From the LA Times, "How's it Playing in Wyoming," by Gil Brady.
"You've taken the last thing we had," said the ranch hand, who declined to provide his name. "We don't get any money, you work us like dogs — then you take our image … and then gay it up."
How's it playing Wyoming? In the state where 'Brokeback Mountain' is set, the film draws raves from some, anger and surprise from others. By Gil Brady Special to The Times December 26, 2005 JACKSON, Wyo. — Near the snowy plains of writer E. Annie Proulx's imagining, many filmgoers are having a love affair with "Brokeback Mountain." The so-called gay cowboy movie that has become this season's critical darling opened at one playhouse here Friday. While business was slower than expected, the film earned rave reviews from those in attendance. But not everyone has fallen for Ang Lee's awards-sweeping vision. As a gas, coal and oil boom here gives birth to satellite towns that are slowly eating away at ranches and open prairies, many cowboys have already been left to wonder whether America has any love left for them. And that was before one small movie redefined their remaining dignity, they say. One 23-year-old ranch hand who spends his summers wrangling horses for tourists on this side of the Tetons, explained his surprise when he heard that someone had made a movie about two Wyoming cowboys in love. "We was drinking coffee around a broken cattle chute waiting to get fixed" when someone broke the news, he said, making clear that he had no intention of seeing it for himself. "You've taken the last thing we had," said the ranch hand, who declined to provide his name. "We don't get any money, you work us like dogs — then you take our image … and then gay it up." Frank Londy, who owns the movie theaters here where "Brokeback" premiered and then opened Friday, said he took a gamble by placing the unconventional love story in the larger of his playhouses. More people are passing it up in favor of "Walk the Line," leaving him screening "Brokeback" to a theater that is barely 20% full. But he said he has no regrets: "I loved the movie." Ashley Robbins' two-hour drive from Pinedale to make the first matinee along with three friends underscores "Brokeback's" struggle for mass appeal in the state of its fictional setting. "I pick all the movies for the Pinedale Entertainment Center," said Robbins, 21, "and we'll never get ["Brokeback Mountain"] there because it's about gay cowboys in Wyoming. People come in and request that we do not get the movie." Despite the film's near-religious devotion to portraying the hardscrabble details of the life, the Stetson class' response to the movie that is prodding the heartland to examine itself has been anything but cool indifference. A recent letter to the editor of Planet Jackson Hole, the local alternative weekly, headlined, "Broken-backed community," denounced same-sex love as "perverted" for producing "death and disease," concluding that homosexual acceptance was a symptom of moral decay. But others have been more philosophical about all the hoopla. "So why is two cowboys' relationship with each other anyone else's issue? Aren't cowboys citizens too?" asked local livestock breeder Terry Amrein, 60. "Don't they have the right to do whatever they want in their private lives?" Amrein, who has not seen the movie, added that openly gay cowboys, while rare, have been known to exist. Many in this blue patch of semi-tolerance bounded by red-state conservatism expressed hope that the movie might help humanize a culture that just seven years earlier produced one of the nation's most shocking crimes: After leaving a gay bar in Laramie, 21-year-old Matthew Shepard was tied to a fence and beaten so badly that he died of his injuries several days later. "Matthew Shepard's murder was a terrible thing," said Steve Adamson, manager of CorralWest, a store that sells ranch clothing and other goods, adding that he plans on taking in the movie to see if its seven Golden Globe nominations are deserved. One 35-year-old gay man, who asked not to be identified for fear of losing his job over his sexual orientation, was not entirely taken by "Brokeback." "I'd give it an '8,' " he said, adding, "The story was classic. I feel Ang Lee was bold to make this film. And the actors were fantastic in bringing this story to life." The slow pacing, he said, was its only flaw. Others said that perhaps Wyoming's biggest fear of this picture lies in its power to broaden the horizons of the young beyond what the old can bear. After leaving the screening Friday, moviegoer Samantha Kirby, 18, stood outside the clapboard theater and said the movie made her more sensitive to how others are treated. "Watching the movie," Kirby said, "it changed my perception, because people are people." Another fan of the movie, Keith Schradar, lamented that at the end of the day, few people in this state are likely to see "Brokeback Mountain." And that means the real-life Ennis Del Mars who are out there fixing fences, pulling calves or working the oil fields and enduring stoic lives for weeks on end bunking with men, and "the uncharted impulses this lonely intimacy brings," are likely to miss a perspective that might otherwise liberate them. Regardless of how widely the movie plays here, state tourism officials are seizing upon its awards season popularity. There are promotions for "gay-friendly" adventures such as wagon-train rides, outings at dude ranches and, reported tourism official Michell Howard, overnights in a tepee, all to tap the lucrative gay and lesbian market.