By Eric Patterson
"This is from the heart--may it go to the heart."
Heath Ledger is dead; what he achieved in his career, and especially in Brokeback Mountain, never will die. The circumstances of his death aren't clear, and may never be fully known or explained. Since the news first was reported on the evening of January 22nd, there has been much sensational media speculation about what may have caused his death, and almost immediately those who hated Brokeback Mountain for its respectful, sensitive representation of love between men began to direct another of their torrents of filth at him personally. On his radio program, John Gibson, one of the many reactionary propagandists promoted by Fox "News," insulted Ledger in the most offensive ways possible only hours after the actor had died, crudely manipulating and ridiculing clips of his performance in Brokeback Mountain, laughing at his life and, like some obscene ghoul, reveling in the fact of his death. Perhaps the most vicious and vociferous homophobes in the nation, the "Reverend" Fred Phelps and his minions at their "church" in Topeka, Kansas, declared Ledger had received divine punishment for choosing to be in Brokeback Mountain and now was in Hell, and threatened to disrupt his funeral and memorial services with their grotesque protests. Sensationalistic exploitation by the media and the hateful words and actions of homophobic thugs should be condemned and dismissed for what they are, but shouldn't distract from regretting the loss and honoring the memory of a man who was a superb artist and a true ally of people who differ from the majority in sexuality and gender. Life is fragile, often troubled and painful, and all too brief, but the art that some gifted people are capable of achieving is so strong that it can resist hatred and stupidity and last forever, reaching and changing and fortifying countless people the artist never will know. I have no doubt that this will be Heath Ledger's legacy.
In their comments about the actor, some, seeking to express their sense of loss, have said that it's especially sad because he was at the start of what promised to be a great career. I understand what they mean, but we should recognize that, because of his commitment to his art, Heath Ledger already had attained greatness. He took a wide variety of parts, some in films of uneven merit, but through acting in such a range of roles he challenged himself and developed his skills, and made it possible to create a masterpiece in his presentation of the character of Ennis del Mar. Particularly because I feel it's urgent to speak up on Heath Ledger's behalf now, against the venomous insults by so-called news commentators and by hate groups masquerading as "Christians," I'm unable here to provide interpretation of his life and his work in films other than Brokeback Mountain. There isn't time for such extensive analytical discussion, though of course it should and will come eventually. It isn't necessary now; all one really needs to do is to watch Brokeback once more and feel his extraordinary performance. Of course, one of the effects of the endless parodies and "jokes" about the film ever since its release has been to prevent appreciation of it, to seek to neutralize its beauty and power by burying it in ridicule. Can one imagine such continuous abuse being directed at a film about any other minority group, at, say, Schindler's List or Do the Right Thing? But for those who aren't poisoned with hatred of men who love men, and who can watch the film with open hearts, it speaks for itself.
Brokeback Mountain, in both its story and film versions, employs one of the most ancient literary forms, and one deeply associated with love between men, from Classical Greece and Rome through the Renaissance and up to the present, the pastoral elegy. Pastoral poems usually are set in an idealized rural world, and elegies in this tradition usually present one man lamenting the loss of another, celebrating him and honoring his memory. They can be the means not only for expressing the mutual emotion, but also the mutual sexual desire that can unite men. Some elegies, such as those of John Milton, Percy Bysshe Shelley, or Matthew Arnold, concern only an emotional bond, but others, of ancient writers such as Theocritus and Virgil and much more recent ones, such as those of Walt Whitman and Paul Monette, affirm male physical love. In Brokeback Mountain, Annie Proulx and Ang Lee and his associates create a modern American pastoral elegy, locating love between men in an ideal pastoral setting on the edge of wilderness, distant from the hostility of society, and showing the meaning and value of that love through its loss, and the grief of one man for another he's loved. While I'm unable to aspire to poetry, I can appreciate and attempt to describe the beauty of what Heath Ledger did in Brokeback Mountain. His performance is poetry enough. I think it's appropriate to honor the man who did so much to make the film so powerful with an elegy recognizing and celebrating what he achieved.
Rather than seeking to interpret and analyze his performance in the film, which I've done elsewhere, and which others also have done and will continue to do, I simply will enumerate some of the most impressive elements of Heath Ledger's performance as Ennis del Mar. As I've mentioned, they will speak for themselves to those who are open to the film. His performance is so rich and subtle that I'm sure there will be many aspects of it that I won't be able to mention here, and I'm sure, too, that much of what I will say already will have been noted and appreciated by others.
