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Brokeback Mountain$
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Gary Needham

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780748633821

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748633821.001.0001

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A Pathetic State of Affairs: Brokeback Mountain and Melodrama

A Pathetic State of Affairs: Brokeback Mountain and Melodrama

(p.79) 3. A Pathetic State of Affairs: Brokeback Mountain and Melodrama
Brokeback Mountain

Gary Needham

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter analyses Brokeback Mountain's relationship to melodrama. Melodrama would seem to respond well to queer theory's recent turn to a politics of negative feeling. As this chapter argues, Brokeback Mountain's real power stems from the way it mobilises melodrama and queer negative feeling, which together produce an affective and emotionally queer film experience. Brokeback Mountain is all about pathos and the feelings of pity and powerlessness it cultivates for the spectator. Powerlessness, emotional vulnerability and a constant waiting are relentlessly underscored by the melodramatic structures of storytelling and create an experience of passivity and helplessness that tends to be overwhelming. The importance of Brokeback Mountain is that it refuses to portray homosexuality as anything but a difficult and emotive subject and melodrama is one means through which to do this. The politicisation of emotion and affect in relation to the closet and homophobia, disproportionate relations between past and present, character and spectator, are what make Brokeback Mountain meaningful as a queer melodrama.

Keywords:   Brokeback Mountain, melodrama, queer theory, homosexuality, closet, homophobia, powerlessness, negative feeling, emotion, affect

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