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NF-Lee's Gildor and Frodo

BBM Screencaps ~ Kiss Scenes, Pt. I….

Posted on 2006.04.29 at 12:16
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~ Detail from erotic drawing by Paul-Emile Becat (1885-1960)

Warnings:

1. HUGELY long LJ entry, but I think it is one of my better ones. This post is all intro. and has only partial BBM content. So, if you are opening this for the screencaps, this is not the post to see them in.

2. There is some adult content in the text (erotica, slash); also, an erotic illustration, NOT WORKSAFE: NC-17, het, nude erect member.



Brokeback Mountain ~ The Kiss Scenes.


Note:
Although the original purpose of these entries was to present the BBM screencaps, I find that the film and the scenes touch so many issues I’ve been mulling over for years (but especially recently), I am going to go ahead and get as many of these thoughts out there while they are in my mind.

Therefore, although some of this is not directly about BBM or its scenes, the entries will be inter-related and should be read in order. Or, you can just look at the pictures.


Part One:

My Journey Towards Erotica and How My Attitudes Changed Towards Love Between Men, Preparing Me to Be Able to See and Appreciate Brokeback Mountain....


Back when I was hotly discussing this film in January and February, I wrote about how well the kiss scenes were made, I promised a Lovely Someone from another LJ that I would make screencaps of the kiss scenes from the film once the DVD had come out. I said I would post them in my LJ.

Well, the DVD came out, I made the caps, and here’s the introductory post....

It is ironic how well BBM’s kissing scenes worked for me. Not that I didn’t love the characters, I did -- deeply. But I didn’t *swoon* for them. I didn’t desire them. I admired the actors, but I didn’t desire them, either. But I did swoon for the kiss scenes (well, for the whole film). Watching those scenes I could enter into the characters' experience, to feel with and for them.

That I was able to love the characters was due to the greatness of the film, the acting, and the writing. That I was able to swoon for the kiss scenes was a result of fanfic.

As I have said elsewhere, had it not been for fanfic, I would not have been able to watch the kissing scenes the way I did: receptively and open-heartedly, able to feel for and with the characters as they stumbled and fell into sexually-expressed love. If not for my pre-exposure to men loving men in fanfic, I would have watched those scenes squirming the whole time. I would have admired the filmmaking, but I would barely have been able to keep from averting my eyes.


Excursus on coming this far, regarding the issue of same-sex love.

(Some of you have heard me say these things elsewhere, so you can skip this. I guess I just want to sort “go on record” in my own journal.)


The first stirrings of a taste for erotic stories.

How did I ever get to the place where I could warm to an on-screen kissing scene between men? Some of you have said in your journals that you have always found male/male scenarios exciting, long before fanfic. Not me.

Before my LotR fandom, I never had read any same-sex erotica. Except for a few times in high school, I never had read erotica, period. Oh, I loved to leaf through racy magazines and look at the pictures, enjoying the sense of “the forbidden,” even as it was a masochistic act, sighing wistfully at the perfect babes spread over the pages and thinking how poorly I compared.

I had looked at gay porn magazines, too, stashed under a housemate’s bed, but that had been more shocking than titillatiing. Because his porn showed men's genitals, of course I pored over every page. But what it gained in explicitness, it lost in atmosphere. The girlie magazine centerfolds were much more lushly presented, with flattering lighting and attractive settings, the woman gazing dark-eyed from the glossy pages with a, "Come here and do me, you handsome dog," look on her face. I was utterly mystified by one of my friend's books, a sort of photo-story that openend with two smiling men sailing a boat, naked but for their socks – the sex part came later, but why would they leave on their socks?

But when it came to visual erotica I’d look at anything. Growing up, in our home medical encyclopedia, the painting of the male showed him wearing a genital pouch for modesty. I had no idea what female genitals looked like. Pictures available then just showed the pubic mound, and I had never looked at myself. I was starved for explicit images.

Although I looked at all pornographic and erotic pictures with keen interest, sometimes making my ears burn, they rarely elicited real desire. They titillated, but they did not satisfy.

This was not so with printed erotica. In high school I was able to rush through what were then scandalously erotic stories from previous eras, found, no doubt, tucked under a stack of lingerie in the drawers of friend’s parents -- Fanny Hill, A Man and His Maid. Under my own mother’s lingerie I found and read the copy of I Was a Call House Madame, which she had been loaned by a friend. To this day she does not know of her daughter's snoopings. It was not what I’d call erotica, but it did make me think about owning and operating a ritzy whore house when I grew up. If I had to have sex with a man, why not get rich doing it instead of having to be a cook and maid and nanny like my mother? At twelve I still had no idea what love could do to a woman's attitude. But, at twelve, in my tract-house bedroom, I relished the fantasy of traipsing around drawing rooms papered in flocked red velvet with satin divans and Tiffany lamps, wearing silk negligees and those high heels with the pom-poms on the insteps that thirties actresses wore in old films. Isn't it funny that once I grew up, I preferred jeans and sweats, flannel night gowns and men's old T-shirts?

What I found from my forbidden reading, though, was that reading erotica, rather than looking at it, was really involving. Of the few we got our hands on, I especially liked Fanny Hill, with its explicit but witty and romantic sex.

Although I only stumbled last week upon a gallery of erotic drawings and watercolours by early twentieth-century French artist Paul-Emile Becat, I thought this illustration he did for Fanny Hill strongly conveyed qualities that appealed to me in the book’s erotica. It is explicit, but still conveys a sense of the tenderness and intimacy of the sort of sexual passion that can connect two people. It isn't just a picture of two people engaging in sex (or shortly about to), it is a picture of lovers.

The lighting is great, too.



