Illinois Family Institute Goes After Teacher for Wanting to Discuss Brokeback Mountain in Film Class

The Illinois Family Institute is back and they’re going after their arch-nemeses: English teachers. Because, as we all know, English departments are stacked with evil liberals who must be stopped at all costs.

Here’s what you need to know.

The teacher in question teaches an elective “film as lit” class for seniors. In essence, instead of reading and analyzing novels for message, technique, structure, etc., they do it with movies.

Ideally, you need to select movies that have a lot of depth, hold the possibility of lengthy discussions, and will keep the attention of the students.

So the teacher chose Brokeback Mountain, American Beauty, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Fargo. If I were a senior, I’d sign up for that class immediately. Sounds awesome.

Of course, since some of the movies are rated R, the teacher needs permission from the students’ parents before they can watch the films in class. And if the parents say no (or the student doesn’t want to watch a certain movie), there are alternative and comparable assignments the students can do instead.

It’s not very different from an English class with novels featuring adult themes.

In what I presume is the “permission” letter the teacher sent home to parents, the teacher explained why she chose the movies she did:

The primary objective in viewing Brokeback Mountain is to evaluate the film from the perspective of the text as an adaptation. In fact, one of the three Oscars it won was for “Best Writing & Adapted Screenplay.” The Annie Proulx short story, originally published in the New Yorker, is quality writing, and both the story and the film are texts that most of the students have not encountered. I like the film particularly because it was originally a short story (as opposed to a novel), thus the process of adaptation posed more of a challenge. I think the class will have a lot to discuss with this one. The prose is challenging, but the film is a good “payoff” for them in terms of viewing, particularly because it has such a good star appeal at this point in our culture.

The sexual element, while provocative, is tasteful. Naturally, we will discuss the standard literary elements of plot, theme, symbolism, etc., but again, the primary focus is on how the film holds up to (or surpasses) the original script…

I have given a lot of thought to these selections and, after consulting with colleagues and my department chair, have chosen a few that do contain more difficult material… The sexual aspects of the film do not necessarily “advance the teaching of adapting text,” but they are nonetheless an integral part of what is, overall, a valuable and powerful story (as are so many rated R films!)… I have often contended that when students consume films of a more graphic nature in a safe and structured classroom environment, they have an opportunity to process the content in a more thoughtful way, as opposed to a point in his life when he is more likely to watch it alone or with friends and not be able to have mature conversations about it.

It’s a letter sensitive to parents who might doubt the teacher’s intentions, but I think it accomplishes her goal of setting their minds at ease.

Anyway, as you might expect, IFI’s Laurie Higgins is flipping out about the inclusion of Brokeback Mountain because it portrays a gay couple in a positive light and has some suggestive scenes.

[The teacher] claims that the “sexual elements” in the film, though “provocative,” are “tasteful.” For those, however, who believe that same-sex attraction is disordered, and that same-sex acts are profoundly immoral, referring to homosexual acts as “tasteful” is oxymoronic. There can no more be tasteful depictions of homosexual acts than there can be tasteful depictions of group sex. Certainly there can be more or less graphic depictions of homosexual acts, but being less graphic scenes does not make them tasteful.

One of the serious problems with this film is that it powerfully depicts a homosexual relationship as a good thing. It uses the immense persuasive force of narrative and imagery to depict that which is perverse as good. Even without graphic sex, this film is troubling because its central thesis is flawed. Sex between two men does not ennoble their love; it corrupts it.

Sounds like someone who completely missed the point of the whole movie…

This sort of “Christian love” is typical of IFI.

They’re encouraging their member to complain to the district Superintendent and the school board — much as they did for me, though Higgins did the dirty work herself at the time.

Since this particular teacher works in a district neighboring mine, I sent her a letter of support (not that she needs it), letting her know that, in my case, IFI’s threats accomplished nothing because my administration knew my religious views were something I only discussed outside of the classroom and, furthermore, not a single parent called my superiors to complain about me or remove their kids from my classes despite IFI sending out three press releases denouncing me as an atheist who criticized them and a bad role model for children.

I’m hoping the same fate falls upon this teacher — that her department chair and administration realize she’s engaging her students in an effective way and leading them in compelling, constructive discussions.

And when she comes away from this attack unscathed, I want her superiors to note her professionalism and courage in her yearly evaluation.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Nadia Gomos

    do you know what I find amazing? the fact that christians are so obsessed with protecting children from seeing sexual activity on tv and in movies and they are okay with allowing their kids to see violently horrible films, the passion of the christ being an example. 
    Violence does a lot more damage than teenagers having sex. Eurgh

  • Sindigo

    I’m not for a moment suggesting that any of these films are inappropriate for viewing in this context but surely American Beauty, with its themes of paedophilia, drug taking and suicide are more worthy than of complaint than Brokeback Mountain. At least, if you’re actually worried that films can warp a child’s morals anyway.

