Tuesday, December 13, 2005

HuffPo Jesse Kornbluth: 'Brokeback Mountain' and Ford's Gay Problem

Jesse Kornbluth: "My wife and I left the theater in silence, thinking the same thing: the unfairness --- the criminal stupidity, really --- of one set of people presuming to pass judgment on another. Those who are all riled up about homosexuality --- to say nothing of those who turned gay marriage into the big issue of the '04 election --- seem to think that homosexuality is only about sex. But for Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist in 'Brokeback Mountain,' their sexuality is a curse, a jail sentence: life in solitary, with infrequent, secret conjugal visits.

This is the movie's power --- the ability to make you feel the weight of two decades of desire and guilt, loneliness and recrimination. Ennis and Jack want the sex, but even more, they want the relationship, the dailiness of romantic partnership. Jack dreams of how it could be. Ennis won't let himself go there; he knows how two ranchers, living together, would play out in the West. 'If you can’t fix it, you got to stand it,” Ennis says, and you have to admire the rugged cowboy wisdom that makes him affirm a miserable reality instead of embracing a deadly dream.

...So it was astonishing last week --- the same week that 'Brokeback Mountain' opened --- to see how tentative 'progress' is: Ford Motor Company made the news for pulling its Jaguar and Land Rover ads from gay magazines and announcing that it won't sponsor any future gay and lesbian events. In exchange, American Family Association --- the Christian group whose members are not the likeliest readers of gay magazines --- ended its six-month boycott of Ford vehicles. [John Aravosis, at AMERICAblog, has the full story --- and the e-mail addresses of key Ford executives for those who feel like weighing in.]

Ford's was a dumb decision on the only two metrics that matter --- public relations and business. Even minimal research shows that AFA boycotts are hot air; they've made scarcely a dent in the earnings of major corporations. I'm going to guess that AFA members are likely to buy Fords and Ford trucks, and that the AFA boycott cost Ford a few thousand sales. On the other side, Ford's decision to bow to the Christian right will mean that tens of thousands of gays --- and who knows how many Americans who hate this kind of discrimination --- will decide not to buy Jags and Land Rovers and Lincolns. The profit margin on a Ford is modest; the profit on a fully-equipped luxury car is significant. So what was the gain for Ford here?"


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