~ An illustration by Paul-Emile Becat for “Fanny Hill”:





Perhaps I would have indulged my budding taste for reading erotica back then, but it wasn’t available the way it is today at the click of a keypad. In those days it meant walking into a dubious shop and publicly browsing the bins or shelves of “naughty books.” What if someone saw me? Then the selection would have to be carried to the front to be paid for. Whenever I imagined such a scenario, I felt the eyes of the cashier trained on me with pity and contempt. “Poor cow, making do with sex in books.”

So the only erotic stories I read when I was young were the few banned novels that got passed around from friend to giggling friend, dog-eared and stained from potato chips, until some parent found out and blew the whistle, confiscating the book and forbidding us from further association.

Decades passed, but still I did not read erotica. Even though as a grown-up I lived in cities where purchasing racy books could be done virtually anonymously, I didn’t do it. I suppose I didn’t care about it as much once I was an adult. I was looking for real-life erotica.


I discover fanfic.

Years later, married, with a nearly-grown child, I entered the era of my LotR obsession, sparked by the films. I fell in love with the films and Frodo and then I discovered fanfic. I soon began to look for fic with erotic content, hungry for stories that showed Frodo in love. How else could one enjoy the charms of a fictional person? I passionately longed to see what Frodo might be like as lover. I hungered and thirsted to see him in action. With good lighting.


I discover erotic fanfic; my reaction to slash.

I looked hotly for what I learned was called “het.” Prior to LotR fanfic, I would have merely called "het", “erotica.” In my search I found little het, but quickly stumbled upon “slash” -- of which there was plenty. The first slash stories I happened to read were two highly-recommended pieces of very graphic Frodo-and-Sam fic. I wasn’t ready to read them. There is no denying that I was extremely titillated, but titillated the way visual porn titillated me: I experienced the stories from an emotional distance. I could not identify with the characters or their behaviours. Frodo and Sam in the fics seemed so foreign to me... Sam, blushing and gaping open-mouthed like a swooning girl, and Frodo –- so shockingly smooth in his manner! so knowing! -- like an accomplished seducer of blushing, swooning girls (conveniently open-mouthed). The stories raised my temperature, but it was like watching sex acts between characters I no longer knew, strangers. I felt like a voyeur.

But it was more than that. To be honest, I was put off by the fact that the sex was happening between two males. Was I a rabid conservative? Not about most things, but my private attitude towards homosexuality was quite ambivalent, no matter how faithfully I voted the liberal side of the ballot. Confronted with a graphically depicted male/male sex scene, no matter how titillated I was, I felt very uncomfortable. It didn’t matter how many warm friendships with gay men I had had in my theatre days, I just didn’t want to see what men did with men in bed.

But that changed. And it happened quickly when it happened. I have confided this story to some of you, but I want to enter it in the record, so to speak.

Early on in my fanfic immersion I had started reading Willow-wode’s heavily recommended RoP: The Hall. I soon became engrossed. I loved Willow’s Buckland setting, her vivid sense of place and mood. I loved her melodramatic plot. But especially I loved her charismatic, troubled teen-aged Frodo. Although he was nothing like “my” Frodo, her Frodo not only irritated but enthralled me. (That his appearance was described as looking just like film-Frodo's didn't hurt, either.) What made me so enthralled with him, I saw later, was how strongly I identified with him. In him I saw my old teen self, a kid who lived too much in her imagination. Like her Frodo I was secretly intense, anxious, terribly narcissistic, and dying for some lover, real or imaginary, to come and take me away from my world -- and from myself. Alas, none came. But Willow did not leave RoP Frodo to pine. Ah, RoP Mac, Deliverer of teens who yearn and burn! Where were you when I was young?

So what happened was this: I had become so emotionally invested in Willow’s Frodo character, where he led I was bound to follow. In for a penny, in for a pound. So, on that fateful afternoon when Mac joined Frodo in the tub in Brandy Hall's bath house, I was there with him. And I wasn’t getting out.

Starting from that scene of awkward but impassioned sexual initiation, RoP’s Mac and Frodo led me to see what sex between male lovers could be -- because I could identify with them. The experience totally changed my gut-attitude towards gay sex in real life, not just my head-attitude.


Why I would not call myself a “slasher”.

Because some of you are self-identified “slashers,” I think I should make clear that I am not. A slasher, that is. I am not into male/male pairings, as such. I am into pairings starring Frodo. It is Frodo whom I am “into”. I guess you could say I am a “Frodo-er.” Whether his partner in a fic is male or female, what I am want to read are stories portraying Frodo, Frodo in love. I look for highly-rated stories because I love erotica, too. But I only pant for erotica starring Frodo, who is, for me, Eros made flesh through the magic of words.

That is why, while I can appreciate deeply a convincing love story featuring other male/male pairings, and while I can swoon for the beauty and reality of their love scenes (the BBM scenes would fall in this category, or Scribendi’s and Annmarwalk’s lovely Theodred/Boromir fics), male/male fic as such doesn’t attract me.

The same would be true of me for het. Like most people I watch films with het love stories, and I read fiction with het relationships depicted in them. But, when it comes to erotica, what really turns me on isn’t the act, but the person, and the person who turns me on is Frodo.


It is because of fanfic that I am able to appreciate a male/male love scene, on the page or on the screen.

After the Academy Awards, some of us were muttering and arguing about what might have spoiled the film’s win for “Best Picture.” ‘Discomfort with or active loathing of the film’s homosexual content among Academy voters,’ came up a lot.

That was an issue, more so than I had at first allowed. In an LJ entry about the loss I quoted a good article, and copied and pasted a remark Ernest Borgnine made to a post-awards interviewer asking him his opinion of Brokeback Mountain. He responded, "I didn't see it and I don't care to see it. I know they say it's a good picture but I don't care to see it. If John Wayne were alive, he'd be rolling over in his grave."