Anyone who watches Brokeback Mountain with attention and sensitivity can see how deeply Heath Ledger explored, understood, and indeed, inhabited his role. He became Ennis. He must have worked tirelessly, both on his own and with Ang Lee, Jake Gyllenhaal, and the other filmmakers, to achieve this. From the first moment when he jumps down from the truck that's given him a ride to Signal, you can see how differently he presents himself from his other roles. He was a strong, lithe, athletic man with blonde masculine beauty, and could employ his looks to create an impression of arresting radiance, but here everything about him is austere, closed, and cautious. As he walks into town, as he waits at the Farm and Ranch Employment Office trailer and smokes a cigarette, his motions are guarded rather than expansive, and they become more so when he's no longer alone. Jake Gyllenhaal immediately conveys Jack Twist's openness, emotion, and curiosity, which Ledger counters, lowering his eyes, only glancing at the other man when he can't be seen. As he leans against the trailer, he shifts his legs very slightly from side to side, suggesting the character's nervousness while also casually, accidentally-- from the character's standpoint, at least-- enhancing the physical beauty that will attract Jack. When they eventually speak, he does so with his voice deep and rough but quiet, conveying both Ennis's strength and his shyness. In the scene in the bar and then during the first several episodes on the mountain, he almost never looks directly at Gyllenhaal when they interact; in the bar, for the most part his eyes remain on the beer bottle in front of him, and when they talk at the campsite, he usually gazes down into the fire or at whatever work he's doing with his hands. For the most part, he continues only to look directly at Gyllenhaal when he himself can't be seen to look, particularly when Gyllenhaal mounts and dismounts, showing the muscularity of his body, particularly his "haunch", which, as Proulx says, attracts Ennis's interest from the start.
The reserved way in which Ledger uses his gaze makes all the more striking the scene early in the summer on the mountain in which he looks at Jack riding on the high, distant ridge with the storm coming up, giving a sense of the interest, concern, and desire Ennis has begun to feel for his friend. He looks up, his dark, deep-set eyes squinting to see so far, but with a slight suggestion of a wistful expression suggesting what Ennis feels. In the brief scenes when he's riding the trail with supplies, just before he encounters the bear, he confirms the change the character feels as a result of the beginning of intimacy with Jack: his face now is open and relaxed, almost smiling, as he hums a few bars of "The Streets of Laredo." It's evident, too, in the gentleness and consideration in his voice when he depicts Ennis's willingness to switch places with Jack in caring for the sheep. This transformation eventually is completed in the scenes where they eat and drink, talk and joke by the fire, in the days just before they first have sex. When Ennis finally is comfortable enough to answer Jack's questions about his childhood with his brother and sister, Ledger presents Ennis looking down, holding his cup protectively to his chest, working his mouth back and forth as he talks. It's like watching a frozen stream breaking up in the spring, the ice thawing and finally moving free. Then, when he jokes that it's "the most [he's] spoke in a year," his eyes warm as he looks at Gyllenhaal, then flicker with a smile when he joshes his friend about what screw-ups rodeo cowboys are. Subtly and gradually, Ledger indicates the growing attraction, trust, and finally affection that Ennis begins to feel safe enough to allow himself to experience toward Jack. His subtle, brilliant acting is essential in showing the process Proulx describes in her story, whereby Ennis and Jack discover their pleasure in each other's friendship, "each glad to have a companion where none had been expected," and particularly in conveying the joy Ennis takes in Jack when he thinks to himself that "he'd never had such a good time, felt he could paw the white out of the moon."
Ledger and Gyllenhaal handle the scenes in which the men express their love with extraordinary skill. In the tent, in response to Jack's indication of his sexual arousal, Ledger shows Ennis as at first sleepily confused, but also desirous in his reaction, roughly caressing his friend's hair before he goes, as Proulx says, "full throttle," and turns him around and screws him. Both Ledger and Gyllenhaal have the courage and respect to recognize that this is how some men like sex with each other, as Proulx says, "quick, rough, laughing and snorting, no lack of noises…" Then Ledger presents the character as McMurtry and Ossana imagine him, in contrast to Proulx, ashamed and worried and fearful on the next day, and downcast and hesitating before he decides to re-enter the tent the next night with Jack. The sensitivity and beauty with which Ledger and Gyllenhaal present the men is deeply moving; Gyllenhaal gently embraces and reassures Ledger, who gradually relaxes and embraces him, showing not merely the sexual desire, but more importantly the deep need to be close to another man which motivates both men. At least for those with eyes to see and hearts to feel, the scene is as beautiful and moving as any depicting a man and a woman.
