On Sundays, Gothamist runs opinion pieces on issues vaguely related to New York. The views expressed below are solely those of the author.
Somewhere in the late high school-early college era, some female friends and I discovered a truly wonderful film genre: two beautiful foreign boys (not, like, toddlers, but maybe 19-year olds, definitely not 30 year olds, you get the idea) fall in love in front of a beautiful backdrop (beach, snow, any breathtaking landscape). These movies are rarely explicit, typically with one "sex" scene in which you don't really see anything, maybe a bit of kissing, but mostly longing gazes and unoriginal romantic dialogue. They are rarely political, except for the occasional vague plea for tolerance, and the understanding that, if you're watching the movie, you're rooting for the beautiful foreign boys to have a beautiful foreign wedding and beautiful foreign (adopted) children at the end of the story. Movies such as "Yossi and Jagger" (Israel), "Nico and Dani" ( Spain), and a bunch of interchangeable French films fit the bill. I've heard that a Taiwanese entry exists as well. It's the straight woman's version of the movie/play eternally discussed on "Seinfeld": "Rochelle Rochelle: a young girl's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk."
Movies in this genre depict loves more beautiful, aesthetically if not emotionally, than ones witnessed at, say, Stuyvesant High School , which was certainly part of the appeal for us at the time. Aside from the fact that double the cute male leads meant double the, err, quality of the film, there was always something nice about a movie where Gwyneth Paltrow or Natalie Portman or the foreign equivalent didn't even enter into it. A girl walks out of a movie of this genre thinking, "wow," not, "why, exactly, did I super-size that Coke?" Two beautiful girls—hell, just one beautiful girl—means competition and comparison.
"Brokeback Mountain," though set in America, also counts, as cowboys are at least as exotic as French, Israeli, or Spanish men if you are a New Yorker. I have not yet had time to see the movie, but have read that it is has gay sex without being pornographic, that it preaches tolerance without being super-political, and, of course, that there's some of the best natural beauty America has to offer in the background.
Aesthetics, a celebration of beauty as appreciated by half the world's population, that's truly the point of these movies. The boys are beautiful their surroundings are beautiful, and distractions such as sex and politics become unnecessary.
Some critics see this. Mickey Kaus makes the brilliant observation that straight men don't want to see two men kiss.
Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan and others stress the universality of the love story. It's not a gay movie, it's a love story. Something for us all to appreciate.
Yes and no. Any movie of the genre I've explained above, unless it's exceptionally funny, scary, or a huge tear-jerker, or otherwise worthwhile, will appeal only to those who find two beautiful boys in love with each other to be, well, beautiful. As I have not yet seen "Brokeback Mountain," I can't say how much of it's value comes from being a good movie and how much comes from the fact that it fits so well into the aforementioned genre. I have a hunch it's the latter, but I'll have to see it to be sure.
While finding a movie "beautiful" is not the same thing as finding it "hot," it can't be denied that it helps if the leads are of the sex one prefers, and if the setting is something more inspirational than, say, the Chambers Street subway station. Straight men (or anyone, for that matter) seeking to ban "Brokeback Mountain" may be accused of homophobia; the men who roll their eyes when their girlfriends or wives suggest the film are perfectly justified, their reputation as tolerant individuals intact. Am I heterophobic to prefer "Yossi and Jagger" to "Yossi and some really hot Israeli actress"? Perhaps, but you can't help what you like.
Phoebe Maltz, a New Yorker born and bred, can normally be found on the interweb at What Would Phoebe Do?