It is my bet that Borgnine (a fine actor who won the award fifty years prior for Marty) spoke up for many who were too embarrassed (or nervous) about appearing anti-gay.

But, as I wrote to my LJ discussion partners, I myself might have felt that same way, even if I would have had the manners/timidity not to express it, had I not been “softened up” first, by being exposed to slash fanfic. I might not have been able to bring myself to go and see the film -- much less sit through its kissing scenes.


It is men portrayed as loving each other, not having sex with each other, that is the most difficult for readers to accept.

"The kissing scenes? The kissing scenes are no different from any kissing scenes," one replied. "What about the first tent scene? It was damned dark, but anyone could tell they were supposed to be having anal sex. That had to be pretty shocking to viewers."

No, I said, they might have been a little shocked, but that would be all.

Like me, a lot of viewers would have seen films with male rape scenes in them. Prison movies, movies about men forced to live in close proximity. No, it was the kissing that would have caused the squirming. The anal sex in BBM was quick and harsh and instinctive, as if done for sheer sexual release.

Their kissing was different. Whether the tentative tent kiss, or the impassioned stairs kiss, the kissing they did required intimacy. It required vulnerability. It required the two men – and the audience watching them – to really open themselves to the possibility of male/male love. Love, not just sex. Everyone seemed to be able to understand a level of sexual frustration that could drive two men together sexually, whether they were men in a prison camp, in a barracks, or on the top of a Wyoming mountain. It was “love” that was the hurdle a viewer had to get over.

Those discussions took place back in January and February, but, since then I have done a lot of interesting reading.

What I read has tended to support what I had intuited back then. It was the element of love between the men, shown in real, engaged kissing, that would most affront and challenge the sensibilities of viewers, not the sex act.


Supporting excerpts for this line of reasoning....

In a book about the treatment of homosexuality in films from the 80’s (Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies, Vito Russo, 1987 rev. ed.), one of Vito Russo's messages was that men presented as simply loving each other was the biggest taboo there was.

It wasn't the case that gay and lesbian characters weren't being portrayed, they weren't being portrayed having satisfying (or any) love relationships. In feature films, faggots could dish and swish or gnash their teeth in The Boys in the Band (1970), but their love lives had to be truncated and miserable. A high-minded student priest might once have had a gay love affair, but he had since given that up (Mass Appeal, 1984). A gay man could live but die singly (Philadelpia, 1993). Gay men could prance and preen as the effeminate "sissies" of earlier film eras, or as the mincing queens of later films, whether amusing or pathetic, but, again, singly. In the area of actual depicted sex, a student could be gang-banged in a gym shower. Tim Robbins could be forced to submit in The Shawshank Redemption, 1994 (although, to be fair, the film made a point of showing the perps as straight men using others for forced sex). Serial killers could rape and kill cruising men. Joe Buck could be gang-raped by roughs in Midnight Cowboy (1969). But, reciprocal, tender, erotic love? That was almost impossible to see depicted on screen.

Here’s a telling quote from Mexican director Jaime Humberto Hermosillo. I thought it spoke directly to what I had noticed about the “squirm” I knew I would feel at the kissing scenes, but not the sex scene in Brokeback Mountain.

Hermosillo, Russo explains, in talking about his 1986 film Dona Herlinda and her Son, tells how he hopes to challenge his audiences in a way filmmakers rarely attempted in Mexico (the bold-faced emphases are mine):

“A previous film I did, Deceitful Appearances,” says the director, “was a very shocking piece about a hermaphrodite who marries another man and takes the masculine role. It upset audiences but at the same time it was easy for them to rationalize it because they saw it as extraordinary – something which could never happen in their lives. With Dona Herlinda the audience is not safe from believing that this could actually happen to them. The only homosexuals portrayed on Mexican screens are flamboyant effeminate characters from whom the audience can be distanced because such portrayals cater to their prejudices. In my film it’s just two handsome men who love each other. This doesn’t happen in Mexican films. One of the actors I hired told me he couldn’t do the role because his father hates homosexuals. ‘He would understand if I were drunk and fucked with a boy,’ he told me, ‘but to be tender with another man … impossible.’
(p. 314)

The shrinking from real male/male love, and real kiss scenes, is not new; that was written twenty years ago.

Although the passages below were written about films from the '70's and '80's, it doesn't seem as though things have changed that much. The responses described below could have happened today. If audiences now don't actually stop the show, after the Academy Awards, I wondered if it was a matter of having learned to keep all that feeling out of sight. Having read these things I marvel all the more at what Ang Lee managed to achieve, portraying honestly and compassionately the love scenes in Brokeback Mountain:

There is no mainstream motion picture in which two men do anything more sexual than kiss each other, and even that simple act is still approached with trepidation by filmmakers and greeted with cries of outrage from audiences and critics alike. When John Schlesinger was about to shoot the kiss between Peter Finch and Murray Head in Sunday, Bloody Sunday (1971) [a great film, by the way] the cameraman turned to Schlesinger and said, “John, is this really necessary?” The nervous reaction is not confined to motion pictures. According to Richard Thomas, his kissing Jeff Daniels in the first act of Lanford Wilson’s Fifth of July on Broadway (1980) drew such a loud comment from audiences that several times during the run he was forced to bring down the curtain and begin the play again.

In Sidney Lumet’s Deathtrap (1982), neither Christopher Reeve nor Michael Caine plays his character stereotypically gay, partially because their sexual orientation is a key element in the surprise ending. Yet choosing to have their love affair revealed through a passionate kissing scene that was not in the original play must have been a calculated error. “The sight of Michael Caine kissing Christopher Reeve,” wrote Peter Ackroyd in the Spectator, “is enough to make the most jaded of us sit upright in our seats.”