  • Larry Meredith

    aw… can’t have tasteful depictions of group sex either? I wonder what sexual activities Laurie Higgins would find tasteful. Mmm, married man and woman silently in missionary position with the lights off strictly for the purpose of procreation. And as fully clothed as possible. Touching flesh is the devil’s playground!

  • MG

    That sounds like an excellent class for interested seniors.  All of the selected films are great cinema and certainly worthy of evaluation, which makes the complaints based on their content seem rather simple-minded.  I don’t see what could be possibly worth complaining about if it’s an elective source and permission slips were sent out to the proper parents or guardians of each participating student.

  • MG

    elective course*

  • Sindigo

    A tasteful depiction of church sanctioned sexual activity in the confines of a loving and stable marriage: 


  • MG

    I mean, really, it’s not like the teacher was caught gathering the students in secret, and a few of them came forward anonymously to complain that they were forced to discuss nothing but sexual relations between two men.  But that’s what you would think with the way these institutes, purportedly for “families”, react.

  • jose

    This is the same people who become extremely obtuse when racism/sexism in movies is discussed and mock the idea that media bombardment have any effect at all on the viewers.

  • ReadsInTrees

    We live in a messed up society where drugs and violence are more acceptable than sexuality. As they saying goes….you know there’s something wrong when people would rather seen two men holding guns than holding hands.

  • ReadsInTrees

    And you forget the “Only once a year in front of the Christmas tree” requirement for bonus  points.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Because, as we all know, English departments are stacked with evil liberals who must be stopped at all costs.

    Disregarding the over the top rhetoric, English departments do indeed have a reputation as a haven of communists and socialists.

  • Agnostic

    US expenditure on education is among the highest per child in world and measure so badly in worldwide tests-around 50% mark for English and Science and the lowest quartile in Maths and the teachers think about promoting sex to the young. I guess those on this blog must be sending their children to private schools. it’s really sad for the children in US.

  • allein

    So, no problem with topless Anne Hathaway in the back of a car, I guess?

  • eonL5

    Oh sheesh. Seriously? I think teachers are thinking about promoting critical thought (at least good ones are), not “promoting sex.” But so many people are so obsessed with sex that anything anyone else does is interpreted as sexual. From what I’ve heard and read, that’s what happens when repression reaches dangerous levels.

  • Gus Snarp

    It makes it very clear that what these people are really about his hatred for the LGBT community. The thing that makes them the most angry about Brokeback Mountain is that it shows gay people in a positive light. That’s why it gets the most vitriol from them. And that is nothing but hate.

    For the record, they oppose American Beauty too in their full post, but they spend far more time attacking Brokeback Mountain. And they don’t say word one about Fargo, a movie that is full of deeply disturbing and graphic violence.

  • C Peterson

    I wonder what the IFI’s response would be to The Handmaid’s Tale, a book and film that presents a future scenario for the U.S. that would seem to be exactly in line with their world view.

  • Sware

    So if I have understood correctly, 1) it is an elective (not a required class), 2) permission slips required to participate and 3) if permission is not granted, they get alternative assignments/ activities and presumably an equal opportunity at a passing grade…yet they still want to bitch about this?  Please, IFI, spare me your protection over everyone else’s kids.  If my children brought me such a permission slip as was presented here I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to sign it.  In fact if I’d be encouraging them to take a class like this.

  • Tim

    Just a question from the UK…

    What age are we talking about here?  It took me two reads to rwalisethat we were talking about school kids.  I thought “Seniors” was US-speak for what I would call OAP – Old Age Pensioners.

  • Ryan Jung

    Y’know, I’m not even sure Brokeback Mountain actually portrays the gay relationship all that positively. The taboos on that relationship in the movie absolutely wreck the characters’ home lives. One might think you could start a discussion that the evangelicals would have an arguable point in (not that I agree with it). I wonder if Higgins has even seen the movie. I’m guessing no.

  • Sindigo

    I’m never going to understand people who hate. I actually got into a debate a little while ago with someone defending his right to hate others and why it was okay to teach a child to hate other people. Especially gay people. I had to just end it and (metaphorically) walk away in the end. I find it so baffling and just plain sad that someone can go through life like that.

  • allein

    High school seniors would mostly be 17-18 years old.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Dude, you missed the point so hard your head should have exploded. How hard could it have possibly been? She wrote her intentions out, and it’s posted in the article!

