I have read two articles that have changed my perspective on this movie. The first one was the review from a San Francisco paper, the other was an online review from a sex psychologist. Both articles are available on the Wikipedia index.
The first article says that one thing that is never settled is whether Jack and Ennis are gay because they love each other, or if they love each other because they are gay. And, actually, this was my perspective from the first time I saw the movie. It appeared to me that perhaps they were really two heterosexual males who found themselves in a situation where they bonded, and that led to the sexual encounter.
The other article said that Brokeback Mountain isn't about two gay men at all. It said that the movie is actually about two *bisexual* men. I think this is accurate as well, because both men marry women, and both men carry on sexual lives with women. I believe there is a scene where Jack says that he is having a fling with the local man's wife. That doesn't sound like something a "gay" man would do, but a bisexual man.
Anyway, as this is a work of fiction these questions most likely don't have definitive answers. It's not like we can research their journals or letters and find answers. But these are interesting questions to think about.
I was wondering if other people wondered about this as well!
In my opinion Jack was definitely gay, though trying to live a "straight" life. In my opinion, Enis was mostly straight, but he was so desperately lonely and needing someone to love him and feel his love returned that Jack filled the bill and the fact he was a man was irrelevant.
Well, I think that if you watch the movie again, you will realize that Jack is referring to the guy with the chatterbox wife-and not to the wife. Much like not wanting to reveal that he had been to Mexico (where he rented male prostitutes), he did not want to tell Ennis that he may have found another man. This is actually referenced again by Jack's father at the end-instead of bringing Ennis up to take care of the farm, he was going to bring up this other guy...
Also, you might recall that Jack makes a very subtle overture to the rodeo clown who saved him from the bull-which the clown understood, turned down the offer of a free drink, and promptly went to discuss it with his buddies.
So, Jack is gay.
To refer to Dean's point that Ennis just wanted someone to love being so lonely. Well, he had his wife who clearly loved him. Then, he had a waitress who was clearly very interested in filling the bill. Clearly, it was not an issue of being desperately lonely and needing someone/anyone-he was alone because he could not be with the one he truly wanted. Being isolated like this ultimately poisoned his relationship with his daughters. And finally overwhelmed his love for Jack until it was too late.
Interesting points. I hadn't taken that into consideration. Jack does indeed come on to, and have relationships with, other men. As to the bisexual theory, I think that by default they were bisexual because they were having sex with both genders. But most likely they were forced to be bisexual; the heterosexual sex was an attempt to conform to what their society wanted.
As a straight man myself, what I saw in the film was two straight men playing gay men. They seemed so incredibly straight, which both actors are, of course. I remember a (gay) friend of mine telling me that the relationship between Tom Hanks and Antonio Banderas in "Philadelphia" seemed no more "gay" than frat buddies in college. I have a similar view of Brokeback Mountain. It seemed to me that there was some aspect of "gayness" lacking from the relationship between the two men. I think this might be related to the fact that both actors are straight.
But then I've read that one reason so many gay men liked this movie is because it shattered the "mincing gay man" stereotype. This is probably the first time mainstream America has ever seen "masculine" gay men.
I have to respond to your point about Ennis and Jack [and Tom Hanks and Antonio Banderas] seeming like straight frat buddies. There is not always a difference between a gay relationship and what the world at large perceives as the close bond between straight male friends. Many gay relationships are in fact like that; they don't necessarily "radiate" gayness in the sense that you may be suggesting or expecting.
As for "bisexual" versus "homosexual." We don't really know the frequency of sexual contact between the husbands and the wives in this film, so we may not be able to say that the two male leads were having fequent intimacy with their wives. We do know, however, that Jack says that his relationship with Lureen can be dialed in over the phone, and that, as another commenter notes, Ennis withdraws from both his wife and his girlfriend. I suspect that both characters pine more for each other than either pines for any female in his life.
Ultimately, though, there are many married men and women who have emotional and/or sexual needs for members of their same sex. The rigid definitions of "hetero" "homo" or "bisexuality" may actually confuse a more complicated phenomenon of emotional and physical needs. To my way of thinking, they may also lead people to identify themselves or others inordinately within one of these categories, as opposed to seeing the greater humanness and the complexity inherent in that humanness. [I offer this as an observation, not a critique.]