The reaction of audiences was more violent. (...) “I heard that a preview audience in Denver booed the kiss,” says Christopher Reeve, “and that was reported in the Time magazine, thus ruining the plot for millions of people. We later referred to it as ‘the ten million dollar kiss’ as an estimate of lost ticket revenue.” As for playing gay characters, Reeve simply says, “I think the problem is with other people. I’ve been used to straights playing gays and vice versa all my life so it seems pretty ordinary to me. People aren’t freaked out by homosexual characters on stage on the screen if they emerge as compelling, real people that the audience can identify with on other levels.
(pp. 295-296)

I emphasized the last of the quote from Christopher Reeve because it seems that he was incorrect. "Compelling, real people," people that "the audience can identify with," may be the ones that are the greatest challenge to watch. Audiences could watch the young protagonist of Midnight Express (1978), cornered and raped by guards, but they squirmed and protested watching “regular” men kiss, perhaps most of all because they seemed like them, and kissed like them.

Even more recently I read a wonderful memoir by a gay writer, Paul Monette. Monette was born in 1945 (d. 1995), roughly when Jack and Ennis would have been born. Raised by less than well-off parents in Lawrence, Massachussetts, he was a bright student who was given a scholarship to a pretigious prep school in his town. Another scholarship sent him to Yale. In his memoir, Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story (1992), he tells candidly, funnily, brilliantly, angrily, and movingly of his life in the closet and how he finally emerged from it.

Here is a passage I found pertinent to what I have been talking about. He is recounting how he played sex games growing up, with whom he played them, and the “rules” of those games.

The animal hunger was the same I felt with Kite [his first sexual play friend, when he was 9 ½] except for one thing. I wanted to kiss Richie. I never came close to verbalizing that, let alone acting on it, because I understood that all romance was forbidden. We could dick around as much as we liked, but a kiss would have bordered on love. And yet I was aware of feeling tender as well as carnal. I would summon up Richie’s face in my mind when I wasn’t with him. (…)

To this day I think he was queer too, and our sessions together never required a smokescreen of pretending we were getting ready to put it to women. But Richie kept me at a distance all the same, no intimacy of any sort, substituting instead a comrade’s heartiness. I’d arrive at his house, and we’d get right down to it, no preliminaries. I guess I was learning the difference between a boyfriend and a “fuck buddy,” thought the latter term wouldn’t come into vogue for another twenty years. Half my generation of gay men would go after that kind only, willing to try almost anything once – but no kissing.
(P. 52)

As I will try to point out next time, the film of BBM departed from the short story on which it was based in just this area. What Monette described doing with his little friend was very like what Proulx described her 19-year-old protagonists doing that summer up on Brokeback. They were true sons of their era.

But the film version of BBM made what I now see is the radical jump of letting the boys who were "fuck buddies," like Monette and his friend Richie, become lovers -- the lovers they might have wanted to be, under the hearty bluff, lovers who would dare to kiss face-to-face.

Next post:appropriate quotes from the short story, more discussion (but not so long!), and the first of the screencaps, probably in three installments.


~ Mechtild


Brokeback Mountain Links Page HERE


Comments:


(Deleted comment)
Mechtild
mechtild at 2006-04-29 22:13 (UTC) (Link)
I am glad, Mews. I felt a little exposed, posting all that in one place. But I have been feeling the need to do a sort of "summa" from the things I have been thinking, if only for myself.
julchen11
julchen11 at 2006-04-30 00:24 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you dear for your wonderful and very interesting post. I'll come back again, have to think about it and re-read it again.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2006-04-30 01:02 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Julchen, but enjoy your weekend; you shouldn't be reading!
Ann
just_ann_now at 2006-04-30 00:26 (UTC) (Link)
What a lovely post. I hope I can write a reply that will do it justice!

I think that you and I are of similar ages and backgrounds, and I think my early exposure to erotica was very similar to yours. What was quite interesting about my childhood (I'm seeing now in retrospect) was the sort of double standard: my mother and older brothers were great readers, as was I; and so there never seemed to be any question about reading what was around. This changed when I was perhaps 10 or so, and my brothers starting bringing naughty magazines home. I knew they had them, I knew where they kept them (not particularly hidden) and so when I was doing my chores (cleaning, putting away laundry, etc - typical female chores of the time) I would stop and look at their magazines. I thought the articles were interesting; I had enormous curiosity about the sexual matters that were openly discussed in the magazines, even if I didn’t have a clue about most of what they were talking about; but mostly I was intrigued by the photographs: women only, of course [I don't ever remember seeing a picture of a naked man until I studied art history.] Oh, how intently and enviously I studied those photographs! When, oh when, would I ever look like that?

Well, I didn't know they were supposed to be dirty magazines; I didn't know I wasn't supposed to read them - we all read lots of magazines, after all, Look and Life and McCall's and National Geographic; so what was different about those? You cannot imagine (or perhaps you can) what happened when I was caught reading one of them. "You MUST NOT ever touch those things again. Girls don’t look at those things.” Not because they were my brothers’; the issue was not violation of their personal property but the horribleness of my looking at them – the clear message was that it was quite right and normal for males to look at such things, but for women it was bad, disgusting, “wrong”. And I, of course, was also bad, disgusting, freakish.

(Even now, with the convenience of my very own computer, in my very own computer corner far on the other side of the house from my husband’s computer; and with no children living in the house any longer, I still feel guilty when I am reading my favorite written erotica, or looking at my personal stash of LOTR-themed erotic artwork. At my age! Very silly, but there you go – it’s really hard to get past being a 10-year-old-pervert.)

