Skip to comments.Gay cowboys welcome the arrival of 'Brokeback Mountain'
Posted on 01/17/2006 6:28:25 AM PST by laney
Like many gay Utahns, Ritchie Olsen has been bursting with anticipation over "Brokeback Mountain," the acclaimed film about a secret love affair between two Wyoming cowboys. After all, the movie could almost be the story of his life.
Olsen grew up in Neola, Utah, a conservative town of about 500 people on the southern edge of the Uintas. His family ran a small cattle ranch, where Olsen spent much of his youth on a horse. Although Olsen struggled with his attraction to men, like the characters in the film he kept quiet and married a local girl, his true nature stifled by community pressure and his own fear.
"I didn't feel like I had any other choice," said the 32-year-old, who didn't come out of the closet until he divorced his wife 18 months later and moved away. "I was expected to fit a certain image, and I did. It created a lot of anxiety."
That's why for Olsen and countless other Westerners, "Brokeback Mountain" is an event film and a hot-button topic. Besides being a rare Hollywood drama about gay romance, it may be the first high-profile movie to address homosexuality within a group rarely associated with it: the iconic cowboys of the American West. These onscreen lovers aren't San Francisco hairdressers, they're stoic Marlboro men.
Based on a short story by Annie Proulx, the film tells the story of Ennis (Heath Ledger) and Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal), two young ranch hands hired to herd sheep on a lonely Wyoming mountaintop in the summer of 1963. Thrown together by circumstance, the pair forge an emotional bond that turns unexpectedly sexual and that neither man is equipped to define. "I ain't queer," Ennis says after their first drunken encounter. "Me neither," responds Jack.
Separated by geography and shame, the two marry women and settle down in different parts of the West, meeting for trysts in motels and by remote campfires over the next 20 years. The forbidden affair exacts an emotional toll on their marriages and on themselves.
"I found myself wondering what a gay person in such a masculine-oriented society did -- whether they fled to Denver or toughed it out," Proulx told The Salt Lake Tribune in 1999 when asked about the origins of the story. "I began thinking about homophobia. In fact, the thing that destroyed the relationship between the two characters was their own homophobia."
Members of the Utah Gay Rodeo Association, a group of part-time wranglers for whom "Brokeback Mountain" is almost a home movie, were among those who brought advance tickets for the show's opening in Salt Lake City.
"On the gay-rodeo circuit this movie has been talked about for almost two years," said Clark Monk, a Salt Lake City registered nurse who competes in roping and barrel-racing events. Monk hopes that "Brokeback Mountain," which lacks swishy stereotypes or an overt political agenda, will change moviegoers' attitudes towards homosexuality. "But I don't know if mainstream straight America is ready for it."
Monk, 48, grew up on a dairy farm in Spanish Fork and helped lead his family's cattle up and down Spanish Fork Canyon each spring and fall. But the religious and family pressure to conform was so great that he didn't explore his homosexuality until after he served an LDS Church mission and moved to Salt Lake City in his late 20s. Even then, he wasn't comfortable being out of the closet until he discovered the gay rodeo group.
"That kind of opened the door," he said. "I could do all the things I enjoyed as a kid and still be a gay man."
"Brokeback Mountain" is set mostly in the 1960s, when the gay-rights movement was in its infancy. But Utah's homosexual cowboys say the state's small-town attitudes toward gays aren't much more tolerant today. Milo Bardwell was raised on his grandfather's farm in Tremonton and, like most rural gay men, moved to a larger city to find acceptance.
In Tremonton, as in ranching towns throughout the West, the rugged cowboy myth leaves no room for homosexuality. But Olsen says he wouldn't trade his Neola cowboy upbringing for anything. And Bardwell, 39, who now lives in Herriman, bristles at the suggestion that his sexual orientation makes him less of a wrangler.
"It has nothing to do with how we can handle a horse or a rope. I can rope with the best of them," said Bardwell, who trains horses and competes on the gay-rodeo circuit. "We're not a bunch of sissies riding around."
If gay Utahns are lining up for "Brokeback Mountain," Utah's mainstream rodeo cowboys are almost as united in their disdain for the film.
"I wouldn't go see it for nothin'," said Lewis Feild, a rodeo coach at Utah Valley State College. "I feel the gay lifestyle is wrong. And I can guarantee you that if you talk to many people in the ranching and rodeo community, they're going to be the same way."
In Wyoming, where the state symbol is a bronco rider and gay rights have been a sensitive issue since Matthew Shepard was murdered in Laramie in 1998, opinion over "Brokeback Mountain" appears split along similar lines.
Ben Clark, a fourth-generation rancher, saw "Brokeback Mountain" at its Dec. 10 premiere in Jackson, Wyo., where it earned a standing ovation. Clark grew up outside Jackson and felt so lonely as a gay youth that he considered suicide. He moved to Southern California in his 20s, came out as a gay man and eventually returned to Jackson, where he raises quarter horses.
"I loved the film," said Clark, 42. "It's the kind of movie that everybody, especially straight people, need to see to understand the culture we grew up in and what we go through."