Another observation. In the scene where Jack says "I wish I knew how to quit you" Jack hints to Ennis about the encounters he has sought out with other men because he was lonely. Upon hearing this Ennis becomes enraged and even threatens Jack (although I don't think he could really hurt Jack.)
Jack generally seemed to be attracted to men - and acted on it - and his wife seemed to be the the lone exception. Though of course he only loved Ennis. Ennis didn't seem particularly attracted to either his wife or girlfriend...at least not in the passionate way he was attracted to Jack. If he had never met Jack I don't think he would have ever known he could be attracted to a man. I think for Ennis it truly was a case of love transcending all, even gender, just one soul falling in love with another, like Heath has said in interviews. But this is also why he blames Jack during their last time for how bad his life is, saying "it's because of you Jack that I'm like this". He thinks that if he'd never met Jack he would have had a "normal" life.
Ennis getting jealous at the thought of Jack fooling around with other men was possessive and rather surprising. He doesn't really have the right to get angry since he keeps turning down Jack's attempts for them to have a life together. But of course love is not logical and this was Ennis' instinctive response to get aggressive.
It is evident that Jack was Ennis's first love, and that Ennis doesn't realize this (at least at first) because he had never been in love before. Ennis had no reference frame for the feelings he was having. When their first summer was over and they said goodbye, as Ennis was walking away from Jack he had this sudden gut-wrenching feeling that makes him think he is sick. After he steals away to an alley, he is not able to bring anything up, tells off a passerby for looking at him, pounds the wall with his fist in frustration and cries.
I agree that if he had never met Jack it is possible that he might have never experienced the kind of love Jack brought into his life.
Hi, Alka and others... Here in Indonesia, there are some married men that I've known who (secretly) have sexual relationship for the persons of their same sex. Which makes me wonder, does every man has a tendency to be gay? Is it possible that that preference can be either triggered or, on the contrary, buried away?
But, there were rarely any emotional or love relationship out there like with Ennis and Jack's in BBM. I agree with most of you that if Ennis had never met Jack, he might never know that he could love someone with the same gender. If Jack has never kissed him, Ennis may have never experienced that he was able to love a man. He might have been straight (although he might never have found the true love like the one that he had with Jack). But Jack is definitely gay, I think. BTW, I'm so glad that Jake Gyllenhaal won the Best Performance and Best Kiss in the 2006 MTV Movie Awards.
One more thing about this movie: There are so many straight guys that loved BBM. Do they actually like to see the fact that one man can show affection to another man in a "macho" kind of way?
Incidentally, in Indonesia (Asia), the movie is only shown for two weeks, and it wasn't a commercial hit. But at least, it wasn't banned here. But I'm glad that I gave this movie a chance, it's such a special movie. Ang Lee, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal deserved to win Oscars. It's also good to know that there are many fellow BBM fan out there. Too bad, there is not so many BBM Merchandise to be owned. I think the action figures like this one should be officialy manufactured : http://www.geocities.com/brokebackcustoms/
Hi, Donna... Unfortunately, those merchandises are sold on eBay. The Paypal payment system can't authorized credit cards issued in my country, Indonesia, since there are some cases of credit card fraud here. I hope there will be something for sale at http://amazon.com, such as the 2007 calendar or the movie picture book. But anyway, thank you for your information.
This is a general response to this entire conversational thread.
Firstly: I think y'all are trying WAY too hard to interpret the motives of a couple of fictional characters.
Second: the themes of Brokeback Mountain have less to do with 'gay' or 'straight' than with two *persons* finding a connection and having it grow into something more.
Jack will, of course, seem a little more open to the whole idea of sex with another man, simply because of his more open personality, but in the end, I believe both he and Ennis are equals in their journey of discovery.
This is, I believe, due to the fact that the whole point of the movie concerns the crossing of barriers by two people who would never, in any other circumstance, have been given the opportunity to do so.
Stop angsting over their motivations and possible sexual orientations. Given the timeframe and characterizations, either or both of them could have been gay, bi, or just het with that one exception. Real life would have given them little room for experimentation.
I haven't seen one post in this thread that doesn't miss seeing the forest for the trees. Please, people... grow up.
