Essay on Masculinity & Brokeback Mountain

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The raison d’etre of the Western is arguably to celebrate masculinity, but Brokeback Mountain is a revisionary Western that challenges definitions of masculinity. Discuss this statement with reference to Jane Marie Gaines’s and Charlotte Cornelia Herzog’s comments on the homoeroticism of the Western.

The Western genre is undoubtedly one that is governed by the traditional male 'hero' and its masculine stereotypes. Rarely does the genre break away from this mould, however Ang Lee's renowned film Brokeback Mountain defies the set expectations of the Western and its celebration of masculinity. The film depicts the tragic love between the two central characters 'Ennis del Mar' and 'Jack Twist', set against the backdrop of the American
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Jack is shown to be extroverted, appearing softer and thus, feminine against the quiet and stoic Ennis, who represents the typically masculine lone man. Ennis's hard, exterior and struggle to come to terms with his emotions, underscores the difficulty of stepping out of the expected norms. Ennis and his affinity with violence fits into this 'mould' of the manly cowboy - as it is his one form of expression in which he allows - and welcomes.

Though these roles have been established, the film exemplifies Ennis, the masculine man as the weak man. Unlike Jack, he was not able to challenge society and its views - even for the gain of his own happiness, as the unyielding, solid 'image' he has crafted for himself would have been tarnished. He is desperate to rid himself of these thoughts, refusing to believe or accept that he is indeed homosexual. On the other hand, Jack is painted instead as a courageous and strong man for defying society's beliefs - wanting to choose love over the constructed facade of his life. Therefore, Jack becomes the 'hero', whilst by the end of the film, the viewer is left to pity the shortcomings of Ennis del Mar.
Brokeback Mountain is undoubtedly a revisionary film. It has taken a genre that has been lying dormant for some years, breathing new life into the story - as well as highlighting the genre's drawbacks with its strict ideas of masculinity. Evidently it is shown that Lee has already begun to shift the notion of