Watching these scenes again, or re-reading the story, it's difficult to understand why some viewers and readers claim the first episode of sex between the men comes too abruptly or seems to come out of nowhere. One of the strengths of both the film and the story, at least to me, is that they capture the intensity of feeling that can mark friendship between men, particularly when they're young, and the fact that for one or sometimes for both there can be a strong element of physical and emotional attraction. Necessarily this often must remain unspoken, indeed, unarticulated even within their own minds, due to the homophobia that tells men they can't be men and also desire men. As a result, feelings can build beneath a quiet surface, and suddenly express themselves in passion, as they do for Ennis and Jack. Clearly both Ledger and Gyllenhaal understood this, and probably discussed it at length, in order to present it so convincingly.
There isn't time here to appreciate Ledger's presentation of Ennis in such detail throughout the film, though I did want to note how essential his abilities were-- along with Gyllenhaal's-- in depicting the gradual development of love between Ennis and Jack. I'll only note some remarkable additional aspects of Ledger's presentation of his character in the remainder of the film, which indicate the depth of his understanding of the role. Of course, throughout, his achievement was sustained by the directing of Ang Lee and the fine acting of Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway, Linda Cardellini, Kate Mara, and the work of many others involved in the film.
The contrast between Ledger's openness in the scenes on the mountain and his withdrawal when he depicts Ennis departing from Jack at the end of the summer is striking, particularly to any man who's loved another man, yet has seen him pull back from the significance of their intimacy because of the fear and shame taught by society. Many men know how wonderful it is to be embraced by another, and then how bitter it can be when he turns away, cold and angry because of what they've shared and what he thinks it means about him. In their fight on their last day on the mountain, Ledger suggests the frustration and rage Ennis feels at his impossible situation, and confirms it in the final scene with Gyllenhaal, as Ennis and Jack part, standing by Jack's truck. Where Gyllenhaal looks tentatively yet expectantly at Ledger, Ledger narrows his eyes and face and looks down, as if barely able to acknowledge that the other man even is there. As the other drives off, he then retreats into the alleyway and sobs and punches the wall with a violence that indicates Ennis's fury at his inability to say yes to what his life has offered him.
Ledger brings the same extraordinary ability to present rage to other scenes, such as the one, during the early years of Ennis's marriage to Alma, before Jack's return, when Ennis attacks the two drunk, rude bikers at the Fourth of July celebration; the fury he displays not only cows the two thugs, but Alma and the girls as well, and suggests the degree of frustration he feels at having trapped himself in a marriage that isn't what he needs. He also indicates the tension between Alma and Ennis in the scene at the grocery store, when he gives her a look that warns her not to push him too hard about taking the girls when he has to go work. The actor shows similar intensity in other scenes, as when, years into their relationship, Jack dares to broach the possibility of Ennis moving to Texas, and Ennis responds by cruelly ridiculing Jack's idea. Or think of the terrible scene with Alma at Thanksgiving, where she proposes what she and he know would be exactly the wrong thing for him, to marry another woman, and he reacts in the only way he can, since what he really needs can't be expressed, making the jibe, "Once burned," leading her to angrily accuse him about Jack, which causes him almost to strike her, and then to pick a pointless fight at a bar. In such scenes Ledger seems really to be on the verge of physical violence. His incredible ability in projecting Ennis's raw rage culminates in the awful final argument with Jack, when Ennis threatens to kill the man he loves for needing sexual involvement with other men, since Ennis's fear and shame have caused him to refuse to accept Jack's invitation to live together. It's frightening, especially in light of Ledger's death, to think of the cost such acting must have exacted. I'm fortunate, in my teaching, to be able to teach the astonishing poetry of Emily Dickinson; Ledger's acting spontaneously brings to mind the opening line of one of her most searingly confessional poems, in which she demands, "Dare you see a Soul at the White Heat?" In Ledger's performance as Ennis, we do. Though I want to resist involvement in speculation about the causes of his death, it's impossible not to have noted that some have speculated that he put so much into preparing for and incarnating himself in every role he took on that it may have led to impossible stress, sleeplessness, and dependence on medicines. I have no idea whether this is correct, but it's possible to think it, given the intensity with which Ledger gave himself over to representing the torment of Ennis del Mar.
