Sunday, March 12, 2006

Unrequited Longing and Such

In a Slate article on HBO's new series Big Love,* Daphne Merkin writes that depictions of heterosexual romance have fallen out of vogue, that most popular art now proceeds from a queer perspective that's automatically suspicious of heterosexual relationships. I read the thing with a fair amount of suspicion, because the thesis sounds like a tarted-up-for-Slate version of "Oh my god, the homos are destroying our youth!" But there was one point that I quite liked in the article, talking about Brokeback:
And although the once-hallowed ideal of romantic pining is no longer perceived as a glorious sacrifice when a woman waits by the phone for a man to call—better she should figure out, sooner rather than later, that he's just not that into her—this sort of risible soul-mate anguish takes on a noble mystique when it occurs between two cowboys who live for their twice-yearly fishing getaways.
I think that's not a bad point. When Heath Ledger knocks out the big bad bikers while fireworks go off behind him, you know you're dealing with a bit of a romanticized film. And Brokeback's emotional relationship had to've been terribly unfulfilling to the participants. But I think the film recognizes how lacking the relationship is, and addresses the repression that's felt, particularly by the Heath Ledger character, and how cold and overly guarded that life must feel. That is, though it may deal in Romantic imagery, it does deal with the realistic implications of the behavior.

Which is to say that this is a weird, weird piece to be showing up in Slate, which rarely offends my extreme lefty sensibilities.

*The series itself is about a polygamous family, seems to be a comedy based on the premise that while it may seem to a guy a total fantasy to have three wives, it's actually a pain in the ass.

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