Pundits are hailing Brokeback Mountain (rated R for explicit homosexual and heterosexual sex, male and female nudity, and bad language) as having the potential to do for homosexuality what Guess Who's Coming to Dinner did for race. The love story it presents is so sympathetic, goes the conventional wisdom, that even denizens of red states will be won over to accept gay love. But the movie is too condescending to ordinary Americans and too anti-marriage to make such an impact.
Two down-to-earth cowboys get jobs herding sheep on Brokeback Mountain and become friends. One night, after drinking too much whiskey, they have sex with each other. After awhile, they come down off the mountain, back to their petty lives in small-town Wyoming. They marry women, have kids, and work hard to make a living. But every few months they get together again, go to the mountains, and renew their romantic sexual relationship. Life with their families is all crying babies, demanding wives, and hard, frustrating work. Gay sex with a kindred spirit in the glorious outdoors is portrayed as so much better.
But the symbolism is all wrong. The movie associates homosexuality with nature-magnificent mountains, big sky, clear blue water, teeming forests-as contrasted with the constraints of a tacky, empty civilization.
But whether you are a creationist or a Darwinist, having children and struggling to survive are what's "natural." Leaving your family for escapist, sterile sex is literally "unnatural."
Heath Ledger does a fine piece of acting as the taciturn, conflicted Ennis. But Michelle Williams as his hurt, rejected wife makes a powerful case for family values.