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Film Threat 

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The reactions from Salt Lake City’s gay community are rife with that unmistakable combination of sorrow and low-level disdain: Larry Miller’s apparent decision to pull Brokeback Mountain from his precious, family-oriented Megaplex 17 in Sandy is unfortunate.

Reactions from the Deseret Morning News’ righteous legions of letter writers are full of that unmistakable combination of indignation and naiveté. They praise Miller’s “moral conviction” and give him a “big thank you.” As if homosexuals will somehow cease to exist if no one sees this “immoral” movie.

Enough already. And, as justifiable as all the hype surrounding this film in fact is, it’s safe to say most of us have heard enough about “the gay-cowboy movie.

Enough already, because grabbing hold of a book, film or any other work of art solely for purposes of a political agenda is one tired song that should, at long last, be put to rest.

For conservatives who worry that the film condones the homosexual “lifestyle,” it’s an exercise that strains to show cause and effect where there is none. Heath Ledger is one mighty fine hunk of an Australian film star, but there are some feats even his sexual prowess has yet to accomplish. Namely, turning a whole movie theater full of men into raging homosexuals. The legions of women who admire Ledger know where they stand, don’t they?

For gays and lesbians who cling to the film as a vehicle of acceptance, well, Miller and all the other “heartland” Americans who’ve vowed they will never see Ang Lee’s film have proved them wrong. Again.

So let Miller, Gayle Ruzicka and all like company eat their sorry little radish. It’s safe to say these same people never saw Head-On, Kings and Queen, A History of Violence or any other great film of 2005 as well. The world is full of boring people who play it safe. Just ask Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who last month banned all Western music from his nation’s television and radio stations. The only thing worse than a boring person is a boring person with power who tries to make life safe and boring for everyone else. As docile as some boring people seem, such as our current president, they can, in fact, be very dangerous. If Brokeback Mountain weren’t screening at the Salt Lake Film Society’s Broadway Centre downtown, we could have lots of fun putting up a fight. As it is, there’s no need.

No one can blame some in the gay community for clinging to Brokeback Mountain with all their might. As gay-themed movies go, it’s much better than William Friedkin’s atrocious Cruising. Conservatives never protested that movie when it appeared in 1980. That’s because its portrayal of gay life was violent and negative. Cast two men in a loving relationship, however, and the right wing will respond in force.

As it is, Brokeback Mountain leaves the gay community looking desperate and Larry Miller looking silly. The real casualty is the film itself, which needs no one to advocate its many virtues, never mind the fearful who deride it without so much as seeing it. It stands on its own, and speaks to anyone who’s grown up or lived in the American West.

It’s a sign of the times that people on the left and right expect so much from a movie. Americans have become so insular we barely react anymore to events or people in other parts of the world, but to the latest sensational movie in our neighborhood, and the opinion our neighbor has about that movie. How very safe. How very boring.

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