  • allein

    Maybe some 16-year-olds (My birthday is in October so I was still 16 when I started my senior year).

  • No

    Pretty much any academic pursuit has that “stigma” associated with it, anymore, at least as far as conservatives are concerned.

  • Heidi McClure

    So you think that this movie is “promoting sex” how, exactly? Because people have some?

  • Baby_Raptor

    High school seniors are generally 17-18. 

  • No

    “…For those, however, who believe that same-sex attraction is disordered…”

    Huh. I find their unending fascination with damning all things homosexual to be disordered.

  • MG

    “promoting sex”

    Nope.  Stop lying for once and actually read the article.

  • Gringa

     I thought the exact same thing.  It’s not a fairy tale coming-out story, it is filled with personal conflict and shame, real personal emotions.  I agree that there is no way she has seen the film – it’s probably against her moral superiority complex to even sit through it for 2 hrs.

  • Gringa

     I’d assume they’d find physics and biology more threatening to their world view.

  • smrnda

    First, when I read the story (after seeing the movie) I was pretty impressed that a short story could be so effectively done as a feature-length film – part of what made this possible was visual nature of the film. This alone would make it worth talking about.

    I know that some people believe that homosexuality is wrong, but they need to understand that not all art and literature is going to agree with them, and that you can’t really be said to study art or literature if you restrict yourself to things that openly promote your viewpoints. Do Christians object to reading Greek mythology on the grounds that it’s polytheistic?

  • Sindigo

    Decent education has a liberal bias.

  • NoDoubtAboutIt

    American Beauty is the Newt Gingrich of cinema: it’s what people who don’t know anything about movies thinks an intelligent movie is like.

  • PJB863

    OK, so one of the guys in Brokeback Mountain was killed in the end.  I’m sure that must have had Laurie Higgins in a wave of fond nostalgia for when Matthew Shepard was murdered – her idea of a happy ending.

    I honestly wonder how she is able to go out and buy a loaf of bread without getting offended.

  • T.

     I don’t think that Brokeback Mountain portrays the gay relationship itself as something negative. Homophobia is a big theme in the film. The negative attitudes towards homosexuality are what cause the main characters to hide their relationship and, for example, pursue relationships with women. All the cheating, heartbreak, pain etc. really come from the fact that the two men just can’t be openly together. Doesn’t the film also imply that Gyllenhaal’s character is murdered because he’s found out to be gay? I actually have seen some (conservative christian type) film reviewers arguing that the film is a clear example of how gay relationships ruin lives. Of course they would be reluctant to admit that their own dislike of gay people could possible be harmful.

  • ESC_key

    Man, that’s a great saying! Can I borrow it from time to time? :)

  • C Peterson

    A reputation maybe, but one which is disconnected from reality. There are what… maybe 10 actual communists or socialists in the U.S.?

  • C Peterson

    Knowledge is what is most threatening to their world view.

  • Rwlawoffice

    If her true intent for adding Brokeback Mountain was to show a film that won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay, there are multiple others that she could have chosen that would not have raised this question. Slumdog Millionaire for example.  So it makes you wonder if there were additional motivations.

    This film when it came out was applauded for Hollywoods portrayal of a homosexual relationship in a major motion picture. Now to claim that this is not a part of the reason she picked it is not believable.  In the film it applauds the homosexual relationship at the same time it portrays the married wives of these guys as homophobic while their marriages are being torn apart by their adulterous behavior. Homosexual behavior aside , the problem with the film is that it tries to show as heroes those that engage in this behavior and destroy their families.  I wonder how this part of the film is going to be discussed in her class.

  • julie

    It’s a great movie. Stop being pretentious. 

  • julie

    Discussing sex in a mature way as a natural part of life and human behavior, rather than something gross and shameful = promoting sex to the young.
    Got it.

  • PJB863

    And critical thinking.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Hey, one of the guys in Brokeback Mountain was killed in the end.

    O Noez! You haz ruined it for me.

  • RobMcCune

    And you are a fine example of what that system churns out.

  • RobMcCune

     Really, I didn’t know the high school teachers lounge was a haven for the red menace.

  • Aguz

    A middle age man fantasizing with a teenage girl to escape his family problems? A-Ok
    A man plotting to kill his wife for money? A-Ok
    Two adult males loving each other but thorn apart by society and human prejudice (including their own)? OH, HELL NO. 

  • Jesse L Sinclair

     Reality seems to have a liberal bias…

  • Ibis3

     First of all, the protaganists aren’t portrayed as heroes, but as victims of societal expectations. The collateral damage to the women and children is not presented as laudatory. Second, the men begin their relationship before either is married. A case could be made that it is their heterosexual relationships that are the “adulterous behaviour”. Neither man is living honestly, but it’s not because that is what they desire. The film is a condemnation of an unjust society that forces a choice between, on the one hand pain and suffering for everyone, and death on the other.

