Afterword Brokeback or Bushwhacked

Matthew Rebhorn

in Pioneer Performances

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199751303
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932559 | DOI:
Afterword Brokeback or Bushwhacked

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The afterword considers the contemporary legacies of the double genealogies of frontier performance that this project has been charting—Daly's frontier leading to Buffalo Bill and Miller's frontier leading to Gowongo Mohawk—suggesting that these two strands of performance have continued to animate recent representations of the frontier. To illustrate this long history, the afterword considers briefly two recent frontier “performances”: the much vilified, political firestorm of George W. Bush's “brush clearing” in Crawford, Texas, during the summer of 2005 and the much celebrated, cultural touchstone of Brokeback Mountain (2005). Bush's hacking away cedar and mesquite was protested by other Crawford ranchers, criticizing it for its “staginess” and for the harm it was doing to the environment. They rejected one mode of performing the frontier in favor of another, less theatricalized, less reckless one. These juxtaposed pioneer performances are thematized in Ang Lee's film as well, constructing two frontier spaces—one, the idyllic space of queer sensibility at Brokeback Mountain, and the other, the repressive regime of Riverton, Wyoming. Bush's brush clearing and Lee's film suggest that the genealogy of frontier performance has always been a heterogeneous constellation of acts that work both to settle and unsettle American ideologies. Through this give-and-take across aesthetic and political borders, the identity of American performance became the performance of American identity.

Keywords: performance; buffalo bill; george w. bush; ang lee; brokeback mountain; crawford ranch; queer; sexuality; space; food

Chapter.  7390 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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