Yes these were two straight men playing gay role. And thats the point! A straight man can only guess at what its like to be gay. Or go by what society's view of what a homosexual man is. This is no more different than a gay actor, who takes on a straight role. He can only go by society's view of straightness. Gay actors have been doing this since the begining of the movie industry! ie Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, Anthony Perkins ect. In fact straight actors playing gay roles is really a new convention. By tradition, no male actor of any stature would ever even consider playing a gay man. For fear of having it ruin his career. But I think Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaall have broken that myth down forever! But I do agree with you on your last point about mainstream America having never seen a masculine gay man in film. Bb Mt. proved that (macho) gay men do exist!
I AGREEE THAT JACK WAS GAY AND ENNIS WAS "STRAIGHT" AS HE THOUOGHT HE WAS. BUT THAT ONE NIGHT ON BROKEBACK HE JUST NEEDED SOME HUMAN CONTACT AND JACK WAS THERE AND WILLING AND ABLE. FROM THAT MOMENT ON ENNIS BEGAN THINKING ABOUT WHAT HAS HAPPENED. YOU NOTICED IN THE MORNING HE LEFT WITH A HUFF AND A CONFUSED ALMOST "SPITEFUL" LOOK ON HIS FACE. BUT JACK HAS WHAT I HAVE CALLED THAT" DREAMY" LOOK ON HIS FACE. HE WAS IN LOVE, AND ENNIS JUST DIDN'T KNOW IT, YET. THERE SEPERATION OF FOUR YEARS GAVE ENNIS A LOT OF TIME TO THINK OF WHAT HAPPENED AND HOW MUCH JACK REALLY CARED FOR HIM, TRYING TO HELP WASHING THE BLOOD OFF HIS FOREHEAD AFTER A SPILL FROM HIS HORSE, YOU COULD SEE THE LOVE AND CAREING IN JACKS FACE AND EYES. ENNIS WAS BROUGHT UP WITH THAT AWFUL THOUGHT OF THE RANCHER KILLED BECAUSE OF LIVING WITH ANOTHER MAN, HE WAS SCARED AND DID NOT WANT TO END UP LIKE THAT. AT ONE OF THEIR CAMPING TRIPS IN THEIR LATER YEARS THEY TALK ABOUT MAKEING IT WITH SOME WOMEN, JACK WITH A RANCHERS WIFE AND ENNIS WITH THE BARTENDER . I READ IN SOME REVIEW THAT THEY WERE JUST SAYING THAT TO NOT HURT EACH OTHERS FEELINGS. WITH ENNIS IT WAS OK FOR JACK TO FOOL AROUND WITH WOMEN AND ENNIS I DOUBT VERY MUCH HE WAS PUTTING THE "BLOCKS" TO CASSIE. AT THE END OF THE FANCY BALL JACK AND THE OTHER RANCHER WERE TALKING SMALL TALK. BUT, THEN THE RANCHER GOT ON TO JACK ABOUT GOING FISHING, HAVING SOME WISKEY SOME FUN. THEY BOTH KNEW. ENNIS'S LOVE FOR JACK WAS TRUE AND WHAT HE WANTED SO MUCH HE COULD NEVER HAVE. THE DEATH OF JACK WHETHER THE TIRE RIM OR THE TIRE IRONS IS LEFT UP TO YOU TO DECEIDE. IN THE END WITH ENNIS AT JACKS PARENTS HOUSE YOU SEE ( THE TWO SHIRTS )ENNIS JUST FOR A MOMENT HOLDING ON TO JACK AND AND WISHING HE WAS REALLY THERE. HE TOOK THE SHIRTS BECAUSE TOGETHER THEY UNITED ENNIS AND JACK WITH THEIR BLOOD INTERMINGLED . IF YOU NOTICED AT THE END THE SHIRTS WERE REVERSED, NOW IT WAS ENNIS'S TURN TO WATCH OVER JACK, NOW HE COULD EMBRACE JACK FOREVER. SORRY GUYS BUT THIS HAS ME IN TEARS SO I 'LL LEAVE FOR NOW. THANKS FOR LETTING ME EXPRESS MY FEELINGS , I SAW THE MOVIE 12 TIMES AT THE THEATER AND ABOUT MID WAY MOVIE 6 OR 7 I DO NOT KNOW HOW I GOT HOME. I LITTERLEY HAD AND EMOTIONAL BREAKDOWN. I LOST CONTROL AND MY EMOTIONS TOOK OVER. ALL I COULD DO IS CRY AND CRY. THIS MOVIE IS TOO EMOTIONAL FOR ME TO WATCH.I CRIED AT THE THEATER EVERY TIME. I BOUGHT SEATS FOR THE NIGHT OF THE LAST TWO SHOWINGS. I GREW UP IN THAT TIME PERIOD IN WHICH YOU GOT MARRIED AND HAD A FAMILY. WHETHER YOU KNEW YOU WERE GAY(I DID) OR NOT THAT IS WHAT WAS EXPECTED OF YOU. I DID AND AFTER 15 YEARS AND TWO SUICIDE ATTEMPTS I DIVORCED AND LIVED WITH MY TRUE LOVE FOR 11 YEARS. HE WAS MY "TRUE" AND ONLY LOVE. I MISS HIM TODAY AND LOVE HIM AS MUCH AS I ALWAYS HAVE AND WILL TILL THE DAY I DIE. I AM SO MUCH LIKE ENNIS , YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE TILL YOU LOSE IT.