  • nakedanthropologist

    I disagree with your analysis.  Yes, homosexuality is a main theme in Brokeback Mountain – but I think that’s a relevant issue for people today.  As others have mentioned, the film and the short story portray two people who love eachother, but due to time, culture, and circumstance this love becomes a major force of strife and woe.  Whether or not one believes homosexuality is moral will probably be discussed, but I would imagine that it would be done so in a fair manner (which respects everyone’s viewpoints) and which centers on its portrayal in the literature as well as cinema.  Slumdog Millionaire was (I think) a great movie, but it also has contestable and mature content, such as rape, pedophilia, prostitution, torture, and violence. 

    Plus, we must remember that these are high school seniors.  They will (presumably) graduate this year, and many will go onto to college.  Brokeback Mountain deals with issues and themes found in the real world – American culture, poverty, violence, love, anger, joy – its not just about two guys getting it on.  I think the teacher chose this film & short story with care and a great deal of forethought.  Additionally, this course is an elective and permission slips along with a detailed syllabus was sent to the parents.  In my opinion, IFI is overreacting; we also know (from previous statements and/or press releases) that IFI disparages anything remotely related to homosexuality – that’s their schtick.  However, in this case their opinions are not remotely relevant, as no one is being forced to watch the movie (there is an option to opt out and do an alternative assignment) and therefore I must conclude that the IFI is trying to make an issue of something that really isn’t an issue at all.

  • amycas

     It makes me think that they never even watched any of the other movies, because I know that American Beauty also deals with homosexuality. If they had seen American Beauty, then they would be protesting that movie as well. This leads me to believe that not only are they only targeting homosexuality, but they’re not even watching the movies they protest. They are simply going off of what is popularly known about the film. By the point, nobody has to watch Brokeback Mountain to know that it deals with homosexuality, but you would have to watch America Beauty to  know that.

  • amycas

     I took dual English classes in high school. They were essentially college English courses. My teacher originally wanted us to read The Handmaid’s Tale, but it was rejected for being obscene. Instead, we read A Brave New World. She told us this before we started reading, so I bought a copy of The Handmaid’s Tale. It is so much better than BNW*, and I was really annoyed that they allowed BNW and not Handmaid’s–they’re both obscene by their standards.

    *don’t get wrong, I like that book too, I just enjoyed Handmaid’s more

  • Coyotenose

     When people watching Passion of the Christ had heart attacks and seizures, these sickos thought that was a GOOD THING.

  • Coyotenose

     GREAT. Thanks for spoiling the movie for me!

    (Honestly, I stopped watching Brokeback Mountain before that happened because I just found it kind of a boring film. I found out about the death thing later.)

  • GloomCookie613

    Ah, I see you sat in front of a screen, but didn’t actually *watch* the film. Maybe you should take this class?

    Also, how many of those other recent adaptation winners were adapted from short stories? It’s hard to do, so there aren’t many in recent years. If you had bothered to actually read the teacher’s reasoning above, you’d have noticed the fact that the short story adaptation aspect was important to the teacher. But, as usual, don’t let pesky facts like that get in the way of your trolling BS.

  • Coyotenose

    I fear that the reading comprehension you’re displaying here is evidence that more classes like this should be taught.

  • smrnda

    You seem to be taking the ‘adultery’ without looking at the context. If you pressure homosexuals to enter into opposite sex marriages that go against their nature, you’re asking for trouble. If the two characters in the film could have simply lived openly as a couple, there wouldn’t have been any conflict. I’m sure though rwlawoffice that you think the right thing for homosexuals to do is to just pretend to be straight no matter how miserable they really are. You’ve got this worldview where nothing homosexuals can do aside from erase themselves from existence seems adequate. We wouldn’t see marriages torn apart by same-sex affairs so often if people were just able to be openly gay.

    I think the issue of whether pressuring people to ‘not be gay’ is beneficial or not for both the individuals and society is something that ought to be discussed in school. I’m disinclined to want to support with my tax money schools that wouldn’t deal with this topic openly. It seems that social conservatives want to reduce schools to either vocational schools only or to put everything else within a restrictive box where nothing that doesn’t agree with the most regressive can ever be discussed.

  • Rwlawoffice

     Making them victims for cheating on their spouses? Making them victims for destroying their families by committing adultery? Making them victims for society believing that people who are married to each other should not commit adultery, lie to their spouses and destroy their families?  That is done at the same time as it glorifies homosexual behavior in such a manner that you view this being the real relationship and condoning their deceit to their wives and children.  You can’t be serious when you say that the film is a condemnation of society viewing adultery and betrayal as wrong while at the same time you condone their actions. 

  • smrnda

     Perhaps one of the reasons why US kids are doing badly is that more of them live in poverty than kids in other industrialized Western nations. Until you fix that, you can throw money into schools all you want and it’s just trying to plug the holes in a boat with your fingers.

  • Rwlawoffice

     Circumstances like making marriage vows to their spouses to be faithful and not have adulterous relationships with others?

    I agree that these are seniors and that the class is voluntary.  I don’t necessarily agree with IFI’s actions here.  What I am questioning is the honesty of the teacher’s motivations as expressed in the explanation as to why she picked the film. If she was truly not intent on getting into the issues of homosexuality in our society and how it is viewed she would have picked a different movie that was given an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

  • John Alexander Harman

    Yes, Jack is killed because he’s suspected of being gay; furthermore, his wife and the local authorities are complicit in pretending his death was accidental, because murdering a gay man wasn’t regarded as a serious crimeat that time in the part of the country where he lived.

  • SJH

    Is it not possible to pick another movie/book that would not conflict with the values of the parents? I’m sure that there are alternatives. Because they are not choosing to pursue these alternatives, it seems that the teacher has an agenda to push her view of what is tasteful. If she were sensitive to the values of others then she would simply choose another film/book. By not doing so she is setting herself up to fall within the stereotype of left wing indoctrination. It looks like she is trying to slide her views in and influence the children while claiming alternate motives.

  • Rwlawoffice

    Are you seriously condoning adultery by homosexuals because of soceity? So it is okay for them to be deceitful and lie to their spouses and harm their children because their deceiptful behaviour involves homosexuality? Adultery is adultery.  Nobody forced these guys to get married to a woman if they really thought they were homosexual. Shifting the blame to society is simply ridiculous.  Let me give you an example of what they cold have done- not get married at all. We wouldn’t see marriages get torn apart by same sex affairs if those wanting to have same sex relationships would not get married and have kids with spouses of the opposite sex.  

  • SJH

     Great point. Can’t they select better books all around? What is the problem with these teachers and not being more sensitive to our children? Does the artistic quality of these works really outweigh the message we send to our children?

  • RobMcCune

     Even if the class were for retirees the IFI would still object to corrupting their vulnerable young minds.

  • PJB863

    Why do you assume that the movies and books chosen conflict with the values of the parents?   The only complaint seems to be from a person who I presume lives outside the district, has no children of her own enrolled in the school, and is notorious for making inflammatory anti-gay statements and rhetoric – so much so that she pretty much single handedly got her organization listed has a hate group by a nationwide monitoring group.  It is Laurie Higgins who is pursuing an agenda, not the teacher.

  • Birdie1986

    Aren’t most high school seniors 17?  I was one of the youngest in my class, and I was 17 during senior year.  They don’t need their parents’ permission to see an R-rated movie.

  • asonge

    Movies that are good for critical review must have some substance. I doubt the Pollyanna substance of Slumdog Millionaire is even close.

  • Jordan Sugarman

    I’ve never seen the film, so I can’t really comment on how the relationship is actually portrayed. But from reading IFIs complaint, it sounds like they are less concerned about homosexuals being portrayed in a positive light than they are about a failure to portray them in a negative light. Apparently, there can be no neutrality on the issue. Because, as we all know, if you don’t tell kids that being gay is wrong, they’ll all want to have gay sex.

  • smrnda

     I think you are missing the point of literature and art in general. To some extent, art is supposed to reflect reality, and reality can be pretty nasty much of the time. You can’t really write a book about how everything is wonderful and without problems or moral conflicts because it would be a dull book where nothing really happens.

    There’s also a problem of confusing the depiction of something as an endorsement. I’ve seen a lot of movies that were pretty violent that I didn’t think glorified violence. The message of a work may very well be that the things that happen in the book are awful things.

  • smrnda

     Nobody forced them at gunpoint perhaps, but are you honestly telling me that in a rural, conservative part of the country there’s no pressure to get married, particularly while young? I read tons of things written by conservative Christians who have argued that it’s a moral failing NOT to get married and start a family as soon as possible. Ever heard of Bryan Fischer? You sound like him half the time so I thought you might.

