Brokeback Mountain didn't win the Best Picture Oscar, and only came away with three of the eight for which it was nominated. Various bloggers have lamented the fact that the two main characters were played by straight actors, and that even the gay aspect of the film has been played down. Seriously, next time a Brokeback trailer comes on TV, just try to tell me that you could come away from that with an understanding of what the movie was about. (The online trailers seem to be less ambiguous.)
It bears asking, then, what two out, gay actors in Hollywood would be better to play Jake and Ennis? Chad Allen was probably off filming End of the Spear. Ian McKellan is too old for the part. Rupert Everett is too tall and too British. To be blunt, Nathan Lane or Harvey Fierstein really wouldn't be right for the part. Sean Hayes still won't talk. There just aren't many butch gay actors, and none with the decent name recognition that Ledger and Gyllenhaal bring with them.
Even though Brokeback didn't win Best Picture, it's probably the movie with the most buzz circling it. Yes, all the late night comedy show Brokeback-ing jokes probably didn't hurt. But there's no such thing as bad publicity, right?
Anyway, the biggest reason I think this movie is quite important, even in this day and age, is that I suspect there's a lot of Brokebacking going on. J.L King's book On the Down Low and stint on Oprah opened a whole can of worms about married, otherwise-"straight" men having sex with other men, then returning to their wives. If nothing else, Jim West's recent excapades have shown that the closet is alive and well even to this day. Dan Savage took West to task for being a very anti-gay Republican while still having sex with men in secret. The hypocrisy is, of course, reprehensible, but the closetedness is understandable. We don't yet live in an accepting, loving world and coming out is still an emotionally difficult and sometimes even physically dangerous act.
Dan Savage said in a New York Times editorial: (emphasis mine)
[Playing straight is] precisely what Jack and Ennis attempt to do in Brokeback Mountain... These gay cowboys try, as best they can, to quit one another. They marry women, start families. But their wives are crushed when they realize their husbands don't, and can't, ever really love them. "Brokeback Mountain" makes clear that it would have been better for all concerned if Jack and Ennis had lived in a world where they could simply be together...
If they don't think Chad Allen can play straight convincingly for 108 minutes, do they honestly imagine that gay men who aren't actors can play straight for a lifetime? And if anyone reading this believes that gay men can actually become ex-gay men, I have just one question for you: Would you want your daughter to marry one?
Brokeback ends in the early 1980s, I think. Before AIDS, really. Before Matthew Shepard. Before that then-scandalous and now-ho-hum thirtysomething episode. Before anyone in rural Wyoming had ever heard of Stonewall, probably. Before Will and Grace, certainly.
I can't help but wonder how many real Jake and Ennis-es there have been. I wonder how many there still are now. And to any disapproving straight people that somehow find your way to my little blog, I must ask you: Would you want your daughter to marry one?