On the other side of the fence is Rick Makris, a part-time rancher from Evanston, Wyo., who believes the movie will harm the state's image.
"I ain't got nothing against gay people. But Wyoming is not the place to make a gay movie about cowboys. I think it's a slap in the face," he said.
They're the ones riding sidesaddle.
Yeah, all three of 'em.
not cowboys, and not a mountain
a better name would be
But what's their daily pudding intake?
"Members of the Utah Gay Rodeo Association...."
Funny how they have to have their own little sissy rodeos, I wonder how well they would do in the PRCA.
Just like they took the word "gay" they are going to change the meaning of cowboy to something sissified and ugly.
IOW, no families on those wagons west, only gay men. /s
These people are truly suffering from thinking with a certain part of their anatomy.......
Gay and Cowboy are two words that should never be used together!!
This insulting movie will be answered by voters next election. Eleven states have already spoken on the matter and many more will follow.
Check out the weird shadows.
I really don't "need" to understand the culture queer sheep herders grew up in or what they go through. The media and the queer interest groups (who knew there was a queer rodeo circuit?!) are trying very hard to shove this in our faces, so to speak. But I vow that I will go to my grave having never seen 'Brokeback Mountain' and I further vow that I will never try to understand the culture of the queer sheep herder.
Is this what they consider historic stoic Marlboro men. ?
I confess to thinking this was an Onion parody, just based on the intro.
I live in Texas and I don't even know a gay cowboy. I think it is a shame that this is getting so much attention. Women all over should be outraged! There are fewer and fewer men who want to step up to the plate and be real men, real dads, and with this type of hype with gay cowboys, really is not actual or real, atleast here in Texas.
Interesting quote. The first I had heard about homophobia between the shepherds. That rings as a cautionary tale, doesn't it? It appears that the two characters rejected the gay life in the end, right?
Well I'm so happy that Hollyweird made a gay cowboy movie for Ritchie Olsen and his gay Utah association. It's pathetic that they are being called cowboys. Just because one rides a horse doesn't make one a cowboy. If the truth were known, the only reason these gays are hanging around rodeos is because they get their jollies looking at REAL cowboys/men.
Nothing new here....
I have no idea. Hahahahaha
A woman I know took her boyfriend to see this film. Supposedly, he had no idea what the content was. When the movie got to the "love scene" he told her he was leaving. I about fell over with laughter when she told me.
Boo HOO! Poor little Gay Cowboys....
Save a girl, ride a cowboy.
The Marketing of Evil? The cowboy husbands riding one another while wifey is at home is a lesson for wives everywhere. HIV and other STD's can be a real possibilty when you have a man that likes to screw men on the side.
This movie has a message. Know your man and know him well.
"a better name would be
Or Brokeback Mountin'
Could be. .....and I bet the Dallas Cowboys marketing dept. isn't too happy about it.
Olsen spent much of his youth on a horseIn what sense?
I should put a sarcasm tag or something in there.
Yes, everybody was gay in history. There were no straight people, according to historians.
OTOH, it seems to be a source of great pleasure when these same men watch two women together. I'll NEVER figure that one out :)
No political agenda, eh? Yeah, and Leni Riefenstahl was just a documentarian.
I thought they were sheep herders?
I was going to ask if openly gay cowboys come out of the stall, instead of the closet. But (no pun intended, I guess all gays cum out of the stalls (in restrooms).
Gay . . . WHAT??
I see people, even here, talking about how this stuff is OK, that we should ignore it or accept it as well as tolerate it and just turn our heads.
That we're wrong, fighting and dying for the right.
No way Jose! Sure, I'll stop fighting some day and go with the flow . . . .
When my last breath leaves my body.
First of all real ranchers never use the term cows. They are cattle; bulls, steers, heifers, but not cows.
Second, these homosexuals herd sheep. They are shepherds, not cowboys.
Third, the only men I ever worked with were real men, tough, rough, and burned by the sun.
Your link failed. What's the name of the movie?
Too bad Hollywood never bothered to inquire on what a Cowboy truly is!
So that's the target audience for this film. Gay cowboys.
Just to think, this whole movie was inspired by the "Beans for Supper" scene in Blazing Saddles.
Sorry.. It is Monty Walsh with Tom Selleck it also has Tom Eads from CSI in it and David Carradine it's a great movie about 2 Cowboys and what they really do when alone and what they talk about.
Yes, everybody was gay in history. There were no straight people, according to historians.This is off the subject, but your comment reminds me of something similar in Asia. If you live in Asia, and watch Star TV (at least back in the late 90s when I was there), there were all these feature programs made in Australia, and as one American ex-pat put it: seems like everything there is was invented in Australia.
This is not to knock the Australians, who are great, but just to notice a phenomena that happens to self-promoting groups. They tend to take credit for everything that exists. (Or at least seem to.)
Chaps; no pants.
Also it states what COWBOYS really speak abpout is:
Is it true that only 3% of the US population is gay? So, if all those men settled the west should the gay percentage be a bit larger by now?
What is the name of this TNT movie? The inserted 'photo' didn't load for me.
Monty Walsh with Tom Selleck
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