Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

Polysemy and Cultural Context

Ennis Del Mar shares with Jack Twist the story of witnessing two adult men living together and being beaten to death. In their deaths, he suspects his father’s involvement. Besides focusing on polysemy, Brokeback Mountain engages the audience in interpreting messages within social boundaries. It highlights how this applies to cultural works like the film, emphasizing the importance of cultural context in understanding audience reception. The film challenges traditional cowboy ideologies and explores the destructive impacts of Christianity, heteronormativity, patriarchy, and hypermasculinity on identity. The film portrays Ennis’s emotional struggle, haunted by childhood memories that taught him to hate homosexuality and suppress his feelings. The film’s opening scene depicts Ennis’s isolation and hypermasculine facade, emphasizing antisocial behavior and his loneliness.

Forbidden Love

In Brokeback Mountain, tragedy and pain stem from Jack and Ennis’s forbidden love for each other. The story explores the universal theme of forbidden love beyond just a gay cowboy romance. Using cognitive narratology, we can understand cultural worldviews and their role in interpreting the text. Worldviews, evaluations, genres, audience value attributions, and underlying semantic conflicts shape Ennis and Jack’s romantic relationship development while working as shepherds. They find freedom and escape in their love but face dangers in openly being homosexual in the West, leading to a painful separation. Furthermore, the film humanizes the characters, allowing the audience to empathize with their challenges and emotions in a same-sex relationship.

Ennis Del Mar shares with Jack Twist the story of witnessing two adult men living together and being beaten to death. In their deaths, he suspects his father’s involvement. Besides focusing on polysemy, Brokeback Mountain engages the audience in interpreting messages within social boundaries. It highlights how this applies to cultural works like the film, emphasizing the importance of cultural context in understanding audience reception. The film challenges traditional cowboy ideologies and explores the destructive impacts of Christianity, heteronormativity, patriarchy, and hypermasculinity on identity. The film portrays Ennis’s emotional struggle, haunted by childhood memories that taught him to hate homosexuality and suppress his feelings. The film’s opening scene depicts Ennis’s isolation and hypermasculine facade, emphasizing antisocial behavior and his loneliness.

Struggling Against Oppression

In Brokeback Mountain, tragedy and pain stem from Jack and Ennis’s forbidden love for each other. The story explores the universal theme of forbidden love beyond just a gay cowboy romance. Using cognitive narratology, we can understand cultural worldviews and their role in interpreting the text. Worldviews, evaluations, genres, audience value attributions, and underlying semantic conflicts shape Ennis and Jack’s romantic relationship development while working as shepherds. They find freedom and escape in their love but face dangers in openly being homosexual in the West, leading to a painful separation. Furthermore, the film humanizes the characters, allowing the audience to empathize with their challenges and emotions in a same-sex relationship.

After several years had passed, both Jack and Ennis got married. However, their passion for each other reignited when they reunited, leading to a secret fishing trip. Ennis’s wife noticed their affection but chose not to confront them. The film explores how both characters struggle against the influence of their fathers, who oppressed and humiliated them. Despite their efforts, they find it challenging to find satisfaction and meaning in their lives and marriages. The film depicts various groups of people living their lives and reflects the challenges and complexities of homosexual relationships in society. Ennis, uncomfortable with his same-sex desires, rationalizes their relationship as a one-time exception to his normative heterosexual circumstances.

Inner Conflicts and Societal Expectations

Derived from a brief tale by Annie Proulx, Brokeback Mountain centers on the affection shared between two cowboys. They wrestle with expectations of masculinity and societal norms. The film delves into the character’s inner conflicts and their struggle to reconcile their feelings with societal expectations. It has received praise for breaking away from typical gay character representations in Hollywood and criticism for reinforcing conservative portrayals of gay men as tragic figures. Themes of love, masculinity, the influence of father figures, and conformity are central to the story. The film offers a complex exploration of human relationships, inviting the audience to project their definitions of love onto the characters. It sparks public discussions about the representation of love in the film. Therefore, Brokeback Mountain is a poignant love story that evokes compassion and empathy for the characters as they navigate their relationship challenges in a society that is not fully accepting of them. The symbolism challenges traditional ideologies, questioning the purity and meaning of societal norms.

Brokeback Mountain stands out because of its intense emotional focus on the characters Ennis and Jack. In-depth, it goes beyond mere melodrama or a simple “gay cowboy film” by delving into the individual lives and struggles of the characters. The specificity of the film’s portrayal makes it more universal and relatable, allowing the audience to empathize and connect with the conflicts and desires of the characters. Regardless of the genre typology analysis, which further enhances the evaluation and discussion of the cultural world of the story, the film defies traditional Western genre conventions by breaking away from heteronormative and patriarchal norms. As the story unfolds, Jack becomes more accepting of his gay identity, while Ennis remains haunted by the fear of violence and societal judgment towards homosexuality. The film highlights the bitter reality faced by the LGBTQ+ community and references incidents of discrimination and violence in real life.