What does that have to do with anything: I forgot. Maybe I was trying to get to the point of our right to explore whatever avenues of sexual activity we find intriguing; with the good old Wiccan, I believe, caveat: If it does no harm, do what you will. When oh when oh when will these issues of sexuality be removed from the concept of “sinful, evil, bad”?

Digression on writing slash: I think, as fanfic writers; we write the stories we want to read. We don’t want to read about swishy, stereotypically “gay” characters; we don’t want to see our characters punished for their “sins” with physical abuse or even death (because after all, the wages of sin are death.). We want our characters to be the men/hobbits/elves/dwarves that we know and love from the books, but we want to see them living their lives to the fullest, loving and being loved as is every sentient being’s right. Even if they do end up being shotful of orc-arrows eventually, at least they got to be happy for a little while.

By the way, thank you so much for your kind words; they are much appreciated!

Oh, and that illustration is gorgeous – it’s Boromir and Theodred, if Boromir was being played by the Johnny Depp of Chocolat and Theodred was being played by Cate Blanchett. I must ponder this casting.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2006-04-30 01:27 (UTC) (Link)
Meaty answer, Ann. ("Meaty" ng ng ng ng).

This changed when I was perhaps 10 or so, and my brothers starting bringing naughty magazines home. I knew they had them, I knew where they kept them (not particularly hidden) and so when I was doing my chores (cleaning, putting away laundry, etc - typical female chores of the time) I would stop and look at their magazines.

There was not a scrap of naughty magazine in our house. I remember seeing one for the first time at the little grocery store across the street from my grandparents. We were between houses (again - Air Force dad). I was seven years old. Idling away the summer vacation, I saw in the racks that there were magazines with scantily dressed ladies on the front, called stuff like "Man's World" and "Stag." My little brother read comics while I flipped through the pictures in these magazines. I remember being astounded that ladies went swimming without their bathing suits on, even letting their pictures be taken. There were no crotch shots in those days, they didn't even show nipples. But there was a picture that showed a woman in the swimming pool reaching up as if to grasp the ladder. The edges of her aureoles just showed, distorted by the reflection on the water's surface. I was quite enthralled by the spectacle. Finally the storekeeper took it away, not meanly, but with the clear message that if I wasn't buying, I couldn't look. (What a fair man! And so ahead of his time!)

I had never seen naked breasts on anyone other than another pre-pubescent girl. I didn't even know that breasts had a practical function, isn't that ludicrous? I had not yet heard about "how babies are made". It hadn't occurred to me that human breasts were like the breasts of other mammals. That they weren't just for filling out strapless evening dresses covered with sequins. They were for making milk? No! I was thirteen before I had a real-life glimpse of a woman breast-feeding. I had only seen babies drinking from bottles. It really was another era.

The next time I saw girlie magazines I was your age, ten, and had started my period and been told about "reproduction." We were living in a temporary set-up again, in New England this time, and I was visiting a friend's house for the day. Her single uncle who lived with them kept a stash of girlie magazines by the extra toilet in the basement (no, he wasn't a molester). All of us kids went down there to look at them. I guess he used them for masturbating. Although they were almost in plain sight, it was clear that they were supposed to be off-limits and not for any but grown-up eyes. Who could resist?

We want our characters to be the men/hobbits/elves/dwarves that we know and love from the books, but we want to see them living their lives to the fullest, loving and being loved as is every sentient being’s right. Even if they do end up being shotful of orc-arrows eventually, at least they got to be happy for a little while.

And you do keep your characters happy, if only for a little while, very happy indeed! *carries in floral arrangement from Theodred and Boromir*

Oh, and that illustration is gorgeous – it’s Boromir and Theodred, if Boromir was being played by the Johnny Depp of Chocolat and Theodred was being played by Cate Blanchett. I must ponder this casting.

Just for you, here's a link to one of Becat's male/male erotica drawings. I don't know how many he did. The site I found only had a few pages. But of the m/m shown, this was the best of the lot. I think it's quite good. Nicely rendered, explicit, yet preserving a feeling of passionate engagement. Too bad neither of them look like heros of LotR. :D

http://www.arterotismo.com/Becat/Becat11.jpg

Scarlet
stillscarlet at 2006-04-30 03:16 (UTC) (Link)
That's an excellent post, my dear. It reminded me of something Bono said in a speech some years ago: "The inability to put ourselves in another's shoes is the core of intolerance." Art - especially literature, for me - allows us to step into someone else's shoes, and that's a great gift.

Oh, I remember early on in your discovery of fanfic, how I mentioned a particular story and hurried on, intent on making a point. When you replied with your reaction to that fic, I facepalmed. I'd never intended you to take it as a recommendation - no wonder you were taken aback! d'oh My fault entirely!

I still haven't seen Brokeback Mountain. I'm much aggrieved. I'm assured it's still coming to our local theatre. How long to sing this song?
Mechtild
mechtild at 2006-04-30 04:47 (UTC) (Link)
You are too gracious, Scarlet.

Yes, I wasn't naming names but it was you who recommended that two-part S/F fic way back when, you minx. And it really was good! But I was not at all ready to read it with real appreciation. Actually, Scarlet, had it not been for your urgings I would never have read hot fanfic at all. I am so grateful you did, since I have enjoyed it so much and it has brought such a creative resurgence into my life, artistically and personally.

And thanks for posting the Bono quote, it is right on target. (I've seen Bono pics in many mags at the library, by the way, since he was Person of the Year.)

"Face-palmed," I love that expression. I suppose it is the companion to "head-desk."

Regarding BBM: Are you able to watch a U.S. DVD? I know Australian DVD's won't work on U.S. players, but maybe it's different, the other way around. I could send you one. I would be happy to do it, Scarlet.



Map-Maker, Lighthouse-Keeper
marinshellstone at 2006-04-30 05:34 (UTC) (Link)
oh mech...I loved this post. If you'll look in my userinfo, you will see that Paul Monette is listed as one of my interests. I read "Becoming a Man" long after I read "Borrowed Time", the heart-breaking story of what happened to Paul's most beloved partner, Roger, in the early years of the AIDS epidemic. I read it because my younger brother recently accepted a degree in history and sociopolitics, with a minor in AIDS research and management, and at the time he was going through all his classes and lectures, I was avidly reading all the books along with him and volunteering in clinics. I do not recommend reading this book until you are ready to say goodbye to Paul and all the beauty he stood for. It breaks my heart just to think about it. You continue to challenge me and I love how BBM has broken open this part of you that you continue to explore with grace and patience, and share with us in such well spoken words...and somehow it all ties back to love of LOTR...you're the best!!!
Mechtild
mechtild at 2006-04-30 14:40 (UTC) (Link)
That is so interesting, Hadara. I hadn't an inkling that there was a minor or a major in AIDS research, but of course there would have to be by now.

I ordered "Borrowed Time" from the library and it is sitting on my dresser now, waiting for me to finish my current book. I really loved his memoir, although it was hard to hear him rant at the church crimson-faced with the veins sticking out of his neck like handles, so to speak. I am a church person, believe it or not, but it was good to hear the rant, full out. Good for me as a church person, that is. Much better to know the truth than hide it under the rug.

casey
casey28 at 2006-04-30 08:19 (UTC) (Link)
A very interesting post!

I can see that some viewers see the first night in tent scene as them merely having drunken sex; or, as you say, "sexual frustration" or "mere physical release. I see it somewhat differently.

I think of the scenes as being interconnected, for the second night in tent was a "response' to the first night. The vulnerablity, the openess, the tenderness, the beauty of the first kiss and how they touched... all came from the "door" that was opened the first night, and how they behaved toward each other that day.

Right before they had sex, Ennis and Jack look at each other for a long moment. They then both "wrestle" and reach out to each other passionately. They then lean in and make contact with their faces and their hands. You can see that moment in the icon that i'm using above. To me, that's one of their first moments of truly intimate contact... I can see it in their body language and their facial expressions. And right before the act itself, Ennis grabs Jack's shoulder forcefully to pull him into postion. There is raw sexual need in his expression, but I see something more. It's like a dam breaking inside him... the giving in to his feelings for Jack. And so, I see the sex they had as an extension of the connection they felt right before the act itself.

There is no doubt that Ennis was deeply affected by what happened in the tent that night. He rides off without even speaking to Jack. When they briefly speak later, there is no doubt that they are both responding deeply to what happened between them. It is from that first night together that the second night will unfold. That it blossomed so quickly to the level of intimacy of their second night together, shows that the seed for that was right there, already, that first night, when they had sex. It merely needed a little space, and time, for it come to fruition.

As I will try to point out next time, the film of BBM departed from the short story on which it was based in just this area. What Monette described doing with his little friend was very like what Proulx described her 19-year-old protagonists doing that summer up on Brokeback. They were true sons of their era.

But the film version of BBM made what I now see is the radical jump of letting the boys who were "fuck buddies," like Monette and his friend Richie, become lovers -- the lovers they might have wanted to be, under the hearty bluff, lovers who would dare to kiss face-to-face.


The author of the book herself said that, because it was a short story, that some of what she wrote was skeletal, and didn't show the full scope of what Jack and Ennis went through. The movie format was able to flesh out the story more. So, even though she didn't spell out how Jack and Ennis expressed their love for each other on Brokeback Mountain, it is shown through their actions how they felt about each other. And it went way beyond what mere fuck buddies would feel for one another.

Still sticking with the book version, we have the very passionate reunion kiss. If Jack and Ennis had merely been fuck buddies on Brokeback Mountain, these hungry, bursting with love kisses would have never happened. Could they have gone from being fuck buddies, and no kisses, and then four years later, act like they were very familar with kissing each other? I can't imagine it happening that way.

So, I believe that in her book, the reader has to fill in some of the blanks with their imagination. The movie was able to supply some of that for us, by providing the second night in tent kissing scene.

I emphasized the last of the quote from Christopher Reeve because it seems that he was incorrect. "Compelling, real people," people that "the audience can identify with," may be the ones that are the greatest challenge to watch

I feel the same way. Jack and Ennis are both masculine, very real characters. Some people could indeed find it uncomfortable, because it's too easy to identify with them.

I look foward to your next post and the screencaps. Again, thanks for sharing your views! :)

Mechtild
mechtild at 2006-04-30 17:57 (UTC) (Link)
Casey 28, I keep screwing up this "fix," but I wanted to apologize for being in such a dash I confused your icon with Maeglian's, who posted directly below you (before you wrote your latest comment.

Therefore, I am re-entering the comment with the proper person being addressed. Sorry!
________

I know that Proulx said things about her story in light of the film, but if the film were never made, and readers had only her story to go on, I don't believe many would imagine what the film portrayed. Personally, I think the film is a big improvement on the short story. She may have written their Brokeback Summer skeletally, but that was her choice; she's in charge of what I read, as the author, and what she wrote was not what was in the film. This is no criticism of the story, it is its own creation.

Still sticking with the book version, we have the very passionate reunion kiss. If Jack and Ennis had merely been fuck buddies on Brokeback Mountain, these hungry, bursting with love kisses would have never happened. Could they have gone from being fuck buddies, and no kisses, and then four years later, act like they were very familar with kissing each other? I can't imagine it happening that way.

As for the two of them being portrayed in the book as the sort of "fuck buddies" Paul Monette described, I don't take that back, either. Even though I really do think they feel in love that summer, and that we were meant to see that -- even in the short story -- I don't think the story portrayed the two men as having been able to see it at the time. I also doubt they kissed, based on a quote from the short story, which I will post next time. The stairs kiss came four years after that summer, four years in which neither, probably not even Jack for most of that time, thought they would see each other again. When they did they glued together like adhesive, in the book and on the screen. But that was not at all the sort of kiss that we saw in the second tent scene. In "real life" (the world created by the short story) I think they would have got around to kissing like that, but only after they had rekindled the affair they thought was gone for good. I will save more on this for the next entry, but your remarks will have helped me say it more explicitly.

Anyway, I suppose my point is that I don't think either of the men, in the story, knew what had happened to them up there until they were long gone. Jack had far more of an inkling, but even he didn't fully get it. In the film they knew, clearly, that they had something special going on.

One of the things that resonated in Paul Monette's book, and which I applied to my understanding of the story BBM, was how a closeted man could repress to the point of truly not knowing what he felt. Unlike a modern, out gay man, Monette told how the desire to not be identified as "one of those faggots" drove him and others to simply deny they felt anything beyond sex, even when they did. As if to say, "I'm really straight, see? This is just me screwing around." In the example he gave of his play with Richie, he (reminding me of Jack) really cared for the other boy, shown by his desire to kiss him, and to go beyond mutual masturbation. But the other boy was just fooling around - or told himself he was. Later in Monette's book, that boy would have joined up with the straight boys who insulted boys they thought were "queers," including Monette.

When Ennis says the next day, "I ain't no queer," yet they continue to have a sexual relationship all summer, it seems to me they were doing the same thing as these two boys but as adults. Having a relationship while denying they are having it. It doesn't mean they aren't in love just because they can't or won't see it.
Maeglian
maeglian at 2006-04-30 09:50 (UTC) (Link)
A very illuminating, interesting and well-researched post! It's been more than interesting, following you through the summary of this journey of reflection and discovery.

I find it difficult responding because every part would lead to this huge, long post that I don't really have the energy for at the moment. I'll constrain myself into saying that I've seen it frequently stated in discussions about slash that the F/S relationship in particular works for many (while other "pairings don't) because the love between the two characters is established so firmly in canon. Even without any sexual connotations in canon, it's still the fact that they *love* each other that makes many of all those erotic slash stories work. Even when it comes to pure PWP stories, that element has been so firmly established in canon and fanon that it's an absolute, a given, underlying the story whether it's spellled out or not. (First time I came across a F/S explicit slash story, I couldn't hit the "back" button fast enough. I found it disturbing. Not because of the content per se, but because it broke so much with what I considered to be canon, to be the true nature of the characters and their relationship. Of course, I've later changed my opinion completely, to the effect that sex would be another way in which the two of them might display and express their deep love and connection - without it "demeaning" canon as some seem to think. I've written huge posts about that in the past somewhere, I'll not go further into it here.)

This ties directly into your discussion of the same topic for BBM. I find it really sad if the fact that the two characters actually love each other *and* demonstrate it through passionate kissing onscreen is what drove people *away* from the film. I seem to recall reading various statements in media from people who were uneasy going into the film, but who came out feeling deeply moved that the fact that J&E truly loved each other remained, while the gender thing became relatively secondary. Which again was disputed by Mr. Mendelsohn, of course. (One thing I love about BBM is the endless ambiguities and the many facets and angles of every scene, line, and issue. There's a long, rewarding discussion inherent in every look, word and image!)

Anyway, I shall look much forward to reading your next post, - the comparison between book and film. Both of them tell a love story, but there are statements in the short story that does not fit with the added scenes in the film, foremost among them the SNIT (Second Night In Tent). The film has the characters (and especially Ennis) realizing and admitting to the love he feels for a *man* coming earlier and clearer than the story. No way would film Ennis have said it took him a year to realize his stomach cramps meant he should not have let Jack out of his sight. And I've always felt that the story's description of the "dozy " embrace - that Ennis didn'nt want to see or feel that it is Jack/a man he is holding - can't possibly fit the film, mainly because of the earlier event of the SNIT. Interestingly enough, though: In the screenplay that particular statement concerning Ennis's evading the truth is in fact still kept in, as an instruction to the actor(s) on how to play that moment. It's one of the things I think does not at all come out in the movie as stated in the script (and glad I am for that: Though there's no doubt film Ennis is struggling with the love he feels and it makes him disgusted at himself, makes him feel abnormal, a freak, there's also no doubt IMO that he admits to himself and *knows*, however reluctantly, what's actually going on in the love scenes, even (I would argue) in the very first one.

So much for keeping it brief! ::rolleyes::

Looking forward to your next post. :-)

Mechtild
mechtild at 2006-04-30 15:07 (UTC) (Link)
Great post, Maeglian and I don't mean to overload you as a reader. I just felt like I wanted to make a clean breast of it. (So I can get on with my danged STORY!!!!)

Anyway, I shall look much forward to reading your next post, - the comparison between book and film. Both of them tell a love story, but there are statements in the short story that does not fit with the added scenes in the film, foremost among them the SNIT (Second Night In Tent). The film has the characters (and especially Ennis) realizing and admitting to the love he feels for a *man* coming earlier and clearer than the story. No way would film Ennis have said it took him a year to realize his stomach cramps meant he should not have let Jack out of his sight. And I've always felt that the story's description of the "dozy " embrace - that Ennis didn'nt want to see or feel that it is Jack/a man he is holding - can't possibly fit the film, mainly because of the earlier event of the SNIT.

