Is America Ready for 'Brokeback Mountain'?

ByABC News via logo
December 7, 2005, 7:53 AM

Dec. 7, 2005 — -- "Brokeback Mountain" is the first gay love story to star A-list Hollywood actors. It is also the first gay cowboy movie.

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal play ranch hands in Wyoming who struggle to overcome the obstacles in their relationship. Despite what some might consider an explicit love scene and partial nudity, many who are involved with the movie or who have seen it insist it can appeal to wide audiences.

"To me, what's important is that it's a beautiful story," Gyllenhaal said.

"A lot of men may not rush out to see this movie," said Jill Bernstein, a senior editor at Entertainment Weekly. "But I do think that America at large is ready for something like this."

Not everyone agrees. Exodus International, a Christian group that works to "cure" gays, is urging people not to see the movie.

"It's something that's absolutely being marketed towards kids who will take away: 'Oh, I can be like Jake Gyllenhaal; I can be like Heath Ledger. That's what our relationship can be like,' " said Alan Chambers, Exodus International's president.

In recent decades, movies and TV shows starring gay characters have gained popularity, from "The Birdcage" to "Philadelphia" to "Will and Grace" and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." But unlike "Brokeback Mountain," those projects have contained no gay intimacy.

"This is going to be a very tough movie to sell because the main audience for cowboy movies is supposed to be guys but for most American guys who are not gay, there's a yewwwww factor to the idea of Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger getting too up close and personal on screen," said Michael Medved, a conservative talk-show host.

Everyone seems to agree on one thing: This is a groundbreaking movie. Director Ang Lee has called it the "final frontier." Whether it can draw large audiences may well be the real test -- a telling sign about how far society is willing to go in accepting gays.