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Lookin' for love in R-rated places.

I doubt that many Catholic Insight readers have seen, or will see, Brokeback Mountain, alias the gay cowboy movie." From what I've read, here's the gist: it's 1963; two cowboys have a homosexual liaison in a tent while on a herding job in the Wyoming hills. They go their separate ways, and, years later, find themselves unhappily married (to women). They reunite and carry on a long-term affair, in the guise of frequent fishing trips, during which not much fishing takes place.

In his review of the film, journalist Mark Steyn contends, "By the end of a bleak portrait of failed lonely lives, with one of the lads cheating on the other with ranch managers and Mexican rent-boys, you're not even sure how gay-friendly the thing is: are the men bad, uninterested parents because society's forced them to live a lie or because they're the sad self-destructive prisoners of their sexual appetites ? (www.steynonline.com)." I think I can hazard a guess.

Incredibly, this movie is supposed to appeal, not to homosexual men, but to "straight" women. In fact it's been hailed as a "gay chick flick" (for chicks who aren't "gay"--go figure). While some heterosexual women may enjoy Brokeback (there's simply no accounting for taste), this particular chick is not remotely interested in seeing it. Call me queer (really), but I don't think there's anything romantic (or even compelling) about a pair of homosexual cowboys whose lives are taken up with lust, marital (and non-marital) infidelity, heartbreak and despair. Apparently; one tag line from the movie poster reads: "Love is a Force of Nature," which is deeply ironic, considering that homosexual acts are neither loving nor natural (though often forceful).

Steering our subject (toward something more pleasant than anal sex), does anyone know why women watch chick flicks (a.k.a. romantic, feel-good movies)? It's more than just for entertainment value, or even for escapist reasons. Whether we realize it or not, it goes deeper. We're looking for love; we're in search of that elusive "happily ever after" ending. Chick flicks are fairy tales for grown-ups. Most of us, even happily married gals, probably feel we don't get enough romance in our lives, and so we turn to fiction for the occasional fix.

Chick flicks are a stop-gap measure, something like chocolate cheesecake. They do make us feel better, and this is why our men tolerate them, even as they are so famously averse to watching them. And what sensible man wouldn't be? He invariably comes out looking bad in comparison to that roguishly handsome, strong yet sensitive, talkative yet eloquent, passionate yet gentle romantic hero. "Sigh--why can't you be like that?" his wife or girlfriend wants to know as the credits roll. (Honey, the answer is because no men are like that, but that's another story.)

Not all chick flicks are equal. Some are not much above the level of pornography (see a vast deal of what Hollywood produces) and are therefore a waste of time at best, and an occasion of sin at worst. Some, however, are art (usually because they are based on classic works of literature, as are any number of BBC period/costume dramas) and can actually teach us something about the human condition (besides the fact that our husbands aren't romantic enough). They may even lead us closer to God, if we are so disposed.

Sadly, the characters of Brokeback Mountain are not unique. A lot of men and women (weakened by concupiscence) have been deeply damaged by the ongoing fallout of the "sexual revolution" and are therefore "sad self-destructive prisoners of their sexual appetites." Deep in our souls, we long for R-rated entertainment of another sort: we want Relationships, Romance, Respect, Refreshment, Rejoicing, Refuge, a Raison d'etre, and--above all--Redemption.

The good news is it's already within our grasp. We've got all-consuming, passionate Love; his name is Jesus. We've got the happy ending; it's called Heaven. Everything else is just a series of previews and screen tests.

Mariette Ulrich has an Honours B.A. in English Literature, with a special interest in 19th century novels and film adaptations thereof. She writes from Scott, SK, where she watches high-quality chick flicks with her seven daughters. Her husband Dan enjoys NHL hockey and old westerns.
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Title Annotation:COLUMNIST; Brokeback Mountain
Author:Ulrich, Mariette
Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Column
Date:Mar 1, 2006
Words:711
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