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Overview of the movie Brokeback Mountain

Discuss about the Brokeback Mountain And Contested Masculine Body.

“There was some open space between what he knew and what he tried to believe, but nothing could be done about it, and if you can't fix it you've got to stand it.”

The above quoted lines from the movie “Brokeback Mountain” gives an overview of the entire movie and also about the ideological nature of the movie. This paper will deal with the ideological critique of the movie “Brokeback Mountain” and try to focus on the important ideological aspects of the movie which gets suppressed among the plethora of other ideas portrayed in the movie. The genre of ideological critique is a recent one and has gained a considerable amount of significance in the present times (Barounis 381-397). In the opinion of many scholars this particular kind of criticism is a rhetorical one and concerns itself with the critique of the rhetorical ideological elements within a particular text or movie which are either in conformity with or in opposition with the dominant ideology of the society or the general trend which is seen in the society (Barounis 381-397). The opinion of Sonja Foss about this framework of criticism is pertinent to note in this particular context when she says that “the primary goal of the ideological critic is to discover and make visible the dominant ideology or ideologies embedded in an artifact and the ideologies that are being muted in it” (Piontek 35.2: 123-134). The movie “Brokeback Mountain” when viewed through the lens of this particular framework would reveal significant new insights about the ideologies as well as the nature of the society of that particular time.

The movie “Brokeback Mountain” was released in the year 2005 as tries to show the secretive as well as the forbidden romantic relationship between two cowboys and the subsequent impact which this particular relationship had on their lives. The movie directed by Ang Lee and produced by James Schamus in association with Diana Ossana is often considered not only to be one of the masterpieces of the director Ang Lee but also of the 2000s. It is a reflection of this particular fact that the movie under consideration here was the recipient of several prestigious awards like “Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, Best Picture and Best Director at the British Academy Film Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Producers Guild of America Awards, Critics' Choice Movie Awards, and Independent Spirit Awards” in addition with others (Lee). Furthermore, the movie also received eight “Academy Awards” nominations and went on to win three Oscar awards, namely for “Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score”. The movie featured some of the most prestigious actors of Hollywood like “Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, and Michelle Williams” in the lead role in addition to other minor characters.   

The genre of ideological critique and its relevance

The central fulcrum of the movie revolves around the concept of homosexuality and the way the people who are homosexuals had to face not only the stigmatization of the society but also their violence for deviating from the general ideology or the pattern set by the society. The human society since the traditional times in a bid to maintain not only the gender status quo of the society but also to maintain the power balance of the society had tried to advocate the doctrine of heterosexuality. Therefore, since the traditional times the society has kind of ostracized the people who show a different sexual orientation. The movie “Brokeback Mountain” becomes very important precisely in this particular context.  The movie tries to show the “neo-Western romantic” relationship between the lead characters of the movie, namely, “Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist” during the years “1963 and 1983” in the western part of the nation of the United States of America. The two lead characters working on a ranch soon develop a romantic attraction for each and even though they get separated and married after a brief relationship they carry the imprints of this particular relationship through the entire course of their lives (Madden 3.1: 63-75).


The director Ang Lee through the portrayal of the characters of “Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist” tries to show the dark as well as the seamy side of the human civilization and their need to regulate as well as control all the activities of the human beings. It is significant to note that the character Enis during the entire course of the movie is haunted by a memory in which he had witnessed the brutal fate which two homosexual men had received for their sexual orientation. Furthermore, all the activities as well as the emotions of Enis are dictated by this particular memory and he is afraid that the same kind of fate awaits him and Jack who have also decided to go against the traditional norms outlined by the human society. Thus, to break away from the attraction which he feels for Jack and also to overcome the fear which he feels that he and Jack would have to receive if they do not part ways he says “You got no fuckin idea how bad it gets. I'm not you. I can't make it on a couple a high-altitude fucks once or twice a year. You're too much for me, Ennis, you son of a whoreson bitch. I wish I knew how to quit you” (Lee). However, Jack is of the opinion that the society had got no right to interfere with the personal preferences which the individuals make during the course of their lives and commenting on the stagnation which has crept within the society he says that “Nothing ended, nothing begun, nothing resolved”.

