Queering the representation of the masculine 'West' in Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain

Article


McDonald, Janet. 2007. "Queering the representation of the masculine 'West' in Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain." Gay and Lesbian Issues and Psychology Review. 3 (2), pp. 79-85.
Article Title

Queering the representation of the masculine 'West' in Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain

ERA Journal ID35245
Article CategoryArticle
Authors
AuthorMcDonald, Janet
Journal TitleGay and Lesbian Issues and Psychology Review
Journal Citation3 (2), pp. 79-85
Year2007
Place of PublicationMelbourne, Australia
ISSN1833-4512
Web Address (URL)http://www.groups.psychology.org.au/glip/glip_review
Abstract

[Abstract]: The colonial construction of Western dominance over Eastern “others” features predominantly in postcolonial theory (as do those of the North over the South). Assumptions about geographical placement and origin are also sources of gendered space, especially if one subscribes to the representation of female space as “inner” or domestic and masculine spaces as “outer” or embracing of the outdoors. Popular notions of the cowboy as a an embodiment of “outdoor” masculinity endorses and repeats the “colonial” West as a dominant and desirable masculine representation which has popularly evolved over time as a stable gender category through the use of cowboy imagery to sell “manly” habits such as smoking (Marlborough Man), to selling the hypermasculinised American Masculine Dream (John Wayne).

The characters from Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (BBM) are from the great American cowboy traditions; the frontiering West of Wyoming and Texas. The film uses the celebrity bodies of Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger to queer the cowboy whilst simultaneously maintaining the dominate homosocial attributes of the colonial West. The actors’ actual bodies are neither queer nor cowboy, and their celebrity status suggests a gender performative “fraud”; yet their “star power” of the actors alone has catapulted BBM from independent film obscurity into mainstream discussion and popular culture.

Keywordspostcolonial, celebrity, queer, cowboy, West, Western, Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger, Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain, performing masculinity, performing gender
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020360403. Drama, theatre and performance studies
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Byline AffiliationsSchool of Creative Arts
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