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Category: Reflections Date: 29 Jan 06

 

Around Carnival the usual puzzle presents itself. How can we be free and uninhibited, stripping like authentic wild sprites, unmuzzled by convention, slithering in and out of identities (vamp, washerwoman, Casanova, greek God) an enormous sense of our sexuality, open to one another, as if we defined equality—a judge could easily drink with a vagrant—and yet emerge on Ash Wednesday to wear impenetrable masks that ostracize groups of people because they are different to us—like gays and lesbians?

 

Let me illustrate this with an imaginary but entirely plausible conversation between three Trinis wanting to go to the cinema, sitting in front of the computer, looking at reviews. Let’s call them Sue, Tim and Don.

 

Sue is trying to persuade the other two to go to the recently released film Brokeback Mountain. She reads aloud from a review, “Adapted from Annie Proulx’s brilliant 1997 short story, its that rare thing, a big Hollywood weeper with a beautiful ache at its centre—a modern age Western...a quietly revolutionary love story.”

 

Don: I never see a Western with no ache and weeper. Is action I want, not a chick flick.

 

Tim: It sounding cool man. No chick stars. He reads, “Brokeback is about cowboys Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), a couple of young poor ranch hands, who take a job guarding a flock of sheep on Brokeback Mountain, in the lush Wyoming wilderness. To keep the coyotes away, Jack is assigned to sleep near the flock, but mostly the two men have hours, days and weeks on their hands. They jump on horses to guide the sheep across meadows and rivers; they sit around a campfire, heating canned beans and swapping stories and a bottle of whiskey.” I sure that have action in it.

 

Sue: Umm ..well, not that kinda action.

 

She reads on: “Then, one night, when it’s too cold for either one of them to sleep outside, they do something that the old movie cowboys never did: They wrap their bodies in a rough embrace and, without a hint of seduction, they have sex, an act that’s as shocking to them as it is to us. Because it feels right, they do it again as the days go by. Ennis and Jack, who’ve been raised in a world where to be “queer” is not to be a man (and is, therefore, unthinkable), can’t grasp the feeling that’s come over them because they literally don’t have the words for it.

 

In the film you stop seeing them as gay. Even the Christian Science monitor says Brokeback Mountain is a tragedy because these men have found something that many people of whatever sexual persuasion never find—true love and they can’t do anything about it. It had people weeping uncontrollably in the end.

 

Despite their love for one another, these cowboys marry, have kids and continue their love secretly over the years.

 

Tim: So wait nah, they hornin’ they wife too and you want us to see that? I thought you didn’t like hornin’?

 

Sue: It’s not about the horning. It’s about non-acceptance, the fact that people would kill them if anyone found out they were gay.

 

Don: You have to pay me and mask me to take me there.

 

Sue: You just scared babe, just in case you gay. Okay, joke. But why we have to treat gay people like jokes. Semi human. They are not all flaming drag queens. They are ordinary people, bankers, lawyers, friends, who get up in the morning and go to work like you and me and want the same stuff out of life like us—love, stability, marriage, children. And if you sweep reality, like gays and lesbians, under the carpet because it scares you, then what chance do the people who really need our help have—like victims of closed door family, community, school, country conspiracies, like incest, domestic violence, fraud. You guys could say what you want. But its not a carnival costume, but the truth that will set you free. Now pull down your t-shirt from over your face and see the film like a real man.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur