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Who isn't bummed that Brokeback didn't mosey away with the Best Picture Oscar? But if fingers must be pointed, blame the loss on gays for not standing up to endless parodies and jokes about the film

"And the Oscar for Best Picture goes to Crash..."

Even before Jack Nicholson handed the naked gold statue to the movie's producers, cries of homophobia echoed from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. What? No Brokeback Mountain? How could this be? There is no doubt that Brokeback was the favorite to win, and one would think a film that had just won for Best Score, Best Adapted Screenplay (go, Diana and Larry!), and Best Director would, in fact, be the Best Picture. Well, not according to Oscar.

Obvious homophobia again, right? The Academy just couldn't stomach awarding an unashamed love story with gay sex, right? Those damn cultural elitists caved to the pressure of Middle America and the religious right and played it safe by awarding a movie about racism in the LAPD, right?

Say it with me: "Poppycock!"

That's too easy an answer and one to which we all too often defer when things like this happen. So what happened?

First, Brokeback burnout, and for that we are all to blame. In fact, gays are probably more to blame for Brokeback not winning than almost any other group (if there is one to blame). Why? Because we allowed it to become a national joke. Oh, sure, the parodies are funny. Oh, yeah, the jokes, including Billy Crystal and Chris Rock at the beginning of the Oscar show, got laughs. But at what expense? Simple--ours.

Brokeback Mountain is a tragic story with a tragic ending. I have yet to hear anyone explain to me what is funny about two people who can never really admit they're in love, a society that wouldn't accept them if they did, and the possibility that one of them dies by fag bashing (oops, was that a spoiler?). It seemed like a laugh riot on paper, right?

But most gays and lesbians have allowed Brokeback parodies to flourish. Where was GLAAD when all the jokes were being made and all the clips were being produced? Oh, no, it's cool to laugh at gay people.Look how funny they are. And the thought of gay love? Hysterical! Let's make it a joke. In fact, in 2006, "Brokeback" became the "Hollywood Word of the Year" as reported by the nonprofit Global Language Monitor group. Hey, it's good for the box office, right?

The problem is that Academy members may not have wanted to vote for a joke, and unfortunately that's what the media, comics, and Hollywood have done--turned Brokeback into a giant joke, a comedy skit. It's a shame, because Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry's script is anything but funny and Heath Ledger's and Jake Gyllenhaal's performances are worthy of praise more than parody.

And then there's Brokeback fatigue. By the time Academy members got around to voting, they were probably tired of hearing about the movie, especially in the new, lighthearted way it's been presented. There was no balancing voice from any gay group or organization to refocus them or the nation on how important and serious the discussions about this movie should be.

Dialogues that should be happening are not, and that's a shame. For instance, no one stood up and said, "Stop calling this a gay movie!" Capote is far more gay than Brokeback, including the characters. I believe Ennis to be straight and the affair to be situational. What a great dialogue to have: that sexuality isn't cut-and-dried, that sometimes you can fall in love with a person and not a gender, and that just because you're straight and have sex with the same gender doesn't make you gay. Just as if you're gay and have sex with the opposite gender doesn't make you straight. I'm legally married to a woman and haven't had sex with anyone of any gender since July 2005. Does that make me straight? Trust me, no one believes that.

Why not talk about how being gay is a way of life, a lifestyle, an essence of being, and not about gay sex? There are gay celibates, for goodness' sake. Straight men have gay sex. I know--I've had it with them. And gay men have straight sex (yes, I've had that too). Sexuality is complex, love is unexpected, and sometimes we enter into unexpected relationships. That's the thing to be talking about. Talk about breaking down barriers so straight men might feel more at ease to explore their sexuality. But instead, we get a Brokeback to the Future parody--and laugh.

And then there's the question of which nominee is simply a better movie. But gays don't want to address that because Brokeback is a holy grail now.

Look, you can't compare art. Van Gogh or Cezanne? And the winner is? Please, I'd take a work by both or either. Each film is unique. But in terms of complexity of story line, the way the story was told, subject matter, and all that goes in to a film, if pressed, I'm forced to admit that Crash and Capote were actually better films. I love Brokeback and all it says and does, and I can't thank everyone enough for their labor of love, a labor that will lead to much better things in Hollywood for gays and lesbians when it comes to film. But when you compare it to the other nominees, while it certainly deserves to be nominated and deserves every single award it has gotten, was it the best picture made last year? Well, the Academy didn't think so, and in reality, many nongay people don't think so either. We must remove ourselves from our emotional attachment to the film and simply judge it as any other piece of celluloid. How many of you even saw Crash, Capote, or Munich? We run a very dangerous risk of blind allegiance to anything, films included.

The star of the night was Brokeback, no doubt. It got three statues. Why can't that be enough? The fact is that 10% (or so, depending on whether or not there's alcohol involved, or in this case, isolated men with sheep) of America loved this film. Ninety percent of America didn't have that much of an investment, so they liked it. Many liked it a lot. But many also couldn't relate. Racism, on the other hand? We're still fighting that, as we have for thousands of years as humans. Everyone has a stance on that. And a troupe of talented actors weaving multiple story lines that all collide in one explosive place is not that easy of a feat. In this case the Academy thought it made for a better movie.

Brokeback Mountain is a serious, wonderful movie about serious, forbidden issues. If it's your best picture of the year, fine. But leave Oscar alone. As an icon with no genitalia, he's got enough problems. And not everything that happens to gay people or gay-themed products has a direct relationship to homophobia. As a mainstream talk-show host, I've had to learn that. We have to be more than gay; we have to be good. Being fired because you're gay is wrong, but being fired because the straight guy next to you is just a little better at your job isn't homophobia; it's just a fact of life.

So the Academy didn't think Brokeback was the brilliant work millions of others thought it to be. To scream homophobia is to yet again prove that we want to blame everything on something else and take no responsibility. Maybe if we took ourselves--and our movies--more seriously, others would too. Maybe things would be different if in our quest for acceptance, we didn't allow ourselves or our media to become a parody. Not just on the Oscar stage, which is all make-believe anyway, but in real life.

I was fine with the Oscars. Every movie won something, and as a gay person, I'm willing to share. Congratulations to all the winners, and especially Ang Lee, Diana Ossana, and Larry McMurtry. And congratulations to Paul Haggis and his wonderful group that raised important social questions as well. We're not the only ones struggling for equality: blacks, Hispanics, Persians, women...hell, almost every minority still is. And I'm glad Hollywood tackles it all.

Oh, and by the way, it's an award, not a social statement. Which film won Best Picture last year? Bet you had to think, or maybe you don't even remember. But when Crash is in the $5.50 bin at Wal-Mart or Target it will still be a great film, while Brokeback will, in fact, become a classic spoken about for many years to come. So we win after all.

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