    Also, many people who are homosexual who grow up where it’s not tolerated are not able to honestly ask themselves the question ‘Am I homosexual or not?” If you’re told that you shouldn’t be, it’s difficult to go out and admit that you are and would be better off not getting married to a woman. Your,e telling me growing up where you are told that it’s okay to kill homosexuals (which is in the film – one of the characters’ fathers shows him the dead bodies while he was a child of men who were killed for being suspected homosexuals) means that nobody is going to be conflicted? Seriously, there’s no pressure there? Plenty of ex-gay organizations today are pushing the idea that just being celibate isn’t good enough – they push the idea that you’re not really ‘fixed’ until you’re in an opposite sex marriage. Organizations like NARTH put pressure on people who have been pressured to go to NARTH that they aren’t really fixed if they aren’t married. Plenty of these organizations and churches ought to be blamed for the marriages that fail. It’s their teaching, therapy and instruction that were leading people in that direction.

    You sound like a pretty typical right-wing authoritarian – it’s all RULES RULES and there’s no such thing as social or economic pressure which might affect some people far more than others, everybody is equally free.

  • Patterrssonn

    Homicidal closeted self hating gay man murders the object of his lust A-OK, hmm actually I think IFI may have written that scene.

  • Patterrssonn

    Thanks for that I thought the film was crap too.

  • matt

    There are plenty of other films that contain adultery.  The only reason you object to this one is because of the homosexuality?

    And what’s with the “glorify” nonsense?  This movie doesn’t glorify homosexual behavior anymore than Rambo glorifies homicidal behavior.

  • Edmond

    And just imagine, if those two men lived in a world where they could have MARRIED EACH OTHER IN THE FIRST PLACE, there never would have been any consequences to any affairs.  What the film is TRYING to tell you is that if they could have felt free, or even encouraged, to explore and discover their homosexuality, then THIS would have been the right path for them.  EVERYONE in their families paid the price, and suffered pain, because they were expected to “fit in”.

    Did you even SEE this film?  The characters discussed trying to be together, but they decided not to, having heard stories of such men being beaten and murdered.  Wouldn’t it be a BETTER world, if gay people weren’t expected to HIDE who they truly are?  Wouldn’t it be better for everyone involved, if no one was faking a different identity, due to social pressures?  Or maybe you don’t think that the looming threat of being murdered by your neighbors COUNTS as a “social pressure”.

  • smrnda

     I’m also not saying that adultery is good, just that if you put people in a society where homosexuals get beat to death and left to die in a ditch, they’ll likely end up being unable to be honest about their own sexuality and will make bad choices because they get the clear message that they must not be homosexuals, or else. Yeah, that’s totally equal freedom for everyone there, no one side wielding the crowbar and the other side trying to live up to everybody’s expectations.

  • Rwlawoffice

     Yes I did see the film.  Despite the attempt to justify their actions, they engaged in a course of action that was deceitful and intentional.  You do realize that your argument is that it is society’s fault is remarkably close to a man who beats his wife and blames society or worse yet her for his actions.  The movie, painting them as victims and in my opinion heroes, does so by saying just what you are- its not their fault that they acted this way, its the fault of someone else.  That is not a message that should be honored.

  • 3lemenope

    An Episcopalian friend of mine and I went to go see Passion of the Christ in the theater, mainly out of morbid curiosity. It actually was an aesthetically interesting movie, whatever its other qualities. It was, of course, horrifically graphically violent.

    The only reason I mention this was that we went mid-day, so the theater was nearly empty, the only people there being me, my friend, and a supervised class of nine-year-olds on a field trip from a local Christian academy. Most of whom were crying by the end of the film, and not, I think, due to an overwhelming sense of the divine.

  • Edmond

    That’s NOT the message that was presented.  How could you miss it so broadly?  There was NO attempt to “justify” their actions.  It was presented as a TRAGEDY that they entered into deceit.  It’s a CAUTIONARY tale, not against adultery directly, but against hiding your own truth, against stifling true love.  The message is that society should be able to be HAPPY for two such men who seek each other, but instead this path is CLOSED to them.  The men were victims, but the wives and children were victims too.  They were all victims of society’s expectations of the men, whose love was perceived as “forbidden”.

    I’m sure it was very easy for someone like you, to simply fall in love with someone, and to be able to publicly kiss them, hold them, marry them, and move in with them.  Perhaps you take it for granted that it works so easily for everyone who falls in love, but it isn’t.  Gay people, ESPECIALLY in the 50′s and 60′s as this film was set, were told that these freedoms were NOT AN OPTION for them.  The film shows the horrible consequences of that lack of freedom.  Wives are lied to.  Children are abandoned.  Families suffer.  All because some people can’t recognize and celebrate REAL love when it first happens.

    What would YOU say to these two men, or any two like them, if you could meet them early in their lives, before they started down any path of deceit?  Would you tell them to soldier on, hide their perversions, avoid relationships with those of their own gender, and fill the role that society expects?  If so, then you’d support the same destruction that came down on their families.  I would HOPE that you would tell these men to IGNORE society, be who they are, be in love and celebrate it, but I have to wonder if that’s what you’d tell them.

