Just How Unrealistic is the “Tent” Sex Scene in “Brokeback Mountain”?

The Flying Monkey answers all questions, including: is there a happier ending for one pioneering singer-songwriter?

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Q: I’m young enough that I’ve honestly never
actually seen Three’s Company — not
even a rerun – but I’m aware of the basic premise: straight guy moves into
apartment with two straight girls, landlord worries they’ll get up to all sorts
of hanky-panky, straight guy must pretend to be gay, wacky misunderstandings
ensue. I’m suspect this series was offensive, but maybe it was radically ahead
of its time in how it treated gay people. Was it? – Paul, Minnesota

A: It’s
true it resorted to extremely broad gay stereotypes. But you can make a pretty
good case that the object of the ridicule wasn’t necessarily actual gay people,
who were never actually seen (as far as I could find), but rather the prejudice
of the various landlords (Mr. Roper,
and to a lesser extent, Mr. Furley),
and their willingness to believe the
stereotypes.

Plus,
you could argue that the show humanized gay people in the sense that Jack,
definitely a “positive” character, was comfortable enough in his
masculinity to be willing to pretend to be
gay. And even the landlords, while ignorant, were not particularly hateful –
after all, they let a gay guy live in their building.

But frankly, I think this is giving the show too much credit – and I definitely
don’t think it was “ahead” of its time. It was smack dab in its time: a time of dawning sexual
openness and a growing awareness that gay people really did exist (somewhere
else), but a time that still was almost completely clueless about GLBT people
and issues.

Q: I have a question regarding the first sex
scene in Brokeback Mountain (in the tent). Has anybody
been
surprised about how easy and
unreal that first sexual intercourse is? It may convince straight viewers, but
no gay can believe it can be so easy for two virgin guys to “enter”
the gay world! — Gwenhaël

A: Well, keep in mind that this is movie sex which, we all
know, is nothing whatsoever like real sex.

Still, I’ve written about this before, and was so curious
about that particular scene that I even asked the movie’s producer, James Schamus, if they
“consulted” with anyone about the mechanics of it.

“We didn’t hire anyone,” he told me, “but [director] Ang [Lee] is not shy about his research
on everything, from what kind of jeans shepherds wore back then to what the sex
would be. I know he just talked to a lot of his friends and a lot of folks he
met along the way until he was satisfied.”

But plenty of gay viewers were not satisfied. Since the principals
involved with this movie are all straight (both male stars, the director, the
producer, and both screenwriters), I suspect this was simply a case where no
one involved knew the exact, uh, ins and outs of gay sex – and none of the
Teamsters spoke up to correct them (wait, did I just say that out loud?!).

Q: I’m sure that over the years there have
been gay or lesbian contestants on Jeopardy,
but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a contestant mention a same-sex partner
during the brief chat sessions with host Alex Trebek. I’m wondering if the
issue is deliberately being avoided. I don’t watch any other game shows,
so I don’t know if this is endemic to the game show industry, specific to
Jeopardy, or simply my imagination. What’s your take?Miz Liz, New York

A: As
far as I can tell, there’s never been anything more than an ambiguously gay
contestant on Jeopardy – although there have been a few on other games shows,
including Wheel of Fortune, Show Me the Money, Baggage,
and
Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

I’d
be wary to accuse Jeopardy of bias if only because this is still such a rare game
show event, and GLBT folks share some of the blame here. I’m sure it’s been the
case that gay contestants have been discouraged from being open, but I’m also
sure it’s been the case that GLBT folks have been reluctant to out themselves
on national television. In fact, I had a college housemate who was on Wheel of Fortune back in the 80s (he won
$13,000, mostly in merchandise). But he didn’t mention he was gay – and at the
time, I’m not sure he even considered it.

A Note from the Flying Monkey: Last year, I
wrote about the 1974 album Caravan
Tonight
, by a singer-songwriter named Steven Grossman,
who was the first out gay musician to have a release on a major label
(Mercury). More interesting still, the songs themselves were openly gay. (Alas,
despite repeated requests, the album has never been released on CD or in an
e-version.)

But
like way too many pioneers, Grossman turned out to be decades ahead of his time.
The album flopped, and his career dwindled. He died of AIDS at age 39 in 1991.

But
the story doesn’t quite end there. A month before he died, wracked by illness,
Grossman’s friends encouraged him to record the songs he had been working on
since his first album. After his death, they tried for years to interest a
music label. But it isn’t until now that those final recordings, since
impressively remastered and remixed, have been released: Something in the Moonlight
by Steven Grossman is now out on
Significant Other Records (which is the company his friends formed to release
the album).

How’s
the album? It’s more proof that Grossman was a talented songwriter who never
got his due. His sound is sort of quirky bluesy-folksy – like his idol Joni Mitchell. And like Mitchell, his
music had evolved since the 70s – become looser, funkier, a little less
earnest, with forays into international rhythms and even an occasional
“big band” sound. I especially like the song “Truce with the
Moon,” the title track, and “Pearl Moon,” which manages the
clever trick of rhyming “man to see” with “fantasy.”

Check
it out – and let’s give Steven’s music a happier ending than the musician had
in real life.

Have an entertainment-related question? Contact me here (and be sure and include your city and state and/or country!)

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