Saturday, December 17, 2005

YES. And Finally.

The media’s obsession with the “courage” and “bravery” is just plain crap. First of all, I thought Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal were actors, as was every person who turned down the script. And I thought actors were paid, often large amounts, to be somebody else. In other words, they are paid to play people who are not themselves. So why on earth would playing gay be a problem? Actors take on roles all the time embodying despicable or reprehensible characters. No one clamors to them and tells them how brave they are. But the media make a big deal when a straight guy kisses another straight guy on-camera.

8 comments:

Andrew Ducker said...

Because they're displaying, as good, something which a large proportion of the country is opposed to. Standing up and saying "This is good" to millions of people does take a certain amount of courage.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

Standing up and saying "this is good" is not what Ledger and Gylenhaal are being praised for, nor is it what they've been doing. They're praised for associating themselves, however indirectly, with homosexuality. Which, as the article's author points out, is the opposite of saying that homosexuality is good. And what they've been doing is subtly trying to disassociate what they've done from homosexuality (admittedly, in ways that can be construed as benign such as saying that the movie isn't about being gay but about being in love), which is also not a big help to the cause.

Anonymous said...

Because Homosexuality is still percived as a negative thing, ANY portrait of it in the media is slightly brave, because nobody HAS to make movies or tv series about this. Granted, they're hoping to make money of the movie, but still, they could have just done something else.

As for is it a GOOD thing to have "Postive gays" on the tellie, or a black history month, or a Palastenian outlook on the war of 1948 in Israeli history text-books, well, this is where things tend oi get blurry. Like gay friends of mine who feel that "Queer as folks" is anything BUT a portarait of their lives and problems.

So yeah, I'd rather have the media saying how brave it is then NOT talking about it.

Cheers from Columbia MD

Hagay

Abigail Nussbaum said...

Again, Hagay, no one is saying that Gylenhaal and Ledger are brave because they're taking part in a positive portrayal of homosexuality in mainstream film. They're being praised for playing gay men, as if to do such a thing is to risk catching gay cooties, and possible harm to their career - never mind the dozens of straight actors and actresses who have played gay characters with no negative impact whatsoever to their personal or professional lives - just off the top of my head, Alyson Hannigan, David Duchovny (who went one step further and played himself as a gay man), Jude Law, Hugh Grant, John Hannah.

Let's not forget, also, that Gylenhaal and Ledger are getting a lot more exposure from this film than they would have done from a heterosexual romantic drama. Neither one of them have made it into the big leagues. Ledger has had a string of flops since 2001's A Knight's Tale (and raise your hand if you think his upcoming Casanova isn't going on that list), and despite doing some well-received work on the indy circuit, Gylenhaal's sole attempt to make a Tobey Maguire-ish transition to Hollywood stardom, last year's The Day After Tomorrow, fell flat on its face. One slightly controversial casting choice later, Ledger has a Golden Globe nomination, they're both being plastered on magazine covers, interviewed by everyone in sight, and being called 'brave' for making a savvy career move.

And I have to say, I disagree with your description of making Brokeback Mountain as even 'slightly brave'. Brave is being openly gay in the period and location that the story describes. Brave is coming out to your conservative, red-state parents. Brave is going to a gay bar the day after Matthew Shepard got beaten to death. What Annie Proulx, and The New Yorker, and Ang Lee, and Paramount Pictures have done is admirable, but a far cry from anything like bravery.

Anonymous said...

Break Back mountaine is a wonderful story and I can say so since I read the Hebrew collection of the works.( "Tales of Wayoming") And I'll see the movie because the story was very well written.

What are we disagreeing about here?:)

Hagay: Gays are people
Abgile: Right
Hagay: As people, fiction should reflect them like any other group of people (Indian fiction, Jewish fiction, Swedish fiction etc)
Abgile: Right, as long as it's good.
Hagay: Sure, as long as it's good. Anyway, Break Back mountain deals with gay action amoung cowboys, which is totaly cool, since not all gays are urban and totaly gay. In fact, many people who are gay have a straight relationship/orientation as well...ergo, a movie about people who are "sometime" gay is a good thing because it goes against our perception of gay-ness.
Abagile: NO! These guys should have lived openly as gay people in the west. THAT would have been ultra brave. But to have a gay fling once in a while while having wife and kiddies - unbrave!
Hagay: Huh?
Abagile: YES! I will proudly moraly gudge fictional characters according to MY standard of what is TRULY gay or not!
Hagay: Um..well, have you seen the movie or...
Abagile: Don't need to see it, nothing brave about it!

See what I mean!:)
Cheers and see you soon:
Hagay
Baltimore

Abigail Nussbaum said...

No, Hagay, this is not the conversation we've been having. The conversation we've been having has gone something like this:

Abigail: To say that two Hollywood studs playing gay men in 2005 is brave is to devalue both the concept of bravery and the fact of being homosexual.
Hagay: But making a film that treats homosexuality positively is a good thing and therefore brave.
Abigail: I disagree with your equation of 'good' and 'brave', but anyway you're talking about the filmmakers and I'm talking about the actors.
Hagay: Hey! Abigail thinks all gay men should have lived openly in 1960s Wyoming!

That last one, by the way, is totally out of line. I called living openly as gay men in Wyoming brave, yes, but it shouldn't follow that I thought the characters should have done this. 'Brave' isn't a moral distinction, nor is it an intellectual distinction. To be brave, you have to do something in spite of being afraid to do it, but it doesn't follow that the thing you've chosen to do is either the right thing or the smart thing. I really don't see how you made the jump from point A to point B (although it seems that at some point you assumed that the conversation had stopped being about the actors - indeed, had you ever started talking about them? - and started being about the characters).

So, for the final time, I'm talking about the actors and the fact that the Hollywood press is all over them as if they'd single-handedly taken out out a department store full of terrorists simply for doing their jobs and helping their careers in the process. You insist on turning this into a discussion about whether or not it's a good thing to depict gays positively in mainstream media, and I've made my point about this clear (or, at least, I thought I had) - of course it's a good thing. It simply isn't brave.

By the way, you can read the English test of Proulx's story (which is, I agree, quite superb) here at The New Yorker.

Anonymous said...

Abigail, I'm sorry to tell you this (enjoyed the discussion, and all, but, your link to th story in the New York Times only leads to the homepage of the site, seeking sign-up, etc.; it does not lad to the story.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

Sadly, The New Yorker took the story down. Here's a website that's made the text available.

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