The Brokeback Book: From Story to Cultural Phenomenon

Overview


An American Western made by a Taiwanese director and filmed in Canada, Brokeback Mountain was a global cultural phenomenon even before it became the highest grossing gay-themed drama in film history. Few films have inspired as much passion and debate, or produced as many contradictory responses, from online homage to late-night parody. In this wide-ranging and incisive collection, writers, journalists, scholars, and ordinary viewers explore the film and Annie Proulx’s original story as well as their ...
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Overview


An American Western made by a Taiwanese director and filmed in Canada, Brokeback Mountain was a global cultural phenomenon even before it became the highest grossing gay-themed drama in film history. Few films have inspired as much passion and debate, or produced as many contradictory responses, from online homage to late-night parody. In this wide-ranging and incisive collection, writers, journalists, scholars, and ordinary viewers explore the film and Annie Proulx’s original story as well as their ongoing cultural and political significance. The contributors situate Brokeback Mountain in relation to gay civil rights, the cinematic and literary Western, the Chinese value of forbearance, male melodrama, and urban and rural working lives across generations and genders.
 
The Brokeback Book builds on earlier debates by novelist David Leavitt, critic Daniel Mendelsohn, producer James Schamus, and film reviewer Kenneth Turan with new and noteworthy interpretations of the Brokeback phenomenon, the film, and its legacy. Also appearing in print for the first time is Michael Silverblatt’s interview with Annie Proulx about the story she wrote and the film it became.
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Editorial Reviews

Choice

"This volume will serve as a primary research tool for not those interested in the film or its broader context."—G. R. Butters Jr., Choice

— G. R. Butters Jr.

Gay & Lesbian Review

"The fact that the Brokeback Book evoked so many questions about same-sex representations on-screen and their effects on viewers demonstrates the worth of this volume, whose essays offer considerable merits. The debates are clearly destined to continue for some time to come."—Matthew Hays, Gay & Lesbian Review

— Matthew Hays

Choice - G. R. Butters Jr.

"This volume will serve as a primary research tool for not those interested in the film or its broader context."—G. R. Butters Jr., Choice
Gay & Lesbian Review - Matthew Hays

"The fact that the Brokeback Book evoked so many questions about same-sex representations on-screen and their effects on viewers demonstrates the worth of this volume, whose essays offer considerable merits. The debates are clearly destined to continue for some time to come."—Matthew Hays, Gay & Lesbian Review
Ang Lee

“There’s a Chinese saying, that you throw a brick to attract jade. So it is that the most precious thing about filmmaking—the reactions of the viewers—is entirely out of the hands of the filmmakers. We set out to make one film with Brokeback Mountain, and in return, we got an overwhelming number of reactions that we never expected from moviegoers who saw themselves, or the other, or both, reflected on the big screen. There is a whole range of Brokeback Mountains, many of which are explored in the fascinating, sometimes contradictory, and always passionate essays in this book.”—Ang Lee, Academy Award–winning director of Brokeback Mountain

Robert Sklar

“Enlightening and provocative, The Brokeback Book is an outstanding collection of personal and scholarly essays. It’s an indispensable guide to a cultural milestone of our time.”—Robert Sklar, author of Movie-Made America: A Cultural History of American Movies

Christopher Kelly

“This extraordinary collection allows us to understand Brokeback Mountain as a social phenomenon, a revisionist Western, a classic love story, and a deeply transformative experience for millions of gay and lesbian viewers. The best movies do more than entertain—they alter the course of cultural history. The Brokeback Book shows us how and why Brokeback Mountain achieved just that.”—Christopher Kelly, film critic for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Texas Monthly

Thomas Waugh

“This book itself is a cultural phenomenon. William Handley has assembled a stellar cast of hard-riding contributors and a rich array of takes on the story, film, and ‘event.’ Two dozen essays and a multitude of points of view—from Marxist to genderqueer to creative insider, shaped both in the immediacy of the film’s release and with analytic hindsight—demonstrate eloquently why American culture won’t know how to quit this momentous narrative for many generations to come.”—Thomas Waugh, Research Chair in Sexual Representation and Documentary, Concordia University, Montreal Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema

Kirkus Reviews

Brokeback Mountain—film or phenomenon?