These are exactly the passages I mean to post in the next entry. I think they are very important and highlight the key ways in which the film presented the love affair differently. "Differently," not better or worse, although I find the film presentation far more satisfying than the book's.

frodosweetstuff
frodosweetstuff at 2006-04-30 14:12 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Mechtild, for this very very interesting post. It is very lovely of you to share your "history" with us.

I thought it was very interesting to see that we are both "Frodo-centric" but that that leads us to a very different approach to the erotica we read about him. I guess it is because as strong as my love for Frodo is my belief in the one true love - and so it is more or less impossible for me to imagine Frodo with different lovers. There can only be one - and I never doubted, because of their relationship in the books - that that would be Sam.

Very interesting also what you observed about the m/m intimacy and the different reaction to m/m sex and m/m love. What I have observed amongst slashers is that if we had to choose, most of us would rather read about m/m love than m/m sex. :)

Anyway, thank you very much for this post. I found it very interesting and it got me to think about quite a few new aspects about this fandom and BBM.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2006-04-30 15:18 (UTC) (Link)
(oops - forgot the formatting!)

Hey, you are supposed to be gestating! Relaxing! Putting your feet up!

I thought it was very interesting to see that we are both "Frodo-centric" but that that leads us to a very different approach to the erotica we read about him. I guess it is because as strong as my love for Frodo is my belief in the one true love - and so it is more or less impossible for me to imagine Frodo with different lovers. There can only be one - and I never doubted, because of their relationship in the books - that that would be Sam.

As Maeglian said above, fanficcers have a lot to work with with the canon friendship of Frodo and Sam, which is deep and intimate beyond words, bound as they are by a uniquely shared experience of the best and worst of what their world had to offer. She said that all S/F fic is written and read based on the foregone conclusion of their special relationship.

And that is so. However, I am a reader and was a reader that saw that relationship as a non-sexualized one in canon. But, reading S/F fanfic, in so far as a writer makes the relationship plausible to me as a sexualized one, leaving something close to the canon characters in tact, I can really, really enjoy it.

Since I am not invested in the idea that book (or film) Frodo had an affair with Sam or even was repressing the desire to have one, I am open to him being portrayed a being attracted to, or having a real affair with someone else. I can read with pleasure and interest of him entering into an affair with his cousin Merry, for instance, or someone else -- an OC or someone who is virtually an OC, say, like Folco or Fatty, or some other character who is not much more than a name in the canon text (any such character has to be virtually created by the fic author, just as the parents of the hobbits are routinely created by fic writers out of nothing but names).
bagma
bagma at 2006-04-30 19:47 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for posting that fascinating essay! And the comments above are very interesting as well.

I find amazing we both became 'Frodo-er'in fanfic while we have such a different experience of erotica, m/m erotica in particular. Sometimes I think I'm born slasher...:) Since my childhood I prefer love stories between men to the ones between men and women, and when I'm reading (fanfic or novel), I'm looking for THE perfect love story, because I'm awfully sentimental too. And for me Frodo and Sam embody that ideal story, even if in canon they are not lovers. But like you I can tell I'm a 'Frodo-er', because as a reader I've fallen in love with Frodo, and not with Sam; don't get me wrong: I love Sam, he's a wonderful character, but I definitively prefer Frodo.

I passionately longed to see what Frodo might be like as lover. I hungered and thirsted to see him in action. With good lighting

Oh! yes, me too!:) I wanted to see him with a male though, Sam of course, but I'm not adverse to another lover...

Ah, RoP Mac, Deliverer of teens who yearn and burn! Where were you when I was young?

I don't know, but he was not with me, alas!:)

What you say about BBM got me thinking. I agree with you about the fear of the love between two men, but I'm not sure about the -relative!- tolerance of the sex. My husband and I talked about that some weeks ago: one of your nephews, J., is gay, and my husband -who is straight, but very tolerant- told me he has no problem with J. loving a man, but he can't bear to think of him in a bed with another man: that disgusts him. I think a lot of people merely are disgusted by gay erotica. And often disgust prevents from thinking clearly.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2006-04-30 20:17 (UTC) (Link)
Sometimes I think I'm born slasher...:

*snerk* I remember reading your "confession" in your LJ. Didn't you say it ran in the family...? ;)

I think a lot of people merely are disgusted by gay erotica. And often disgust prevents from thinking clearly.

Well, I was repelled, too. Yet I could accept the idea of men banging each other, after a while -- as if it were the sort of thing people did at fictional (or real?) orgies. As if the participants were sort of detached, mentally, just feeling the sensation, not paying attention to the person. And I could watch the few scenes in films where men were supposed to be having sex with men, though in these films it was all implied, the actual sex acts. There was nothing more graphic than BBM's tent scene....

Stop! Wait!

Hey, that might be it, Bagma! I may be totally wrong about the kiss being harder to watch than the sex. It may LITERALLY be because the sex is not explicit, but the kiss is. I just began to say that the only times I've squirmed, pre-slash, watching gay scenes with some sort of erotic content was when they were kissing. "Eeew, men kissing: Yech!" When it would show one of them getting on his knees and then the receiver's reaction shots, or someone getting done (more reaction shots), I could handle it. But when the two men actually kissed - and the more intentionally they kissed the harder it was to watch - it was shown fully.

Therefore, picture this. BBM Unexpurgated. Motel scene from book: not the two men afterwards, with a tight shot so that only their faces and hands holding their cigarettes showed in their afterglow embrace, but what happened before: an actual sex scene depicted as fully as the one between Ennis and Alma (not porn, but with two people obviously naked under the sheets, kissing and having intercourse). One that would provoke Jack to say as he does in the book, Ennis must be so danged good because of all the horseback riding. THEN see what would be harder to watch, that or a kiss scene.

Hey, I might have to post this in the next entry.
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