Thursday, January 24, 2008

Brokeback Mountain vs. Wuthering Heights

Deep in the comment section about Heath Ledger's death over at Althouse, the discussion has turned into a debate comparing Brokeback Mountain to Wuthering Heights. The "Brokeback" fans are claiming that it's exceptional in the way that it shows Ledger's character's complete confusion about his attraction to Gyllenhall's character. Althouse parried with the point that Cathy's attraction to Heathcliff (Merle Oberon and Lawrence Olivier) is as completely alien, that Heathcliff is like a different species to her.

Now, you could argue that her idea of Heathcliff is just fanciful, and that Wuthering Heights is just another cheating spouse story. But then, the same logic can apply to Brokeback Mountain.

When we relate to stories strongly, we want to feel like they're exceptional, and we rarely want to step back and realize that we relate to triteness. (That's how things become trite in the first place.)

I haven't been in the mood for Ang Lee--well, since The Hulk--and Brokeback struck me as pretty trite. As Ace pointed out, if the same dialog came from a traditional cheating-on-spouse movie, it would be roundly mocked. And the concept really didn't seem that shocking (or interesting) when Kate Jackson and Harry Hamlin did it in 1982.

I should point out that I didn't (and don't) get Wuthering Heights, either. I haven't read it since I was a kid but my fallback for a lot of the romantic angst stuff is that scene in Moonstruck when Nic Cage tells Cher he loves her, so she slaps him and yells "Snap out of it!"


  1. Interesting factoids about Moonstruck for you. It was filmed in my neighborhood. The bakery was the Cammerie Bakery on the corner of Henry and Sacktett St. and was a popular bakery for most of my life. In 1995 it was sold by the owners to restauranter Alan Harding who was a pioneer in bringing Manhattan bullshit to Brooklyn. He opened a restaurant called the Red Rail which was a complete flop so he dumped which is what he usually does. Some pigeons are running it in the third or fifth permutation since the original sale. Now the reason why the family sold was the death of the son who was my age and was set to take over the baking. But he was killed in Time Square during his Bachelor party. The word was that his fiance took her wedding dress and burned it on Clinton St. but I don't know if that is true. The family recently combined with the Monteleones to open a joint bakery/pastry store which is across the street from my wife's store. It has a little cafe set up for pastry and expresso. I walked in one day and met Furio (Frederico Castelluno) from the Soprano's. But that's another story.

  2. Heath Ledger lived twelve blocks from the Moonstruck Bakery.

  3. Is it still an Italian neighborhood? I figured there weren't really many of those around any more.

    We don't have 'em out here at all. We got all kinds of East Asians, Russians, Middle Easterners, and Latin Americans, but not so much in the way of western (or even Eastern) Europeans or Africans, at least not enough to have any bona fide "neighborhoods".

    I think it's the high mobility, in part that does it. You have to move here en masse to make a neighborhood, and then you have to be able to stay rooted in one place. And I think the average length of stay at any one residence is about five years.

  4. Well the demographics of brownstone brooklyn has always changed. When I was growing up in the 50's and 60's the neighborhood was 99% Italian, and it has shifted downward ever since. What happened was that the parents remained and the kids went over the guinea gangplank to Staten Island or Long Island or Califorina or whatever. My first grade class at Sacred Hearts grammer school had 158 students. There are five of us who still live in the neighborhood. As the old folks die off, the kids want to sell off the brownstones because they can get a million or more. With the changes in the estate tax laws during the Bush administration you would be foolish not to sell because you know the Dems are going to bring the death tax back big time. I am in a unique position since I know all the oldtimers since I was a kid and have met a lot of the liberals since I do the taxes for a lot of businesses in the area and meet people that way. By the way we call the newcomers liberals not yuppies. Heath Ledger bought his house about five blocks from my mom on Hoyt St., one block from were my dad grew up. Interestingly his house is two blocks away from the projects, the Gowanus Houses which used to be pretty bad back in the day but got cleaned up during Giuliani time. If you actually talk to the people who live in the projects like I have, you will find that they are pretty happy about that. The regular working stiff guys I grew up with and played ball with, not the political types who have a different agenda.

  5. Actually, that's not far from the way it is here. Most everyone I grew up with has moved away. Once you move away, it's hard to come back: The expense, the crowds, the other small costs of big city life--harder to take once you've stepped away for a while.

    Hell, this neighborhood was borderline rural when I was a kid. We still have a few stables around at least. Not so much in the way of empty lots.


Grab an umbrella. Unleash hell. Your mileage may vary. Results not typical. If swelling continues past four hours, consult a physician.