Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Brokeback Fallout

Maybe the best thing about Brokeback Mountain is what it is doing for rural gay men. It's letting them finally see themselves on the big screen.

This article in the Slat Lake Tribune bears testimony to how powerful this can be:

Like many gay Utahns, Ritchie Olsen has been bursting with anticipation over "Brokeback Mountain," the acclaimed new film about a secret love affair between two Wyoming cowboys. After all, the movie could almost be the story of his life.

Olsen grew up in Neola, a conservative town of about 500 people on the southern edge of the Uintas. His family ran a small cattle ranch, where Olsen spent much of his youth on a horse. Although Olsen struggled with his attraction to men, like the characters in the film he kept quiet and married a local girl, his true nature stifled by community pressure and his own fear.

"I didn't feel like I had any other choice," said the 32-year-old, who didn't come out of the closet until he divorced his wife 18 months later and moved away. "I was expected to fit a certain image, and I did. It created a lot of anxiety."

That's why for Olsen and countless other Westerners, "Brokeback Mountain" is an event film and a hot-button topic. Besides being a rare Hollywood drama about gay romance, it may be the first high-profile movie to address homosexuality within a group rarely associated with it: the iconic cowboys of the American West. These onscreen lovers aren't San Francisco hairdressers, they're stoic Marlboro men.

In my film I talk to numerous guys who weren't able to come out until they found other men like them, in the rodeo or the rugby leagues or the gay hockey tournaments.

Brokeback Mountain has taken that dynamic of recognition and validation and broadcast it large. I hope it gives courage to more men and women who still feel like strangers in a strange land.


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