Over here in Europe (or Yurp, as I understand it is pronounced), we have a little difficulty understanding the fuss around Brokeback Mountain. It is hardly the first main-stream film to deal with homosexuality, although its predecessors are easily counted on one hand. The fuss is mainly because of the suggestion that cowboys can also be gay. Cowboys!
It seems to me that the image of the cowboy is one that many Americans have of themselves. That they are a nation of untamed individuals together trying to forge a life on a new frontier surrounded on all sides by hostile Injuns (whoever the current Injuns happen to be) out to git’em. These days this is far from the truth, even the surrounded bit. Yet this image explains the prevalence of off-road vehicles in built-up areas.
The fact than any all-American cowboy could be in anything less than a red-blooded, straight-shootin’, straight-lovin’ heterosexual, is abhorrent. Meanwhile in Yurp, we have always had our suspicions about the sexuality of cowboys.
All that tight jeans, boots, leather, spending so much time out on the prairie together, a bunch of men camping out under the stars, hands never that far away from some sort of phallic weapon, etc. Cowboys also traditionally get very angry at these suggestions, which is the first sign of a repressed sexuality.
So over here in Yurp, the question is not “Why would they make a gay cowboy film?” But “Why haven’t they made one before?”
John Wayne (real name Marion) definitely walked like a man who had spent too much time in someone else's saddle. Any what is more exciting to gay men than a mysterious, silent stranger? Like that of Clint Eastward's character in "A Fistful of Dollers," whoever Dollers is.
"Are you laughing at my donkey?"
"No, signor, I was checking out your ass."
And how those clichéd lines would have been improved...
"This bar ain't big enough for the two of us. Shall we go next door, they have some intimate booths in there."
"Sundown, at the old cemetery. And bring a friend."
"I'm gonna mount my trusty Steve."
In fact there was one time Hollywood let the underlying homosexuality of cowboys shine through and that was "Paint Your Wagon." But it just went to show that cowboys aren't the type of gays who are into showtunes. Hollywood misfired.
Of course now this film is a success, get ready for a deluge of gay films. Hollywood isn't really one for breaking down social barriers, but it knows a bandwagon when one trundles past festooned with multicoloured sequins. Although I am not expecting any time soon the movie, "Mohammed: My Gay Life."
Suggested listening: Cowboys Are Frequently, Secretly Fond of Each Other by Pansy Division and now Willy Nelson.