That is So Brokeback

How successful a movie is can easily be judged by how much of it is assimilated into our daily lingo. For example, any gravity-defying acrobatic moves are called Matrix moves; anyone doing an impersonation of Jack Nicholson saying, “Here’s Johnny!�? is acting like a psycho; and of course, all things gay can now be summed up by just one word — Brokeback.

There is an Oscar-winning film about homosexuality and forbidden love, with its leading pretty-faced artistes garnering critical recognition for their acting abilities. I’m talking about The Hours, not Brokeback Mountain. Nicole Kidman won the Best Actress award at the Oscars for putting on a great performance and a prosthetic nose, and The Hours was also nominated in eight other categories, including Best Supporting Actress (Julian Moore), Best Supporting Actor (Ed Harris), and Best Director (Stephen Daldry).

Personally I find The Hours deals with the issue of homosexuality better than Brokeback Mountain, so I’m quite surprised when Brokeback Mountain made such a huge stir when The Hours did not. The Hours skilfully shows the societal pressure faced by homosexuals and their internal struggle to reconcile with who they are and what the society expects them to be, by linking the stories of three lesbians from different eras intricately through the book Mrs. Dalloway written by Virginia Woolf.

Brokeback Mountain, on the other hand, is not really a film about homosexuality. Rather, it is a love story with gays and breathtaking scenery as its backdrop. Perhaps this is why Brokeback Mountain generated so much talk when it was released. Homosexual relationships are portrayed as normal, which can be hard for a lot of people to accept.

I hold a liberal view of homosexual relationships, based on the notion that people should be free to do what they want — provided they don’t cause harm to others or themselves. I don’t see why two people who are in love with each other shouldn’t be allowed to be together. Conservatives will always equate homosexuals to paedophiles or other sexual predators, stalking young boys at public swimming pools and toilets; but this is equivalent of labelling all heterosexuals as spouse abusers.

That said, I will most probably be very sad, if not outraged, if my kids turned out to be gay. I guess I’m as hypocritical as many other Singaporeans. We think it’s a good idea to have opposition MPs in the Parliament — as long as our constituencies are not run by the opposition parties.

It’s not so much about losing face or bringing disgrace to the family; my children should be allowed to pursue their own happiness, and not based purely on what others expect of them; after all, there bound to be people out there, who would disagree no matter what you do. Rather, it’s about a basic evolutionary instinct to have offspring and pass on my genes. As I have argued before, homosexuality is an evolutionary dead end.

As films about homosexuality go, my personal favourite is Saving Face. It’s a light-hearted romantic comedy about how a successful American-Chinese surgeon who is a lesbian and her single mother who got pregnant dealt with the cultural pressure and expectations.

However, the one gay scene that made my eyes welled up with tears is not from any of the above movies, but from the movie V for Vendetta. It was the part when Natalie Portman was locked up by V in a prison cell and the life story of Valerie, a lady who was imprisoned in the cell next to V at Larkhill Camp, was recounted on reused toilet paper.

It is strange that my life should end in such a terrible place, but for three years I had roses and apologized to nobody.

What I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that though I do not know you and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you. I love you, with all my heart. I love you.

16 April 2006 · Media

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