Editor Handley (English/Univ. of Southern California; Marriage, Violence and the Nation in the American Literary West, 2002, etc.) culls a selection of articles grappling with the import and impact ofBrokeback Mountain, the "gay cowboy" movie that portrayed the doomed relationship between Wyoming ranch hands and, for a time, dominated cultural conversation. The pieces run the gamut from jargon-heavy academic evaluations to personal testimonies, and include an interview with Annie Proulx, whose short story formed the basis for the film. A few points recur: Was Brokeback a gay narrative or a universal love story? How authentically did the filmmakers portray the rough-and-tumble Wyoming milieu? Was the film a watershed moment for the portrayal of gay life on film or a cynically calculated sop to traditional values? Who's cuter, Heath or Jake? The essays grapple with these questions to varyingly compelling degrees. Readers without a background in gender studies may balk at the more densely academic essays, rife with lit-class lingo like "queering the landscape" and much ado about "paradigms." For theBrokebackenthusiast, the book offers much to savor, as the pieces are uniformly passionate and chockfull of contextualizing information and analysis, but the general film fan will likely find this all a bit much to take on.

A diverse consideration of a landmark film, but repetitive and hampered by too many ivory-tower harangues.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803226647
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/2011
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 1,346,502
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


William R. Handley is an associate professor of English at the University of Southern California. He is the author of Marriage, Violence, and Nation in the American Literary West and the coeditor, with Nathaniel Lewis, of True West: Authenticity and the American West, available in a Bison Books edition.
 
Contributors: Martin Aguilera, Calvin Bedient, Colin Carman, Alan Dale, Jon Davies, Chris Freeman, Judith Halberstam, William R. Handley, Gregory Hinton, Andrew Holleran, Alex Hunt, David Leavitt, Mun-Hou Lo, Susan McCabe, Daniel Mendelsohn, James Morrison, Vanessa Osborne, Annie Proulx, James Schamus, Michael Silverblatt, Adam Sonstegard, Noah Tsika, Kenneth Turan, Patricia Nell Warren, and David Weiss.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations x

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: The Pasts and Futures of a Story and a Film William R. Handley 1

Part 1 Gay or Universal Story? Initial Debates and Cultural Contexts

1 Men in Love: Is Brokeback Mountain a Gay Film David Leavitt 27

2 An Affair to Remember Daniel Mendelsohn 31

3 Response to "An Affair to Remember" James Schamus 39

4 The Magic Mountain Andrew Holleran 42

5 Backs Unbroken: Ang Lee, Forbearance, and the Closet Mun-Hou Lo 52

Part 2 Miles to Go and Promises to Keep: Homophobic Culture and Gay Civil Rights

6 Back to the Ranch Ag'in: Brokeback Mountain and Gay Civil Rights James Morrison 81

7 Breaking No Ground: Why Crash Won, Why Brokeback Lost, and How the Academy Chose to Play It Safe Kenneth Turan 101

8 "Jack, I Swear": Some Promises to Gay Culture from Mainstream Hollywood Chris Freeman 103

9 "Better Two Than One": The Shirts from Brokeback Mountain Gregory Hinton 118

10 American Eden: Nature, Homophobic Violence, and the Social Imaginary Colin Carman 123

11 West of the Closet, Fear on the Range Alex Hunt 137

Part 3 Adapting "Brokeback Mountain," Queering the Western

12 Interview between Michael Silverblatt and Annie Proulx 153

13 In the Shadow of the Tire Iron Alan Dale 163

14 Adapting Annie Proulx's Story to the Mainstream Multiplex Adam Sonstegard 179

15 Not So Lonesome Cowboys: The Queer Western Judith Halberstam 190

Part 4 Public Responses and Cultural Appropriations

16 "One Dies, the Other Doesn't": Brokeback and the Blogosphere Noah Tsika 205

17 Making Sense of the Brokeback Paraphenomenon David Weiss 229

18 Alberta, Authenticity, and Queer Erasure Jon Davies 249

Part 5 Scenes of Work and Experience in the Rural West

19 Real Gay Cowboys and Brokeback Mountain Patricia Nell Warren 267

20 Marx on the Mountain: Pleasure and the Laboring Body Vanessa Osborne 283

21 Personal Borders Martin Aguilera 299

Part 6 Sympathy, Melodrama, and Passion

22 Mother Twist: Brokeback Mountain and Male Melodrama Susan McCabe 309

23 Passion and Sympathy in Brokeback Mountain Calvin Bedient 321

Selected Brokeback Bibliography 351

Works Cited 353

Contributors 371

Index 377

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