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The city and the

The city and the


It's unprecedented, this new gay movie that's all the talk. It's a same-sex romance that portrays gay men's emotional lives in a way my friends and I are awestruck to see on-screen. We all agree that its unspooling of a passionate yet rocky relationship captures gay guys in a particular time and place like never before.

We cherish this movie. We get teary at all the poignant plot twists and at the bittersweet ending. We go to see it over and over again. We cry more each time, because knowing what will happen next just makes it all the more powerful. We cast ourselves as one lead or another. We wonder if our love lives will come out the same.

It's 1986, and the movie is gay writer-director Bill Sherwood's Parting Glances.

Parting Glances was no Brokeback Mountain. It didn't pack mall theaters, didn't win mainstream awards, didn't top critics' lists (they preferred My Beautiful Laundrette from straight director Stephen Frears). But for those of us living in New York City in the mid 1980s, Sherwood's movie was revolutionary. For the first time we saw on film gay men like us. We saw the ravages of AIDS--and the painful humor we squeezed out to help us cope. We saw young people coming out without the baggage of the older generation. We saw gay men in love and in bed and in turmoil. I still quote the movie's most memorable lines in conversation: "In a relationship there's always one who kisses and one who is kissed," or "Your dick knows what it likes." (Brokeback's Jake and Ennis know well the truth of both.)

For 20 years, I have recommended Parting Glances to everyone I know as the movie that best conveys the emotional truths of gay life. Certainly the moving yet chaste Philadelphia and the subsequent cineplex successes of The Birdcage (Hollywood's top-grossing "gay film") and In & Out did not change my mind.

But now I may have to rethink. Because while I've been living out Sherwood's Parting Glances in the urban landscapes of New York City and Los Angeles, an uncounted multitude of gay men and women have been living out aspects of Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain in the heartland. It's a potent reminder that what city folk call "gay culture" can be as foreign to many LGBT Americans as sheepherding would be to Michael (Richard Ganoung), Glances' protagonist. Or to me.

This isn't really news to The Advocate, which has in the past year featured gay cowboys in Oklahoma, Mormons in Utah, and moms in Florida in its cover stories. But The Advocate's editor in chief can always use a stern reminder that his life--my life--is the exception. Most of us at least begin our gay lives on Brokeback Mountain. And many of us choose to stay there.

Brokeback ends in the mid 1980s, about the time I met Bill Sherwood at a Greenwich Village party. Bill was acerbic and smart--and also, by then, weak from AIDS. (He'd kept his diagnosis a secret while filming.) He died in 1990, never having made another movie, never having fulfilled his dreams. There are tinges of Brokeback Mountain even in the most metropolitan of gay lives.

Is this now the most important movie ever about same-sex love? Many gay viewers cringe at making heroes out of two repressed cowboys who live miserably ever after. But Brokeback's effect on millions of straight viewers is undeniable. They've now seen gay people living in the most remote corner of American life. And they have felt the truths of Ennis's and Jake's lives resonate in their own. It's unprecedented.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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