THEY DID AN EXCELLENT PREFORMANCE OF TWO GAY MEN. NOT JUST THE SEX BUT THE LOVE SHOWN IN LITTLE WAYS THAT SOME MIGHT HAVE OVER LOOKED. THEY WERE GAY FOR THE MOVIE. ENNIS DESERVED THE OCCAR FOR BEST PERFORMANCE. HE DID NOT HAVE A LIVING PERSON TO GAGE HIS ROLL ON, HE HAD TO MAKE IT UP AS THEY WENT ON, JACK ALSO . HIS, ENNIS, PREFORMANCE, WHAT CAN I SAY BUT HEATH WAS ACTING, I BELIVED THAT HE WAS ENNIS DEL MAR. THERE WAS NO HEATH LEDGER ONLY ENNIS.HE WENT DEEP INSIDE HIMSELF AND PULLED ENNIS OUT FROM HIS SOUL. HE DID A PREFORMANCE OF A LIFE TIME AND AS TIME LOOKS BACK ON HIS ROLLS HE HAS AND WILL PLAY THIS WILL BE THE ONE HE WILL BE REMEMBERED FOR.THANK YOU ALL, ENNIS , JACK, ALMA, LUREEN FOR GIVING A PREFORMANCE THAT HAS MOVED PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD AND IF IT HAS CHANGED THE OPINION OF JUST ONE PERSON, YOUR WORK WAS WELL DONE. I KNOW YOU HAVE CHANGED MANY LIVES AND PEOPLES OPINION ON GAY MEN AND WOMEN. FROM ALL OF US WITH GREATFUL HEARTS AND MUCH LOVE WE BOW TO YOUR OSCAR WINNING PROFORMANCES.THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH.
UNLESS YOU HAVE WALKED IN MY SHOES, YOU CAN'T SAY THAT WE NEED TO GROW UP. WE ARE THE ONES THAT LIVE IN SMALL COMMUNITIES AND WATCH OUT FOR EACH OTHER. WE LIVE IN FEAR EVERY DAY. THE WHOLE POINT OF THE STORY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH TWO GAY MEN, OR TWO GAY WOMEN AND LET ME THROW THIS IN A MAN AND A WOMAN. THE WHOLE POINT OF THE MOVIE IS THE STORY LINE. THAT LOVE COMES IN MANY SHAPES AND FORMS. AND IF BY CHANCE YOU FALL IN LOVE , DEVOTED LOVE LIKE JACK AND ENNIS, YOU ARE TRULLY BLESSED AND BE THANKFUL FOR WHOMEVER THAT PERSON IS. MALE , FEMALE. IT DOESN'T MATTER. IT IS THE LOVE THAT IS THE STORY. JUST LOVE.
You missed something in the movie, Andrew. When Jack said he was having a fling with the local man's wife, he was actually talking about a fling with the local man himself, initiated when he was invited to go camping with him after the men and their two wives went out dancing. Jack also went to Mexico to get some, when he couldn't hook up with Ennis. And that's the problem with this movie. There is no true or meaningful love between these two men - Jack and Ennis - and one is never made to feel any bond between them. In my opinion, they are gay and find each other. I don't see evidence of any real love.
