A movie or a Cigarette Commercial?

A movie or a Cigarette Commercial?

Hunting is Cruel

Hunting is Cruel

Say NO to Recreational Hunting!

Say NO to Recreational Hunting!

In my opinion, any director worth his or her salt would probably want to include a cigarette or two in any period piece. Indeed, the lack of even one cigarette in the movie Pearl Harbor, which was released in 2001, seemed to be an unpardonable sin. Still, when almost every scene in a movie, as in Brokeback Mountain, involves cigarette smoking by healthy good-looking young people, as well as the prominent placement of one particular brand name cigarette, then it seems clear that our community is being unfairly targeted by manufacturers, the producer and the director.

I am not some reformed smoker type. It is precisely because I have battled a twenty-five year nicotine addiction that I wish to spare others. I have no idea as to whether or not the director of the movie smokes, but he has certainly promoted a specific brand of death in his movie. Cigarettes, it has been said, are crack in a pack. Why then should we accept any particular community being specifically targeted by purveyors of death? We shouldn’t be rude to those who currently smoke, ever, not once, but for fuck’s sake, we shouldn’t wish it on, promote it or market it to future generations.

Nationwide, about 41 to 45 percent of the gay and lesbian population smoke. That is a statistic we should not be proud of. Smoking is not a way of life, but rather a way of death

I also believe that the glorification of the anachronistic ritual of hunting is out of place. In fact, it appears several animals were harmed during filming, or perhaps the footage of animals being shot was culled from hunt documentaries. I’m not certain, but in any case, hunting is cruel. In addition, I’ve spent a great deal of time opposing the bear hunt here in New Jersey.

There does seem to be a groundswell of support in the North East against hunting our wildlife and for protection of endangered species. Being out on Route 23, in West Milford, NJ, in early December, at a large protest against what was the then the impending bear slaughter, many truckers, SUV drivers and other macho types honked enthusiastically in support of us and in favor sparing the lives of the timid black bears. On the other hand, the movie, which normalizes hunting, undermines the rising tide of opposition. Specifically, I wondered why the film had to include a bear being downed. The effect is to try to legitimize and make acceptable the bygone era of hunting to our modern urban and suburban age. To heck with that!

There are many gay young men and women of conscience who are now vegetarians. They are educating an older generation of queers such as myself. They have helped to raise consciousness in general with regard to animals rights and the absolutely unacceptable practices inherent in factory farming. Again, on that score, the movie seems to promote a skewed image of what is actually involved in the meat industry. Sheep are portrayed in a bucolic setting, happily grazing, and lazily perambulating about a mountain pasture. I’m willing to venture a guess that the reality of sheep herding differs somewhat and is probably considerably less benign.

The subtext of the movie might also be interpreted to imply that it is okay to be gay just so long as you are butch. What about men and boys who are effeminate? This is not just a mere historical footnote either. Sadly, malicious oppression and harassment, physical and verbal, of queer kids, as well as anyone considered to be a sissy, continues unabated in our nation’s schools.

I have a nephew who is an extremely gentle soul. A few years ago, in middle school, in his rural town within a two hour drive of New York City, he was subject to such a high degree of harassment, that he developed a severe skin condition and became paralyzed. Yes, I said paralyzed. Can you imagine? That kid, in this ostensibly enlightened day and age, was so hounded by his classmates, that he literally lost his ability to walk to school and his tormentors, or anywhere else for that matter. A change of school healed both his difficulty walking and his skin condition. In addition, now in high school, a sympathetic and supportive theater arts teacher, as well as dance and music teacher, have had a positive and progressive impact on his life. He has the lead in his public high school play and will be graduating next year with a high academic standing.

It is interesting how easy it is to fall for an idealized silver screen version of a cowboy. The archetype is strong, handsome, laconic and stoic. He embodies the mythic American ideal of rugged individualism. It is true too that it was nice to see on screen in Brokeback Mountain queers who weren’t wealthy, but here too the reality doesn’t exactly match the film portrayal. I came out in 1980, in San Antonio, Texas, where I spent a largely drunken year. I did briefly date a cowhand. Although handsome, Pat, originally from Oklahoma, was poorly educated, lived in a rented room, and did not have a car. After several dates, I moved on, eventually meeting Pete U. who happened to be Mexican-American, cultured, cosmopolitan and worldly. He had an olive complexion and piercing blue eyes, was a social worker and had appeared in GQ Magazine in the summer of 1977. I had hit Texas gold. We spent a magnificent year together.

In conclusion, I never want to be the type of person who can only hear what I already believe reinforced, as if condemned to a perpetual internet or media echo chamber. For that reason I have read critiques of the movie from disparate sources.

In a movie set in the heartland, I want to know how it is received there. Maybe you do too. If you want to know what people are thinking outside our Metropolitan area, I’d recommend this article:

 http://www.thesimon.com/magazine/articles/getting_reel/01044_brokeback_mountain_brokedown_ideas.html

For a wonderful and sensitive article on the film, which includes first person interviews with gay men living in Wyoming, check out.


 http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Render&c=Article&cid=1135119017244&call_pageid=968332188492


Finally, if you haven’t seen the movie, despite my many reservations and pointed criticisms, I would recommend it. The cinematography is quite breathtaking. I hope that the next gay movie that reaches for a mainstream audience avoids some of the pitfalls of Brokeback Mountain.

Vince


Sites of Interest:

Smoking rates soar among state's gays:
 http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/1204gaysmokers.html

To learn about the violence and horror of recreational hunting:
 http://www.peta.org/mc/factsheet_display.asp?ID=53

To learn how sheep are mistreated during factory farming in Australia:

 http://www.savethesheep.com/report.asp

To help Save NJ Bears or Learn more see:

 http://www.savenjbears.com/