By Jessica Gelzer, 17, Granada Hills Charter HS
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Jessica encourages us to be more open-minded, even if we’re a little uncomfortable.

Tears built up inside of me after I saw Brokeback Mountain, the award-winning film about the forbidden romance between two gay cowboys. Actors Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal portrayed a love with as strong a chemistry as any other movie I’ve seen. My heart broke as they were forced to hide their passionate kisses from the intolerant world of 1960s Wyoming. It was no surprise that director Ang Lee won a Golden Globe and an Oscar.

After seeing the movie, there was so much I wanted to talk about—the characters, the romance, the family relationships. But none of my friends had seen it.

Why not? It has long close-ups of Hollywood hotties, male and female, and had received tons of hype.

I then asked my boyfriend, Daniel, to see the movie with me, but he was reluctant. One of his friends pretended, as a joke, that he had seen it and his friends gave him a hard time for seeing a movie about gay cowboys. So Daniel said that he’d see the movie but he wouldn’t tell anyone.

I started to wonder why it was such a big deal seeing love between two men. Watching Brokeback doesn’t mean a guy would become homosexual. As a female, I can watch movies with big car crashes and I’m not considered a lesbian. Do high school guys shelter themselves from portrayals of homosexuality, out of the mere fear of being considered gay?

Why is ‘gay’ considered bad?

I have always cringed when the word "gay" is used as a slang word for "stupid." My sister enlightened me early on that this substitution is a form of discrimination. Was there some connection to that form of homophobia and this newly developed "Brokebackphobia?" I interviewed about 20 high school guys to see whether they had seen the movie or planned to.

"No!" said Granada Hills Charter High School senior Ben Cho, who then laughed. "The movie is focusing on a gay issue. I don’t want to support gays. I am religious. I’m a gentleman."

When asked, he said that he would see the movie with a girlfriend.

Others agreed with Ben.

"The only reason I would see it is if a chick wanted to see it," said 12th-grader Bryan Mier. Since this movie could be considered a chick flick (it’s a love story), I could understand perhaps why guys wouldn’t be interested. Most guys see chick flicks only if they have a girlfriend "drag" them to see it (I know you guys secretly enjoy them).

I then asked Bryan whether he would tell his guy friends if he saw it.

"Only to joke around about it," Bryan said.

Volkan Uzunoglu, an 11th-grader at Granada Hills said that he might see it but, "I would continue to call them [gays] queer or make fun of them between my friends. I don’t hate them, but I don’t understand, you know? The movie wouldn’t change my mind."

Granada Hills student Fabian Fernandez, who is gay, said maybe straight guys can’t relate.

"I understand, because I don’t want to see two lesbians. I understand it’s not their thing," Fabian said.

One of the reasons I heard for not seeing the movie was that it was just not appealing, as cowboy movies in general are not that popular.  

"When you know it’s about two gay cowboys that go off into the mountains to have sex, why would I want to see it?" said a guy who didn’t want me to use his name.

It annoyed me that the extremely simplified plot he described sounds like a cheesy porno flick his homophobic imagination conjured up.

Brokeback Mountain is more than "two gay cowboys." It’s a love story as tragic as Romeo and Juliet that causes as many tears as Titanic and it convinced me of the movie’s slogan, "Love is a force of nature."

Unfortunately it appears that hate is a force of nature as well. While writing this article I searched MySpace for opinions about the movie. I discovered lots of Brokeback Mountain fan groups, as well as a group that ridiculed them. That group’s mission statement:

"This is a group for those that oppose the attempt of leftist Hollywood media to influence mainstream pop culture in a direction the majority does not wish to go. Brokeback Mountain is a portrayal of an unnatural, disturbing phenomenon called homosexuality. It is not our purpose to offend but to counter the attacks of the left in a manner just as appalling."

If these people think this is an "unnatural, disturbing phenomenon," they are blinded by their fear, religion, ignorance and/or homophobia. Homosexuality has been around forever.

Another MySpace group says that Brokeback Mountain ruins the heroic portrayal of cowboys.
"If homos wanna run around waving their rainbow flags that’s fine, do it in California or New York. But for the love of God don’t ruin such a fine American tradition as the cowboy movie!!!" the MySpace page said.

Fortunately these pages are just a group of about 11 discriminatory friends, compared to the multiple fan clubs with more than 1,000 members. The fan-group leaders tend to be a teenage girl or a high school guy who says he’s "not sure" of his orientation.

At least some guys are more open-minded

Thankfully, not all guys are afraid of the reality of homosexuality.

"I think a lot of guys are still unsure of themselves, so they think they’re being judged by seeing it or admitting to wanting to see it," said 16-year-old Marc Snetiker, a Granada Hills student and a big movie buff. "As long as you’re comfortable, it’s just a movie and a topic not talked about much. Topics can’t hurt you."

"Movies like that raise curiosity so people want to see it," said junior Jonathan Mendoza of Granada Hills. "It’s not like after seeing it you’re going to become Liberace."

It is reassuring to realize that not all straight males think that they’ll be criticized for seeing a movie with a controversial topic like Brokeback Mountain.

I relate to being uncomfortable. I understand ignorance. But what I don’t comprehend is the unwillingness to see a movie that is about something, like homosexuality, which is a lifestyle of many Americans today.

The men portrayed onscreen by Ledger and Gyllenhaal should have the same opportunity to be represented in the movies as straight men. It is socially acceptable to have movies portraying men as rapists, drug addicts and murderers, but not a love story that happens to be between two men. The controversy over homosexuality cannot hide in the closet any longer and neither can those who are afraid to face it.