After reading Brokeback Mountain, I was interested in how the book portrays male homosexuality. I’m interested in the portrayal of male homosexuality in the book and the film connected to some recent articles about The Golden Globes that took place this past Sunday night.
When The Golden Globes nominations were announced, there was quite a bit of backlash against James Corden’s nomination for his role in the film The Prom. For those who haven’t seen The Prom, Corden plays a gay Broadway actor who goes to a small town with some other Broadway performers to help a high school girl go to prom with her girlfriend. The backlash surrounding Corden’s nomination had to do with the fact that he is a straight man playing a gay man and, therefore, many argued, played his gay character in an “‘offensive'” and “‘stereotypical'” way (Zac Ntim, Insider Magazine).
I have several questions relating to this criticism. Yes, Corden does play his character in a flamboyant way that calls upon inaccurate stereotypes of gay men, and it probably would have been better if the part had been played by someone who identifies as gay. However, many people who are critical of Corden’s performance fail to mention that the director, Ryan Murphy, is a gay identifying man. It seems as though Murphy’s role as the director of Corden’s performance should place some of the criticism on Murphy or should make people think about what it really means to portray a gay man in a film.
Looping back to Brokeback Mountain, we talked a bit in class about the connection between “masculinity” and how it relates to the images of cowboys. A cowboy in America is someone thought to be strong and weather-beaten. These are stereotypical characteristics linked to the idea of “masculinity.” Proulx does not portray Jack and Ennis as flamboyantly gay men. Instead, they appear to embody those stereotypical “masculine” traits that one might not associate with homosexuality. These same traits seem to be echoed in the bits of the film I’ve seen.
The film was well-received when it first came out in 2005. I wonder if it was easier for audiences to swallow because Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal are straight men and because they didn’t act flamboyant like James Corden. I would think that even though these films are separated by many years now that people would have been just as upset that two straight men were playing two gay men. However, since the portrayals are so different, one considered more “masculine” than the other, maybe viewers didn’t see anything wrong with Ledger and Gyllenhaal’s performances because they don’t act “un-masculine.”
As you can see, I don’t really have any answers to my questions, but I do think it’s essential to think about what should be considered the “correct” way to portray male homosexuality in books and films. It seems as though there should not be one right way, other than to have someone who identifies as whatever one is trying to portray, play that part.