Wednesday, January 11, 2006
by Wayne Besen
A few years ago, I had the privilege of meeting a gay professional basketball player for the Utah Jazz. He desperately wanted to come out of the closet, but feared reprisals and career suicide. The man relayed to me the great difficulty of having an active social life in conservative Utah. As a gigantic, well-known black man in lilywhite Mormon Country, it wasn't as if could slip into a gay bar unnoticed.
There were teammates who were aware of his sexual orientation and accepted him. Still, he was forced to live a painful double life of secrecy that led to extraordinary loneliness. In essence, the Utah Jazz locker room became this man's Brokeback Mountain.
I mention this heart-wrenching story because Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller has canceled plans to show Brokeback Mountain in his suburban Salt Lake City movie chain. Salt Lake Tribune columnist Holly Mullen reported that Miller had told a local radio station that he had intended to show the movie.
"It's something that I have to let the market speak to some degree," Miller told the radio station KCPW-FM just hours before the theater nixed the film. "I don't think I'm qualified to be the community censor."
So, imagine the surprise of moviegoers when they reached the box office and found an offensive note taped to the ticket window: "There has been a change in booking and we will not be showing Brokeback Mountain. We apologize for any inconvenience.
"It is abundantly clear that Miller pulled Brokeback as the result of a last minute right wing pressure campaign. Instead of treating viewers like adults and letting them decide whether to see the movie, he buckled to Utah's infamous neo-Puritan lobby.
"I just think (pulling the show) tells the young people, especially, that maybe there is something wrong with this show," said Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah Eagle Forum.The right wing busybodies often claim that they speak for 'the people.' They position themselves as martyrs that heroically stand up to the liberal elites.
However, Mullen points out that Brokeback Mountain is showing on two screens at the independent Broadway Centre Cinemas in Salt Lake City, and the theater's take for the week was 12th-highest nationwide.
It turns out the true elitists are the censors at Eagle Forum who believe they should decide what movies Utah citizens can see. Clearly, if people are allowed to make their own choices free from blue-nosed censors, they flock to this award-winning movie.
What I find particularly disturbing is that the right wing does not give a damn about children, nor do they have even the slightest interest in upholding traditional values. They are simply anti-gay and want to see homosexuals disappear from the face of the earth.
How else do you explain the uproar over Brokeback Mountain, while the right remains silent on Miller showing at his theatres, the grisly horror movie Hostel? The Associated Press describes this movie as one "which follows a trio of twenty something guys on a European vacation that begins as an orgy of sex and drugs and descends into brutal, bloody sadism."
Sounds like wholesome fare.
It seems the Neo-Puritans believe that their children are threatened by a beautiful love story involving two men. Yet, they have no problem with a gory movie where an eyeball is pushed out of a woman's eye socket. It is clear that the far right offers nothing of value to real families and has a queer obsession with gay people.
If anything, these fanatical yahoos seem to glorify violence more than your average American. This helps explain why Mel Gibson's psychotic "The Passion of the Christ" was such a hit. Instead of focusing on Jesus' message of love, these pious vigilantes seem to get off on watching their savior get pureed.
Sadly, the people who most need to see Brokeback Mountain are the homophobes who often protest just a bit too much. For example, if the Reverend Lonnie Latham had seen the gay western, it may have helped him come out and avoid an embarrassing scandal.
Last week, the Southern Baptist Convention leader was arrested in Oklahoma City for allegedly propositioning a plainclothes police officer posing as a male prostitute in a cheap motel parking lot.
During my book tour for "Anything But Straight," I had an event in Salt Lake City. I met some wonderful people and partied at a hopping nightclub overflowing with homosexuals. Indeed, it was one of the best looking crowds I had ever seen. I remember joking that it was almost an advantage for a person to be ugly, because one would be considered exotic. Even in the reddest of red states, there are out gay people and they have many allies.
The right wing can stop Brokeback Mountain in isolated theatres run by gutless owners like Larry Miller, but they can't censor reality. With the current momentum and social change fueled by such groundbreaking movies, it is only a matter of time before even a Utah Jazz basketball player can come out of the closet.
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