Ledger's ability to project Ennis's frustration and rage makes his representation of the joy the character feels in his relationship with Jack all the more powerful. When Jack sends his postcard, Ledger presents Ennis secretively evading Alma's questions, then replying and waiting anxiously to see whether his friend--who he last saw on a day when he'd punched him in the face--will show. When Jack does drive up, the joy with which Ledger endows Ennis is overwhelming--he slams his hands down on the railing of the apartment stairs, exclaiming, "Jack F***** Twist!", which isn't the way it is in the script but which exactly expresses the intensity of Ennis's desire for his friend. During their reunion by the stream, as on the mountain four years before, Ledger shows the warmth and expansiveness Ennis finally can feel, being close to his friend. His face is radiant as he kids him about the harmonica, as it was when he roughly teased and flirted with Jack before. But when Jack raises the possibility of living together, he quickly closes down, turning his face away and shielding it with his hat, yet embodying Ennis's contradictory desires by simultaneously moving closer to Gyllenhaal, so close that the other man can reach forward and entreatingly caress his ear, begging him to hear his invitation.
The eloquent poignancy of Ledger's acting in the closing episodes of the film, after Ennis learns of Jack's death from the brutal official finality of the stamp, "DECEASED," on his returned postcard, has to be obvious to anyone who sees it. The scene where he 'phones Lureen is almost unbearable to watch, as Ledger indicates Ennis's grief and his agony at being unable to say any of it. Even when he's learning that Jack may have been beaten to death, he has to continue to pretend merely to be "the fishin buddy or the huntin buddy." Again, as with Dickinson, I'm grateful that my job allows me to teach Melville in my courses; there's a line in Moby-Dick in which he describes a character in such emotional pain that there was "a crucifixion in his face," and I finally feel that I now know what this might look like after seeing Ledger portray Ennis in this scene. Ledger brings the same degree of emotional power to his presentation of Ennis at the Twists's ranch, as he endures the brutal contempt and hostility of John C. Twist, and responds appreciatively to the timid kindness of Jack's beaten mother. The scene in Jack's room, when Ennis looks out the window that Jack had looked out so many times, wanting to get away, lovingly holds his few toys and other belongings, and then goes into the closet and finds the shirts in the little jog in the wall, is overwhelming. And, as many have noted, in the parallel scene in Ennis's trailer at the end of the film, after Alma Jr. has left and Ennis has carefully put her sweater away in the closet til he can return it to her at her wedding, the idea of reversing the shirts, putting Jack's inside Ennis's, at last symbolically giving Jack the love and protection he desired from Ennis and would have given him in return, was Ledger's own idea. Ledger clearly understood and respected Proulx's conception of Ennis, as caring so deeply for Jack that, once Jack was lost, he created his own simple shrine out of the shirts and the post card, his own pastoral elegy, for the man he loved.
Watching the film again a few days after Heath Ledger's death, appreciating how much he brought to every moment of his performance, I note again how much Brokeback Mountain and particularly his acting can do to make people aware of the depth and power of homophobia. Homophobia isn't simply overt hostility to gay people; it's a spectrum, starting with all the subtle behaviors that indicate discomfort or resistance when sexual and gender minorities are mentioned, and that serve to silence them; extending to the continual ways in which heterosexuals and especially heterosexual couples are favored and privileged at work and in social relationships; to the "jokes" and ridicule and insults and bullying that serve to intimidate those who are drawn to people of their own sex; to the constant harassment and threat of violence that always affects people who differ in sexuality and gender behavior. It starts with the indifference of those who never can consider the experience of sexual and gender minorities with any respect, and culminates in the violence encouraged by hatemongers like Gibson and Phelps. It's all around us, in our families, at school, at work, and it's not merely outside of people who are attracted to others of their own sex, it's within them, inculcated by society, making them ashamed and fearful, often causing them to reject what they feel and those they love. Heterosexuals, who constantly have their feelings and relationships validated and encouraged by society, need to recognize how deeply sexually different people can be hurt by a culture that tries to teach them to hate and reject their most fundamental needs, which they should be able to make the foundations of their lives. I'm very grateful to Heath Ledger for helping to make this aspect of the cost of homophobia so evident to so many in his brilliant representation of the tragedy of Ennis del Mar.
