A Pathetic State of Affairs: <i>Brokeback Mountain</i> and Melodrama

Gary Needham

in Brokeback Mountain

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print March 2010 | ISBN: 9780748633821
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651252 | DOI:
A Pathetic State of Affairs: Brokeback Mountain and Melodrama

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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

Chapter.  6357 words. 

Subjects: Film

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