Brokeback vs. Milk

Mark and I saw Milk while we were in Pittsburgh. It was quite an amazing movie–one of the best I’ve seen recently. Its timing was impeccable for those of us who are sort of rediscovering our “inner activist”.

Due to its current level of (well-deserved) hype, it also begs comparison to the other “gay” movie I wrote about a few years ago. A lot of people missed the point of that earlier rant and assumed that I was declining to see Brokeback because of a bias against “gay-themed” movies. That is, of course, not the case. I didn’t see it because the plot and setting didn’t appeal to me. Frankly, any movie about cowboys in the Wyoming wilderness, no matter who or what they’re fucking, seems like pure torture to me; the “gay” angle is not nearly enough to make up for the “people I don’t care about in a setting that bores me to tears” angle. If it had been a movie about two urban planners who found love on a subway platform in the Bronx or at a diner in Pittsburgh, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Hence my point. I don’t see movies because they’re about homosexuals. I see movies that are well-made and are about people and things that interest me, and if there happen to be sods involved, so much the better. Milk was one of those movies; it told a compelling story that was of interest to me on many levels, and it did so very well. It even got me all choked up on a few occasions.

Maybe Brokeback did the same for you. If so, that’s great. But there should be no expectation that it would necessarily do the same for me just because I’m a homo as well. It’s an assumption that I’ve always found a little insulting. I’ve had numerous acquaintances and even family members over the years who, upon seeing me, always start going on (usually within about forty-five seconds) about whatever this week’s hot new “gay culture” phenomenon is. It’s as if they assume that’s all we could possibly have in common or want to talk about, when in fact we don’t really have it in common, and I don’t really want to talk about it–and I may not even know anything about it to begin with.

I realize there’s a sort of shorthand or oversimplification that lots of people (myself included) use to try to start conversations with people they don’t really know or understand very well. But this was something that even a close friend of mine years ago used to do on a regular basis. He knew full well that I was not a big fan of dance clubs or dance music, but was always asking me if I’d heard this inane song or been to that annoying club because it was “so gay” or whatever. Ditto for movies; he never saw or discussed a movie that lacked some sort of “gay subtext” and his eyes glazed over when I discussed movies that did lack this “crucial” element. It annoyed me because it suggested that he viewed me as some kind of one-dimensional being who would naturally be excited about any piece of pop culture, no matter how lame, as long as it were sufficiently “gay”. Maybe that’s why we’re not friends anymore. It’s sort of the corollary to my old axiom: just as a sexual orientation is a poor substitute for an actual personality, a shared sexual orientation does not in and of itself constitute any sort of relationship.

Anyway, the dead horse I’m trying to beat here (since 1996 or so) is that homosexuality is often an interesting theme, but if it’s the only theme of a movie (or song or website or whatever) that I can identify with, I’m probably not going to be very interested. That’s not to say that a movie must be compelling to me in order to be good, just that it must be compelling to me in order to make me want to see it. Milk was about politics, history, urban culture, and many of my other interests in addition to its primary focus, and it’s the mix of all these themes that pulled me in.