Central themes and reception of the movie

The best aspect of the movie “Brokeback Mountain” is its beautiful portrayal of the relationship between the characters of Jack and Enis. It is significant to note that during the entire course of the movie the director tries to break the various taboos which form a predominant part of our society through the representation of the “neo-Western Romantic” relationship of Jack and Enis and the way their attraction as well as love for each other becomes a part of their very identity. The relationship which Jack and Enis share is not only against the general norms of the society but also the expectations of their family members. It is a reflection of this particular fact that the wives of these characters get tired of playing the waiting that someday their husbands will acknowledge their love and return it (Pointon 2.2). However, during the course of the movie it is seen that both of them gets tired of waiting and leaves them. The emotions which the unconventional couple show towards each finds adequate representation in the words of Enis when he leaves Jack and the ranch where he had found the true love of his life “He felt about as bad as he ever had and it took a long time for the feeling to wear off” . The ending of the movie have been much appreciated by the various critics from the different parts of the world (Fojas 310). It is significant to note that the romantic relationship between the two central characters develops in the ranch where it is described in the words “As it did go. They never talked about the sex, let it happen, at first only in the tent at night…..goddamn word except once Ennis said, I’m not no queer, and Jack jumped in with Me neither. A one-shot thing. Nobody’s business but ours”. One of the most predominant symbols used during the entire course of the movie is the symbol of the bloodstained shirt which both the central characters of the movie while their stay at the ranch. In a way it can be said these two shirts are the symbolic representatives of the romance which these two characters share with each other. Therefore, when Enis goes to the house of Jack the thing which most moves him is his bloodstained shirt which he had thought he had lost at the ranch. The feelings of Enis at this particular time are pertinent to note in this particular context when he says that “The shirt seemed heavy until he saw there was another shirt inside it, the sleeves carefully worked down inside Jack’s sleeves…..buttons missing, stolen by Jack and hidden here inside Jack’s own shirt, the pair like two skins, one inside the other, two in one”.


A dominant symbol which appears frequently during the entire movie and which can be said to represent the romantic relationship of Enis and Jack is the “Brokeback Mountain” itself. It is significant to note that after the death of Jack, which Enis thinks happens because of the homosexual relationship which he shares with him, his death wish is that his ashes should be spread over the “Brokeback Mountain”. Over here as well as the symbolism of the shirt appears and Enis “pressed his face into the fabric and breathed in slowly through his mouth and nose, hoping for the faintest smoke and mountain sage and salty sweet stink of Jack but there was no real scent, only the memory of it, the imagined power of Brokeback Mountain of which nothing was left but what he held in his hands”.


To conclude, the movie “Brokeback Mountain” is one of the most important ones of the recent times and the movie represents some of the issues which have been considered as taboo for a very long time. However, when seen through the lens of the ideological criticism the movie would further reveal insightful information about the very nature of the society as well as the time in which the human beings dwell it. In this particular context it can be said that the movie apart from depicting the secretive relationship of Enis and Jack is a critique of the society of America between the years 1963 and 1983.

References

Barounis, Cynthia. "Cripping heterosexuality, queering able-bodiedness: Murderball, Brokeback Mountain and the contested masculine body." The disability studies reader(2013): 381-397.

Blake, Nancy. "Manhood in Hollywood from Bush to Bush." (2012): 141-143.

Lee, Ang et al. "Brokeback Mountain (2005)." IMDb. N.p., 2018. Web. 15 May 2018.

Madden, Christopher. "I Contain Multitudes’: The queer chronotopes of Annie Proulx’s ‘Brokeback Mountain." Short Fiction in Theory & Practice 3.1 (2013): 63-75.

Piontek, Thomas. "Tears for Queers: Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, Hollywood, and American Attitudes toward Homosexuality." The Journal of American Culture 35.2 (2012): 123-134.

Pointon, Seraphina Grace. "‘They Believed Themselves Invisible’: Panopticism and the Construction of Homosexuality in Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain." Surrey Undergraduate Research Journal 2.2 (2017).

Sinfield, Alan. "Humanism and ideology." Textual Practice 30.6 (2016): 1121-1133.

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