I like what you posted. Actually, Jack did comment that he had an affair with "another man's wife", but really it was with the man himself. (The cowboy from the party with the annoying wife) Ennis was ok with Jack sleeping with women, but had he admitted to sleeping with another man, that would have broken his heart. I think Jack was protecting Ennis' feelings.
As a matter of clarification. The "fling" that Jack alludes to is not really with a local man's wife. If you listen closely, Jack is describing the wife of the guy he was talking to outside the dancehall in Texas. That same guy invites Jack to spend time with him in a cabin---just the two of them. Later in the movie, when Enis first meets Jack's parents, Jack's father alludes to some new guy who has replaced Enis in Jack's talk about moving back to the family ranch and putting it into shape. I think most people believe that this new man is the guy from outside the dance-hall--the same guy that Jack has been spending weekends in the cabin with. He turns the guy into a female in his conversation with Enis so that Enis is not jealous.
This phenomenon is known as using "weekend pronouns, " changing a "he" to a "she" when one is forced to refer to one's private life. is a technique often used by gay guys.
You use the labels "gay" and "bisexual," but in this context they may be bit misleading. There are many men like Enis and Jack who are married, largely because of social convention and social pressures. They function in a strictly physiological sense as straight men, but their inner drives and emotional pining may be for men. I am not sure such individuals should be called bisexual, but I think that Enis and Jack are such individuals. Certainly Jack is, by virtue of the fact that we see him try to pick a guy up in a bar, and by the fact that he says that his marriage can be phoned in. One definitely gets the impression that he and Lureen are only superficially married.
Perhaps Ennis is a bisexual, but I doubt it. The intensity of his feelings for Jack, and his ambivalent emotional interactions with Alma, don't support the notion. I think both guys are men who may have been unaware of their gay nature, married because they were supposed to, and spent the rest of their lives trying to reconcile their social situation with their biological/emotional needs. To my way of thinking, they were always gay.
They are both quite gay, but they married women because that's what they thought they were supposed to do. When Jack mentions the "affair" he is having with another man's wife, he is lying - because he knows Ennis will accept this story without jealousy. It's later revealed by Jack's father that Jack wanted to live with another man; this was clearly the same man with the beard that Jack met socially with their two wives. When the man with the beard suggests to Jack that they should go camping together, it is clearly a come-on. It can easily be inferred from the story that Jack had a deep affair with this man, and that's what got him killed. But he couldn't tell Ennis - Ennis could handle Jack's infidelity with his wife, or another woman, but news of an affair with another man would have enraged him.
I don't believe Jack and Ennis were bisexual - many gay men of their generation married women because that's what their families and society expected them to do - sometimes, they did so without even knowing they were gay. If you think about it, you will realize that all people in our society grow up assuming they are heterosexual, until some of us realize that we are not. Some, who just aren't that bright, don't realize it until much later in life. Still others - especially in the time and locale of this story - like Ennis - know absolutely nothing about "gay life" and think of themselves as being straight, even if they aren't.
The bottom line is - they are gay, because neither was able to extract the emotional satisfaction from their wives that they got from each other.
I really love your interpretation of Ennis. I fell in love with the way he loved Jack even though he never said it. He was lonely for Jack. Jack wanted to love Ennis with everything but Ennis would not let him all the way in. That was the most heartbreaking for me.
Just a reply in general to this thread: if being gay means that they liked having sex with men, then of course they were both gay. Did they behave in a sterotypically effeminate way, of course not, but not all gay men behave in an effeminate way. Not all gay men are open about their sexuality either. That doesn't change their sexual orientation: They both liked having sex with men. Ennis grabs Jack and passionately kisses him. And Jack is even more animated towards Ennis. The fact that two straight actors are playing these characters is not even relevant. For all we know one or both of them might be gay, just not openly. Bottom line, some people have an idea of what a gay man is and these two characters do not fit that idea, but that idea is more than likely just a stereotype of what being gay means when in fact there is as much diversity among gay men as there are among straight men. Not all straight men watch sports and drink beer. Not all gay men are interior designers and hairdressers.
And many gay men STILL marry because it is expected of them. One thing people seeing Brokeback need to remember is that the tensions and torturous situations described in the film have not disappeared. Although there are many more openly gay men in the US now then there were in 1964 through the 70s, there are still many men in Ennis and Jack's situation today.