    This movie is trying to TEACH you something about love, and about gay people, if you’ll be willing to learn it.  But you seem to have decided that they’re simply villains for lying to their families (which IS a bad thing to do), but it never seems to occur to you to ask yourself WHY they felt compelled to lied, and how that could have been handled differently.  Here’s a hint: it’s not by avoiding cheating on their wives.  It’s by avoiding wives in the first place, and focusing on the husbands which would have been the right choice for them (a choice they were not allowed to make).

    Hopefully, the students in this class will put deeper thought into the story than you seem to.

  • Patterrssonn

    Suddenly you’re in favour of same sex marriage? What twisted loops you tie yourself up in.

  • 3lemenope

    I’d say it’s a good movie that tried to be a great movie and failed, which usually is better in my opinion than a movie that suffices to entertain but has no aspirations to say or do anything outside of established conventions. That it aspired to be more than it is makes its flaws more apparent, but also heightens its successes and makes good use of many of the stand-out performances (Chris Cooper, Allison Janney, Kevin Spacey).

  • Rwlawoffice

    I stand by what I said. Bad circumstances do not justify bad actions that hurt others. Actually the character of a mn is determined how you act under bad circumstances. The movie, even as it shows the struggle these guys faced , glorifies their relationship as being the one that deserved to be honored, not the one they made in their marriages.

  • Rwlawoffice

    If that is in response to me, I never said that or implied it.

  • Edmond

    Oh brother.  No, it glorifies their relationship as being the one that should have been free to blossom, but wasn’t, because priggish and nosy people would have tied them to the backs of pick-up trucks by their genitals and dragged them around until death.  Remember that part?  Would gay people show more “character” if they simply submitted to that treatment?

    And you don’t even BOTHER to answer my question:  What would you TELL these men, if you could help guide the path of their lives AWAY from future deceits?

    Would you tell them “Be gay!  Be together!  Be proud of who you are!”?  Or would you encourage them to be straight, force it if they have to, marry a woman and be miraculously changed?  Which side of their social pressures would you come down on?

  • smrnda

    Something you are leaving out is who is responsible for the bad circumstances. If people have made being openly homosexual impossible, they deserve some of the blame for when homosexuals enter into opposite sex marriages. You seem to only be able to think in terms of being 100% personally responsible or 100% socially responsible. It’s always, normally, somewhere in between, but in this case I’d argue that society – which is made up of individual people all deciding to make life miserable for homosexuals, deserves some of the blame.

  • smrnda

     Just a question – do you think society is at fault in any way for murdering homosexuals for kicks?

  • nakedanthropologist

    “Circumstances like making marriage vows to their spouses to be faithful and not have adulterous relationships with others?”

    Well, yes.  Adultery does happen and this film/short story portrays that quite accurately.  A lot of literature and/or cinema contains the theme of adultery - but I don’t think the IFI would be speaking out against it if it wasn’t linked to homosexuality (in the context of this discussion).  Literature and other forms of artistic expression are often linked with social commentary.  For example, one could make the case that the reason the main characters were adulterous was because of societal constraints and how the circumstances prevented them from having a monogamous relationship with eachother.  The film in no way portrays aldultery in a positive light - IMHO, adultery is portrayed very accurately.  Ultimately, the high school seniors in this class are there to learn about literature, film, and the numerous sociocultural circumstances that surround those genres.  The assignment will probably foster debate and critical thinking from many perspectives – a good thing, in my opinion. 

  • Reasongal

     One of the hardest aspects of literary analysis for high school kids is identifying theme – they more often than not have the idea that it is the “moral” of the story, and an English teacher’s job is to bring them up the ladder of cognition to analysis and synthesis.  This cannot be done without quality literature of depth because theme is actually the message conveyed by the work about the universal human struggle, and students must move beyond black and white thinking; life is not good or bad, happy or sad.  I’ve had AP parents who objected to “The Kite Runner” because a young boy is raped, an incident not explicitly described, but they don’t understand why kids have to read such serious, saddening subject matter, when there is so much more to find in the novel.  Teaching well is a challenge, and so is learning.

  • Lamdba

    40 years ago, parts of that quote could have just as easily applied to “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”.

  • Patterrssonn

    Of course you did, retread your post.

  • elly

    Actually, many of them are 18, or turn 18 during the school year.