How Heath Ledger will be treated in the popular commercial culture that now pervades the globe is impossible to know so soon after his death. In an age when our society is able to mechanically reproduce an infinite number of works of art, particularly visual images, and to give millions of people a sense of the immediate presence of a particular person, there are some who, despite death, achieve a strange but striking ubiquity and immortality. Perhaps partly because of early death, some are preserved in public consciousness in all their youth and beauty, and almost become deified, as has been the case with James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, and more recently Princess Diana. Today, film, video, photography, and advertising all keep the presence of these beautiful, compelling, charismatic people alive, giving them a sort of secular immortality. But it's not just a modern phenomenon, dependent on the mass media; nearly two thousand years ago, at the beginning of the second century A.D./C.E., it happened to Antinous, a beautiful young Greek who died at about nineteen, drowning in the Nile. The Emperor Hadrian, who ruled at the time of Rome's greatest peace and prosperity and who promoted Greek learning and art, fell in love with Antinous, who was a page at court. Not only was Antinous beautiful, but by all accounts he was intelligent and responsible as well, and loved Hadrian in return, and they became inseparable companions, traveling and hunting together. Whether Antinous was murdered, committed suicide, or, as is widely thought, sacrificed himself out of a religious belief that his death could prolong Hadrian's life can't be known for certain, but Hadrian's grief was so great that he made Antinous a god, establishing temples and festivals in his honor throughout the empire, and ordering hundreds of magnificent sculptures and thousands of coins bearing the likeness of the man he loved. Even without modern mechanical means of artistic reproduction, Hadrian made the moody, strong face of Antinous and his muscular yet sensuous body an archetype of masculine beauty that resonated through the centuries, influencing even Michelangelo's most famous sculpture, his statue of David. So widely popular did the cult of Antinous become that the early Christian fathers, in their zeal to attack sexuality in general and same-sex desire in particular, repeatedly made it a target. The phenomenon of the beautiful young man or woman who becomes a kind of deity, incarnating the desires of untold numbers of others, isn't new, but it's familiar today to anyone who opens a magazine or turns on a TV. It's quite possible that Heath Ledger, too, will be embraced in this way now that he's gone.
Whether this is the destiny that awaits the memory and image of Heath Ledger or not, what he achieved in Brokeback Mountain will be remembered as long as there are men who love men and others who respect and care about them and their experience. Certainly I recognize that all art is socially constructed, embodying the assumptions and beliefs of those who shape its creation and who consume it, and that it is accessible and meaningful only to people in certain places and times who participate in those assumptions and beliefs. No art has universal meaning, and claims of universality have been used to privilege art created by dominant groups at the expense of those who have been marginalized. That said, though, I also know that some works of art have a power so great that, across the distance of centuries and cultural differences, they can break hearts and then remake them; art can transform people's lives, and can continue to do so long after the artist is gone. How many people, for how many years, have attested this about Shakespeare, or Beethoven, or Dickinson? Fortunately, though slowly and through great struggle and sacrifice, American society is moving toward celebrating diversity, and American culture is moving toward the inclusion of a variety of artistic traditions, not privileging only works of art by men, or white people, or those educated only in European traditions, but recognizing the beauty and power of kinds of experience and expression that formerly were ignored by dominant groups, though they spoke profoundly to many kept on the margins. Finally the eloquence of Sojourner Truth, the powerful blues of Robert Johnson, the magnificent fiction of Toni Morison are honored as they deserve to be. Finally, too, some in the majority are beginning to recognize the beauty and power of works of art that represent the experience of those who have been despised because their sexuality and gender have placed them on the margins. The voices of artists who represent their experience of love for others of the same sex at last are being listened to. And perhaps even more impressively, some members of the majority have the imagination and empathy to explore the experience of those who differ in sexuality and gender, and to seek to represent it in works of art. Fundamental to trying to build a society and a culture that are diverse and inclusive is the act of imagining the experience of others who differ from one's self. It is this that makes a true ally, and it is this that Annie Proulx, and Larry McMurtry, and Diana Ossana, and Ang Lee, and Jake Gyllenhaal, and Heath Ledger made such an impressive effort to do in Brokeback Mountain.
