Tragedy of the Closet

There’s been a lot of ink and electrons devoted to Brokeback Mountain, but here’s what I think is the best review (major plot spoilers alert)- An Affair to Remember from the New York Review of Books’ Daniel Mendelsohn, pointing out that marketing (which might be particular to the States) that plays up the “universal love story” aspect of the film over the “closeted lies tragedy” aspect minimises the achievement of both Annie Proulx’s story and Ang Lee’s film.

“The real achievement of Brokeback Mountain is not that it tells a universal love story that happens to have gay characters in it, but that it tells a distinctively gay story that happens to be so well told that any feeling person can be moved by it. If you insist, as so many have, that the story of Jack and Ennis is OK to watch and sympathize with because they’re not really homosexual—that they’re more like the heart of America than like “gay people”—you’re pushing them back into the closet whose narrow and suffocating confines Ang Lee and his collaborators have so beautifully and harrowingly exposed.”

I live in inner Sydney, in a cul-de-sac only one block long, and there has always been at least two or three homosexual households living in the street during my fifteen years – sometimes men, sometimes women, and sometimes singleton housemates. They’ve never been “loud and proud” rainbow flaggers but they’ve never hidden either – there’s no closets that I know of in our street.

It seems to be a different thing at my school, though. In a school of nearly 500 kids, I’ve never heard a whisper of any gay parents during my kids’ journey through years K-6, and I must say that seems statistically unlikely. Now I’m not much of a one for schoolyard gossip, so maybe I just don’t know who they are, but I suspect that it might be more of a case that families with two mummies or two daddies, who may not be closeted in any other aspect of their lives, choose to interact with the school body in a closeted manner (perhaps only one parent ever does the school run).

That’s not up there with Jack and Ennis levels of tragedy, but it’s sad if gay parents feel such closeting is necessary. Stifling is never healthy, for the family or for the community around it.

Categories: arts & entertainment, culture wars, media, relationships

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