Lee’s Empathy Towards Characters

In a specific part of the story, Jack embraces his gay identity more willingly and seeks comfort in the arms of a male prostitute in Mexico. The narrative explores the complexity of human nature and how society accommodates various needs, including those fulfilled by prostitution. Meanwhile, Ennis feels afraid and trapped by his desires. He believes he must hide his true self to fit into societal norms, leading to a heartbreaking moment where he distances himself from Jack and returns to his hypermasculine facade to protect himself from the truth. The film also offers nuanced portrayals of Jack’s and Ennis’s wives, presenting them as victims of their husbands’ hidden desires. It delves into their struggles and challenges as they try to accept their husbands’ hidden desires. In this regard, it draws a connection between elements of melodrama and Confucian ethics, highlighting how Ennis’s sacrifice aligns with the concept of patience in Eastern philosophy. Emotionally, the film resonates with the audience as it explores themes of unfulfilled desires and collective resilience.

Ennis falls deeply in love with Jack, whom he considers his soulmate. However, societal norms force him to harden his heart and suppress his feelings. Ennis reacts aggressively to protect himself from heartbreak when Jack tries to play around. He uses anger to mask his pain. Known for directing films with different eras and settings, Ang Lee shows genuine empathy towards his characters. He respects their entire story arc, even the lonely conclusion. The film attracts a subculture of female viewers with its portrayal of male-to-male love, similar to contemporary Asian subcultures and erotic fan fiction. However, it deviates from the source material concerning the development of empathetic female characters and the characters’ ages. Jack appears relatively content with his deception about his gay identity as he accepts himself and strives to fulfill his increasing desires, boosting his self-worth. Assisted by his financial security, Ennis wrestles with anxiety and shame due to the fear of failure and his role as the family breadwinner.

Ennis visits Jack’s parents in the film’s closing scene, and unspoken emotions and memories are heart-wrenching. A glimpse of Jack’s childhood bedroom shows his struggles to accept his true feelings. Flashback scenes leave room for interpretation, whether they represent Ennis’s perceptions or actual events. The film delves into various cultural perspectives of time and space, emphasizing their influence on the interpretation of the story. The Western perspective views time as linear, while the Eastern perspective sees space and time as interconnected and cyclical. It focuses on individual rights and collective responsibilities. The image of Ennis against the backdrop of Fourth of July fireworks evokes various readings, including the potential for subverting traditional norms.

Degeneration and Escape

The narrative development can be seen as a degeneration from a Western perspective, while the space represents an escape from restrictive norms and domestic life. The story challenges existing norms but does not provide resolution, leaving the characters as outsiders and resulting in a tragic plot with elements of homelessness and internal conflict. In the film, Ennis is always juxtaposed with fireworks displays. While the scenes can be seen positively, symbolizing American ideals of solid masculinity, Ennis’s gay identity adds complexity and challenges traditional markers. From a Taoist perspective, Brokeback Mountain serves as a harmonious idyll. Jack’s relationship with Ennis plays a crucial role, and ethics related to destiny come into play. The film subverts the typical portrayal of American cowboys, presenting Ennis as an embodiment of American values despite being different. The film proposes a study of gay representation and worldviews through a comparative analysis of Western and Eastern epistemology.

Ennis’s psychological condition is deeply explored, focusing on his suppressed anger and self-hatred due to societal norms of heteronormativity and hypermasculinity. His struggle represents a classic American experience, particularly the image of hypermasculine cowboys. The film depicts Jack and Ennis’s strong desire, love, and inability to control their feelings. Furthermore, the film also highlights the audience’s desire to see them together, free from social constraints. Jack’s death and the associated shame prevent Ennis from pursuing his dreams with Jack, causing conflicting emotions and a torn soul whenever they are together.

Tragedy of Forbidden Love

On the other hand, how does Brokeback Mountain deconstruct traditional notions of patriarchy and hypermasculinity? Ennis and Jack, viewed as outsiders due to their sexuality, become subjects of societal interrogation and challenge norms of masculinity. The film maintains its subversive edge by showing moments where they assert their masculinity, as fully embracing their gay identities could be perceived as emasculating. Oppressive ideologies also impact those they love, especially Alma, who suffers from living a lie and feeling unloved by Ennis. Alma’s confrontation triggers Ennis’s pent-up shame and anger, leading to a cathartic emotional release.

Influenced by Christian, heteronormative, patriarchal, and hypermasculine ideologies, Ennis’s repressed state has internalized fear and shame within him. Meeting Jack awakens suppressed desires, resulting in a dual existence where he can be his true self on Brokeback Mountain but not in the real world. The film considers the possibility of a flashback from Jack’s perspective, recalling innocent moments with Ennis or serving as Lee’s commentary on the potential pain within their relationship. The mention of Cassie’s fate highlights Ennis’s fear of exposure and its consequences, leading to his inability to form close relationships.

The Symbolism of the Closet

Furthermore, Ennis’s PTSD emerges due to his traumatic past and cowboy conditioning. His anger and paranoia reflect his constant fear and torment of violence as an outsider. The visit to Jack’s parents highlights Jack’s oppressive upbringing. In the film’s closing scene, the closet symbolizes their hidden love and the pain it causes, representing how oppressive ideologies force natural self-expression to become a secret. However, the closet also becomes a sacred space for moments of freedom and cherished memories.

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