Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Brokeback condition

"If you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn't try to write fiction" If you haven't yet read Rod Dreher's review of Brokeback Mountain yet, well, there aren't going too many better places to begin to think about Ang Lee's latest. Dreher leans on Flannery O'Connor a lot and this undoubtedly lifts his perspective above the fray. Get Religion says this very orthodox, traditional Christian's
nuanced evaluation of this movie and the whirlpool around it is getting him some interesting mail over at the Dallas Morning News opinion-page weblog. This is one of those situations that journalists tend to cherish. Rod is managing to tick off people on both sides of the love-hate spectrum on this movie.
So what did he write?
It is impossible to watch this movie and think that all would be well with Jack and Ennis if only we'd legalize gay marriage. It is also impossible to watch this movie and not grieve for them in their suffering, even while raging over the suffering that these poor country kids who grew up unloved cause for their families. As the film grapples with Ennis' pain, confusion and cruelty, different levels of meaning unspool - social, moral, spiritual and erotic. In the end, Brokeback Mountain is not about the need to normalize homosexuality, or "about" anything other than the tragic human condition. [Flannery] O'Connor once wrote that you don't have to have an educated mind to understand good fiction, but you do have to have "at all times the kind of mind that is willing to have its sense of mystery deepened by contact with reality, and its sense of reality deepened by contact with mystery." The mystery of the human personality can never be fully plumbed, only explored. To the frustration of ideologues, artists like Annie Proulx and Ang Lee undertake a journey to those depths and return to tell the truth about what they've seen - which is not necessarily what any of us wants to hear. As Ms. O'Connor taught, "Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn't try to write fiction."
If Annie Proulx [author of the story] and Ang Lee have succeeded in this way, then my hat's off to them. See also here.

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