Reflecting on the “all-gays-must-see-this” hype surrounding the release of “Brokeback Mountain,” Sean Kinsell demonstrates why he’s one of the most honest voices in the blogosphere:

…those of us who don’t see our story in it have to be allowed to appreciate it on our own terms and to our own degree, and that’s where I find the implication that it’s our homosexual duty to rally around Brokeback Mountain, the pop culture phenomenon, annoying. Gays deserve as much liberty to decide whom to identify with as anyone else does. Sometimes we’ll sympathize with people without necessarily seeing them as reflections of ourselves, even if gay advocates deem it politically expedient to do so. We have to be as free to choose for ourselves as we are to speak for ourselves.

If only a time would come when it wouldn’t require the courage that Sean displays to say what really amounts to common sense. A lot of gay men would agree with Sean, but they don’t feel free to say so. This is a movie, for God’s sake. If you can’t identify with two cowboys falling in love (of if that just doesn’t fulfill your romantic ideal) that should not mean you hate yourself or that there’s something wrong with your view of the world. To analogize to a heterosexual setting, how many love stories have been put on film with which all heterosexuals can identify? I’ve seen a lot of shlocky love films, and some that are considered timeless classics, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been able to identify with them.
A good example is “Gone With The Wind” — a great film, but I just couldn’t relate to either Rhett Butler or Scarlet O’Hara as especially worthy of love, so I had little empathy with either side of this dysfunctional relationship. Had the same relationship been homosexual in nature, I’d have thought it equally irritating. These things are personal, and I can think of few things more distasteful than the idea of culturally dictated tastes. Popular culture is often held hostage by lowest common denominator thinking, and I don’t see why I should apply a separate standard to a film because Hollywood has bent over backwards to smash some all-American stereotype about cowboys. I mean, wasn’t it Hollywood which gave us the cowboy stereotype in the first place? Might this film reflect some need to demonstrate that Hollywood has the right create and destroy these stereotypes at will? Is it reasonable to ask whether “Brokeback Mountain” might be seen as an exercise in raw power? Sometimes I find the whole stereotype smashing thing as tedious as the underlying stereotypes being smashed. Is that allowed?
I haven’t seen the film, but Sean’s hoping that it might be like Romeo and Juliet:

Personally, my highest hope for Brokeback Mountain is that it’s kind of like Romeo and Juliet, making a generalizable point about the raw resilience of love in the face of social pressure by taking the circumstances to an unusual extreme. Given the frantic “It’s not a gay movie!” PR fusillade, that appears to be the way its makers are also hoping it will be regarded. But that may not make it a metaphor for gay life in any kind of direct and overarching way.

While forbidden or impossible love is kind of cool, I could relate more to a gay “Palestinian guerilla falls in love with Israeli soldier” meme (or perhaps “1960s IRA Provo falls in love with Ulster Orange Order Man”) than cowboys. This may or may not be a good film, but I’m not especially captivated by the cowboys as an inherently forbidden class.
If we really want to milk the gay Romeo and Juliet theme, why not a cowboy falling in love with a ferocious Indian brave whose tribe has sworn to exterminate him (and vice versa)?
Or how about a gay man and a lesbian paired off as a faux hetero couple by unthinking fundamentalist activists at Exodus, but who actually fell in love with each other just as they became disenchanted with Exodus, which left them with no place to hide, no one to accept them (for two open and unrepentant homosexuals cannot be said to be “saved” merely by falling into heterosexual carnal knowledge), and anathema to gay activists who’d denounced them as “ex gays.” Crazy as that might sound, a relationship hated and spurned by both lovers’ peers (with no available “support group”) would seem truer to Romeo and Juliet than a pair of gay cowboys.
Sean concludes by complaining that the stereotype doesn’t fit him:

….self-loathing and the necessity of keeping things hidden don’t govern adult reality for many of us, and it’s not clear to me why we should push the line that Brokeback Mountain says more than it actually does about the gay experience just to get more exposure for gay love stories.

Ah, but the magic of the “self loathing” stereotype is that these days it’s applied to those who disagree with the stereotype! There’s only one way out of the old “self-loathing” stereotype, and that’s the new identity politics. There is a group for you, it defines “your” culture because it has been assigned a role and a script in “our” culture, and you have been assigned to it based on what you do with your genitalia. Therefore, you will accept, follow, and embrace it!
That’s because the only alternative is the old self loathing, comrade!
Why, we’ll even let you be a gay cowboy!
What, you don’t like your new identity? Obviously you hate yourself.
(Be careful, or else we’ll hate you too!)
UPDATE (12/25/05): A front page article in the Philadelphia Inquirer massages box office statistics in a manner almost calculated to persuade non-critical readers that “Brokeback Mountain” is already a huge success:

In its opening weekend, in five theaters in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, the movie pulled in more per theater than almost any film in the last two decades. Last weekend, in 69 theaters, it took in $36,354 per theater, according to Box Office Mojo, more than twice the average of King Kong (though Kong’s total, $66 million, dwarfed Brokeback’s $3.5 million).

“Five theaters in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco” constitutes niche marketing.
What remains to be seen (as the Inquirer admits) is how well the film will do in the national metroplex market:

Early next month, the film is to open in 300 to 800, where it will have to perform on a much broader stage.

From what I’ve read, the film targets the mainstream heterosexual market, but that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be lining up to see it in large numbers. Hype won’t persuade people to see a film with which they can’t identify, nor will a good scolding. (It’s a real stretch to blame “heterosexual bigotry” for the failure of people to see a film.)
If only there’d been a major coordinated attack on the film by social conservatives with massive boycotts and picket lines in front of every theater! That might have triggered a Brokeback Mountain backlash, but the social conservatives seem to be learning what not to do. (I guess I should keep my trap shut about such things….)
MORE: I think, however, that it would be a mistake to misread this strategic silence as an indication of tolerance or an embrace of a live-and-let-live philosophy.
That’s because the hard core opposition to the film arises from a moral collectivist belief that people are not responsible for their own actions:

“If [Brokeback Mountain] encourages even one confused boy to engage in sex with another male, that makes it an instrument of corruption, not one of enlightenment.”

I may be in a minority, but I can’t think of a single time — at any point in my life — where sex resulted from confusion.