    FWIW, though – my daughter had to deal with the same infantilizing attitude in her school.  Toward the end of her senior year, her English class was studying Hamlet, and the class watched excerpts from several popular films (Branagh, etc.). The films were PG-13, but a permission slip still came home! I signed it… but added a short, sharp para about how ludicrous this was, so I wasn’t surprised that my daughter “forgot” to turn it in. The teacher actually called me at home for my permission. I could almost hear her eyes rolling over the phone, though… she sighed and said it was a district policy.

  • Rich Wilson

    There’s actually no law tied to the ratings.  A theater can refuse to let an unaccompanied 16 year old in to see an R movie, but if they do, they’re not liable as if they’d sold cigarettes.  It’s more a matter of “it’s a really good idea if you don’t want a pack of angry parents screaming for your dismissal at the next school board meeting”

    But you’re right, technically

    Of course, since some of the movies are rated R, the teacher needs permission from the students’ parents before they can watch the films in class.

    is not correct, but not for the age of the students.

  • Rich Wilson

    I find it hard to believe that your objection is to the secret motives of the teacher.  I doubt if your tune would change if the teacher had said “this is a great example of adapting a short story to a feature length film, and hey, it also shows that gay people exist”.

    I think your issue is with a film that shows gay people exist.

  • Rich Wilson

    Hey, that’s a cool typo!

  • Sindigo

    Sadly, I think you’re absolutely right.

  • PietPuk


    Nobody forced these guys to get married to a woman if they really thought they were homosexual.

    Love this piece of added willful ignorance.

  • AxeGrrl

    Wow, sorry, but you’re asserting way more than is ‘known’.  The bottom line is that we have no idea how Jack died.  All we see are images that Ennis imagines. Lee leaves this point ambiguous, purposely.

    I’m amazed how many people think they ‘know’ what happened.  We don’t.  For all we know, Jack could have committed suicide.  The important part of the telephone booth scene is that we’re shown what Ennis is thinking.

  • cipher

     The thing that makes them the most angry about Brokeback Mountain is that it shows gay people in a positive light.

    The thing that makes them the most angry is that it forces them to confront their own repressed same-sex inclinations.

    The Christian fundie shouting the loudest about homosexuality is the one trying hardest to convince himself he isn’t gay.

  • CarolynTheRed

     I think about 2/3 of the people I know who studied in English in Canada read “The Handmaid’s Tale” at some point in high school.

  • CarolynTheRed

     Well, if the parents are a group of people with different values, which conflict with each other, there’s probably nothing worthwhile that doesn’t conflict with the values of some parents.

  • nakedanthropologist

    I definitely have to concur with smrnda here.  We also need to cognizant of the time period in which the film and short story take place – its the 20th century and in rural America – so there’s plenty of social context and pressures to not be gay or even accused of it, because that stigma carries with it very real threats, including murder.  To wit, I live in Tennesse and I’m 29 years old and not married.  People often find this odd; in their view, I “should” be married by now.  But I’ve been busy with work, grad school, and dealing with a major illness – so marriage isn’t really a priority for me.  My point is, there’s a fair amount of social pressure where I live (suburban, TN, 2012) to be married (heterosexually) and its 2012.  So context plays a very large role in the events of Brokeback Mountain – its not just a black and white story with clear cut lines.  And again, all these litle details foster discussion and academic interest among students (i.e. learning) and shouldn’t that be the goal of any teacher and/or class?

  • nakedanthropologist

    Now you’re just being obtuse, and you know it.

  • Bryan

     I didn’t even know there was a movie version of it. Is it any good? Would the IFI approve?

  • nakedanthropologist

    These aren’t young children – they’re high school seniors.  They will be legal adults very soon, and probably go out into the world on their own.  As we age, are cerebral cortexes mature and are able to process more complex works of art, literature, and social discourse.  The movies and literature presented are age appropriate and deal with real-world issues.  The messages aren’t “sent”, they are interpretive – people will see what they want to see in art.  Controversial subjects foster debate, research, and interest – all good things for young adults in school.

  • C Peterson

    I think it was pretty good, but nowhere near as good as it ought to have been given the rather stellar cast. And IMO, not a very good adaptation from the novel. But like the book, it treats women as chattel and breeding stock, so would seem to be generally in line with the IFI view of things.

  • nakedanthropologist

    Too right you are.

  • Anna

    I took a similar elective my senior year of high school, and our class discussed plenty of R-rated films. One thing that always strikes me about right-wing fundamentalists is their insistence on treating teenagers like young children. If someone had tried to censor my movies/books/music at that age, I would have been outraged. I remember how livid I was when a busybody video clerk tried to prevent me from renting a film. I was about 15 at the time, and I can still recall how it made my blood boil! Needless to say, the censorship attempt didn’t work. It just made me more determined to see it, and I went back and got the movie on another day.