Violence and Invisibility in Brokeback Mountain

In the case study section of Understanding Film Theory, there is a quote about Brokeback Mountain (2005), in which the author states “I am unaware if a single review of Brokeback calling the leads what they are—a sad statement on the invisibility of bisexual experience and the level of biphobia in both the mainstream and gay media.” (196). This quote struck me as interesting when I first read it, and after watching almost all of Brokeback in class, it is easy to contextualize it. The idea of “invisibility” of the bisexual experience was interesting to me. Most obviously, Ennis’ resistance to seeing Jack anywhere but Brokeback points to the need for secrecy in order to have any kind of relationship.

Additionally, however, I thought the incorporation of the masculine identity spoke to the invisibility and taboo nature of two men engaging in a relationship. The use of violence as a signifier of masculinity was especially interesting. To me, this also points to how masculine and queer theory can be intertwined. During the Thanksgiving scene at Jack and Lureen’s house, after turning the TV back on to the football game, Lureen’s father asks Jack “don’t you want your boy to grow up to be a man?” The necessity for sports, especially a sport that lends itself to violence, as a qualification for being a man struck me as interesting. It was an easy way to categorize Lureen’s father as a stereotypical heterosexual man, and thus an antagonist to Jack’s alternative sexual preferences. At the conclusion of the scene, Jack is able to regain control of his house. The most telling part of their power dynamic came at the very end, when Jack took over carving the turkey from Lureen’s father.

Furthermore, the allusions to violence between Jack and Ennis were interesting. Whenever they were intimate, they each faced an inner struggle that externalized itself in near violent rages. Even when they hugged, both Jack and Ennis had a tight grip and their bodies became noticeably stiffer. This violent, animalistic nature juxtaposed against the fact that they were two men falling in love. The tenseness and anger trapped in their bodies points to the taboo nature of their relationship; they both know that what they are doing is not considered right by the hetero-normative society they live in. At one point this violence does boil over when Jack lassos Ennis; their ensuing playful wrestling ends with Ennis punching Jack. Thus, while the movie is not overtly brutal, the tenseness and hidden rage within Jack and Ennis points to a certain type of violence. This violence demonstrates the inner turmoil of the characters as they attempt to reconcile with the near invisibility of bisexuality in their world.

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