“Queer Theory and Brokeback Mountain” by Matthew Tinkcom— “Brokeback Mountain as an Activist and Educational Tool

Tinkcom, Matthew. “Queer Theory and Brokeback Mountain”, (Film Theory in Practice), Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.

“Brokeback Mountain” as an Activist and Educational Tool

Amos Lassen

Some of you may well remember the way the film “Brokeback Mountain” was regarded. There were those gay people who hailed it as Hollywood finally recognizing the LGBT community and there were those who were quick to see it as a melodramatic soap opera that really did nothing to advance gay rights. I remember long arguments and heavy discussions about the film (with of us forgetting that it is a film being talked about and not real life). Matthew Tinkcom looks at queer theory to show how we can understand the film in terms of scholarship and activism.

The book comes in two parts. The first half looks at the key canonical texts within queer theory, including the work of writers as Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. Using a historical method, we see how scholars have posed questions to our understanding of sexualities (both normative and non-normative) in the historical past and in contemporary life. Wd get a discussion of the theories of sexuality and gender offered by these scholars and see what events have shaped the experiences of men and women in the “genital, bodily, erotic, discursive, and cultural dimensions”. The second part of the book examines the film so that we can better understand the claims and insights of queer theory. 

Tinkcom takes us back to the beginning with looking at the film’s screenplay by Larry McMurtry that is based upon Annie Proulx’s 1997 short story of the same title. This takes us to the film narrative of two working-class men in the rural mid-20th-century U.S. and the meanings of the sexual and emotional bond between them pair that developed over twenty years.

Tinkcom beautifully looks at the signature trajectories of queer theory, then adds these concepts into traditions of film theory and close analysis. He has the ability to write for scholars and students as well as moviegoers at the same time and his analysis is easy to read and understand. We quickly see the complexity of the queer pleasures within the film. Tinkcom puts the film into larger discourses of genre studies and anticipates how these can influence future discussions in the field of queer theory. We see both current thought about non-normative gender and sexuality as well as how queer theory can bring about academic inquiry.

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