The extraordinary public response to both versions of Brokeback Mountain shows how well the efforts of the author and the filmmakers succeeded. Though many who are threatened by love between men ridicule and condemn the story and the film, and some who differ in sexuality and gender also dismiss them, they have evoked a profound response from enormous numbers of readers and viewers, not only men who recognize parallels with their personal experience, but many straight people as well. One needs only to look at the Internet, at the personal testimony about the impact of the story and the film on the film's official site, at the several discussion sites devoted entirely to Brokeback Mountain, and at the discussion of it on many sites concerned with sexual and gender minorities and homophobia. Homophobes may proclaim that "gay cowboys" can't exist, "comedians" may ridicule it, "churches" may condemn it, and some sophisticated urban lgbtq people may reject it, but this can't change the testimony that's been offered by thousands of people, particularly man-loving men and their relatives and friends and allies. The depiction of friendship and passion between men, of the pleasure of male sexuality, of shared affection and commitment, of the fear inspired by homophobia, and of the painful and destructive consequences of struggling to pass for straight in order to still be considered a man, all have elicited a shock of recognition in a great number of lives. Already this profound response has resulted in a significant book, Beyond Brokeback: The Impact of a Film (2007), by members of the Ultimate Brokeback Forum, which offers eloquent and moving accounts of the film's meaning for scores of very different people, and popular appreciation and discussion of the film undoubtedly will continue. Scholarly discussion in cultural, gender, film, and literary studies also has begun; sometimes such discussion employs analytical language that reduces its accessibility for general readers, which I believe is unfortunate, since scholarship offers so many valuable ideas and the story and the film are so widely popular. My intention in my own book, On Brokeback Mountain: Meditations about Masculinity, Fear, and Love in the Story and the Film has been to use important ideas from academic discussion, but to present them so any educated general reader can appreciate them.
Amid the present sadness, confusion, and speculation surrounding Heath Ledger's death, it's important never to lose sight of what he accomplished. Certainly the causes of his death need to be understood, if possible, but from a perspective that recognizes and is compassionate toward his strengths and vulnerabilities as a human being. Rather than sensational gossip, there needs to be thoughtful understanding of the demands and costs of taking his art as seriously as he did. It's to be hoped that most decent people will be disgusted by a creature like John Gibson, who can take such ghoulish glee in the loss of a gifted, creative man like Ledger, and that the people of Perth, Australia, who are justifiably proud of the actor who was their native son, will give the legions of Phelpsites the reception they deserve if they attempt to attack his funeral. Gibson may vomit up his hatred at Fox, and Phelps may rave and fulminate in his whited sepulchre of a church, and certainly they will continue to spawn and spread the hatred that hurts sexual and gender minorities throughout our society, but they'll always remain impotent to affect the brilliant critical portrait of the price exacted by their homophobia that Heath Ledger offered in Brokeback Mountain. Undoubtedly he was a flawed person, like me, or you, or anybody else, who said and did regrettable things, but he also showed himself to be a real ally to men who love men because he respected their experience and took it seriously, making a profoundly effective effort to understand and represent it. He didn't listen to bigots like Mel Gibson, who tried to dissuade him from accepting the role of Ennis, and wasn't tainted with the hatred and contempt that caused the likes of Ryan Phillippe and Mark Wahlberg to make the dismissive comments about the film that have been reported of them. Instead, he took the role and turned to a gay family member, his mother's brother, Neil Bell, for advice. A former boxer who was rejected by his father as a young man because of his sexuality, Bell apparently became an important mentor and friend to Heath Ledger. The actor was affected by another gay friend, the Australian cowboy and horse wrangler Adam Sutton, who he had met on the set of Ned Kelly, and who Ledger said reminded him in some ways of Ennis. This is precisely what is so threatening to those who try to ridicule and disparage Ledger now: he respected and wished to understand men who love men, whom they hate and fear and despise. As a man who loves men, who has loved his partner for nineteen years, who has struggled with the shame and fear and hostility that Heath Ledger depicted so well in Brokeback Mountain, I feel a deep sense of gratitude and obligation to him for what he achieved.
Eric Patterson is associate professor of American studies and American literature at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He is the author of a newly published book On Brokeback Mountain: Meditations about Masculinity, Fear, and Love in the Story and the Film.