'Brokeback' DVD enflames culture wars

  • by Matthew S. Bajko
  • Wednesday March 29, 2006
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The DVD version of Brokeback Mountain has yet to hit store shelves but it is already caught up in the culture war over homosexuality. Homophobes have been posting antigay reviews of the Academy Award-winning film on movie rental Web sites, and in an ironic twist, one antigay group is attacking Wal-Mart, the store liberals love to bash, for carrying the movie.

The American Family Association, the same antigay group boycotting Ford for advertising in gay media outlets, is urging its members to call their local Wal-Mart store to complain about the national chain's stocking of the DVD, set to be released April 4. According to a report on the conservative Christian media site www.agapepress.org, Randy Sharp, director of special projects for the Mississippi-based AFA, said the movie is not "family-friendly" and does not belong on the shelves of a store that has marketed itself to middle America.

"It's quite obvious to anyone who shops at Wal-Mart that they're no longer the family-friendly company that they used to project in their image," Sharp is quoted as saying. "We've seen a downward spiral trend by the Wal-Mart Corporation in which they are more and more becoming like the world rather than the family-friendly company we grew up with."

Sharp, according to the report, is encouraging concerned Christians to "let their local Wal-Mart managers know how they feel and that they are not pleased over the chain's decision to promote and carry the pro-homosexual movie."

Wal-Mart has no plans to remove the DVD from its stores. In a statement released Tuesday, March 28, the company simply said, "Wal-Mart provides movie selections in our stores and online, recognizing that a broad segment of our customer base wants to buy the latest titles."

At Los Gatos-based Netflix, the online movie rental company, company officials have to contend with the LGBT community, which is demanding Netflix follow its own policies when it comes to movie reviews posted to its Web site. A reader of the blog The Big Gay Picture tipped off the site earlier this month about antigay postings on Netflix.com from Brokeback reviewers.

Netflix claims all reviews to its site are screened before posting and any that contain "harsh, profane or discriminatory language" or "personal attacks on the movie's creative personnel" will not be posted. However, some reviews that made it onto the site appear to violate the company's policies.

The bloggers listed three in particular. One read, "Gay Hollywood would have us believe that most of us are gay and this movie just goes along with that idea. This movie was sickening. The people raving about it hear are probably pole-smokers too. ... not that there's anything wrong with that."

The poster listed himself as TJ from Warrenville, Illinois. He began the review by stating, "These days you turn on the TV and it seems like every station has a couple gay guys lisping and flitting around. One time I actually turned the channel and found six stations in a row featuring gay guys ... hair dressers, decorators, etc."

Another stated, "Sheephearders to Rump Rangers? Are you kidding me? who likes this garbage?"

While a third said, "The Bible Clearly states that HOMOSEXUALITY is WORNG!!! [sic] That is why they are repressed. Because it is a SIN and they will all go to hell if they do not repent of their sins! God would not give this movie any awards!"

Blogger Michael Jensen wrote that he opted not to post even more offensive reviews found on the site.

"Netflix has a great selection of GLBT movies and I've no reason to believe they are homophobic, but clearly someone is not doing their job or Netflix's guidelines are as hollow as the chocolate Easter Bunny I got every year when I was a kid," wrote Jensen, who urged his readers to contact Netflix officials to complain.

Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey said he had not seen any of the reviews in question and that he was not aware of any complaints about them. He said the company does not censor the views of its 4.2 million members.

"We don't censor except for profanity and obscenities," said Swasey. "As long as it is in the confines of good taste and realistic language then we give that forum."

He said if the company does receive a complaint [anyone can e-mail a concern about a review to mailto:[email protected]] it will take a second look at the review to ensure it meets Netflix's guidelines.

"We would have an additional review of that content. If it doesn't pass our scrutiny, it shouldn't be up there to begin with," he said. "It is hard to monitor content that is subjective. We certainly never want to have something on our site that is offensive to someone. It is possible to happen with movie reviews. That is the risk you take for providing an open forum."

A review of the Web site by the Bay Area Reporter found half a dozen movie critiques with harsh language.

One reviewer, using the name Michael Pattin wrote, "I don't promote homsexuality [sic] and refuse to see this movie regardless. Some will say its good, well they can go to hell."

Poster Patti Shepherd, whose review is littered with misspellings, wrote, "This movie was very disapointing and sick. Thats being nice. They should not advertize a movie like this as a great western there is nothing manly or western about this. Not to mention no plot, what were they thinking????? They could have saved alot of people alot of money and just made a gay sex flic and advertized it that way."

On Blockbuster's online site two questionable reviews could be found for Brokeback Mountain. One, from a Joe D. simply said, "Oh boy gay cowboys. Who the heck cares. Vomit. Thats what this movie is Vomit." While poster Daniel P. chimed in that despite the film's "great scenery" and "wonderful acting" the movie is "... an obvious attempt by the extreme left to push the gay agenda." He added that "... Gays have a psychological problem, and some day the world will understand that. I just hope it's not too late."

Blockbuster spokesman Randy Hargrove said in a phone interview that he was unaware of any complaints about negative reviews on the company's site. He also said he had not heard of any stores receiving complaints about the company carrying the film.

The company plans to stock the DVD, and contrary to any rumors, it will not be edited from what was shown in theatres. Hargrove said Blockbuster does not carry NC-17 films, and movies with such a rating have been edited so they can be rented at its stores. Brokeback has an R-rating.

"We don't edit the movies. We will be carrying the R-rated version," said Hargrove.