Masculinity & Brokeback Mountain

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  • Topic: Brokeback Mountain, Jack Twist, Heath Ledger
  • Pages : 3 (936 words )
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  • Published : June 6, 2011
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The raison d’etre of the Western is arguably to celebrate masculinity, but Brokeback Mountain is a revisionary Western that challenges definitions of masculinity. Discuss this statement with reference to Jane Marie Gaines’s and Charlotte Cornelia Herzog’s comments on the homoeroticism of the Western.

The Western genre is undoubtedly one that is governed by the traditional male 'hero' and its masculine stereotypes. Rarely does the genre break away from this mould, however Ang Lee's renowned film Brokeback Mountain defies the set expectations of the Western and its celebration of masculinity. The film depicts the tragic love between the two central characters 'Ennis del Mar' and 'Jack Twist', set against the backdrop of the American West. The film has been praised for being 'revisionary', as it blurs the boundaries of the genre. Lee invites the viewers to interrogate masculinity and the oppression of homoeroticism within the film.

At the film's core lies the homophobic nature of the Western, a time that was dominated by the lone 'rough and tough' man. The film explores the depths of the oppression of the homosexual man and the struggles that one undergoes because of it. Gaines and Herzog (1998) illustrate the underlying homoerotic undertones of the Western through the costumes worn, commenting that it ‘is difficult to imagine a male costume that lends itself more to eroticisation than that of the Western gunfighter’ (1998, p. 179) One may assume the American cowboy exudes a certain quality that deemed the image to become the ideal representation of a fearless American man, however Gaines and Herzog beg to differ. Over the passing of time, cowboys have become somewhat of a sexual figure. Costumes within Brokeback Mountain act as an important role in the film as they exemplify the differing nature of each character. Stenning Edgecombe states (2007) 'The first patterning device that I wish to address is Lee's thematic use of colour'. This is indeed apparent,...
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