Christian Conservatives Serve Up 'Brokeback' Backlash

ByABC News
February 1, 2006, 5:45 PM

Feb. 1, 2006 — -- The Oscar Best Picture nominees are apparently not playing in Peoria, as the saying goes. In fact, the summer comedy "Wedding Crashers" has done more box-office business than all five of them combined.

Two of the films have gay story lines, and some Christian conservatives say it's another example of how out of touch Hollywood is with mainstream America.

"Brokeback Mountain," the movie about male ranch hands who become star-crossed lovers, was nominated for eight Oscars.

"Capote," a movie about a gay author, was nominated for five. And "Transamerica," in which the lead character undergoes a sex change, was nominated for two.

Gay activists say it's a landmark year -- that these films will heighten their visibility in mainstream America.

"That greater visibility is what leads to less defamation, and that's the bottom line for us," said Neil Giuliano, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Interestingly, Christian conservative critics have called "Brokeback Mountain" -- the odds-on favorite for Best Picture -- brilliant and moving.

But they also call it dangerous, arguing the artistic skill is being harnessed for "gay propaganda."

"It's a sad day for American when a small group of very determined activists are dominating the awards ceremony," said Janice Crouse, the senior fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, a think tank associated with the Concerned Women for America.

There seem to be dueling impulses in Hollywood right now. More gay-themed movies than ever were nominated for Oscars. But the movie studios have increasingly been courting Christians with films such as "The Chronicles of Narnia" and "The Passion of the Christ."

At a time of slumping box office sales, this seeming schizophrenia may just be smart business.

But there is debate about whether big Oscar wins by gay-themed movies will turn away the large, lucrative Christian market.

"If they [movie studios] can reach a church-based audience with a movie like 'Narnia,' and they can reach an audience that isn't scared away by gay themes with a movie 'Brokeback Mountain,' they're happy to do that," said Gregg Kilday of The Hollywood Reporter.

ABC News' Dan Harris filed this report for "World News Tonight."