many social activists from Christian fundamentalist or Family-oriented social groups expressed their concern about possible negative effects (especially on teenagers and youth) of publicizing male homosexual relations.
Moreover, since homosexuality is a terrible irremissible crime in Islam, in more conservative and religious countries of the Middle and Far East, including the director’s homeland Taiwan, the film was banned or censored.
Undoubtedly, Brokeback Mountain was not a cheap “B” movie. Many were fascinated with convictive acting of young Hollywood performers, and numerous awards received by the cast are the best recognition of this work. Besides, the movie teaches being tolerant and respectful to the feelings of other people.
Nevertheless, with its too forthright covering of homosexual relationships, this motion picture can become the first step on the way to more frequent and freer employment of gay themes in modern cinema, as well as to more open popularization of the idea of male homosexual love. Certainly, it will affect our moral principles and aesthetic sensibility to a great extent.
Brokeback Mountain is a multifaceted, unusual and quite difficult movie which evokes strong emotions and makes the viewers empathize. But the question remaining after viewing this screen version of a tragic story about gay cowboys is: whether our society is really ready to enjoy watching such relationship or not?
Will the majority of us find beauty in male homosexual intimacy? In my opinion, the answer is not clear enough, because certain moral stereotypes and traditional values are still very strong in our modern society, even in such open-minded country as the U.S.
Harris, Paul. “Hollywood to Break Last Taboo with Gay Cowboys.” The Guardian. Guardian Unlimited. 18 Jan. 2004. 11 Feb. 2008 <http://www.guardian.co.uk/gayrights/story/0,12592,1125664,00.html>.